Satellite and geodata applications for smallholder agriculture are quite new, more general apps for smallholders that make use of mobile technology are around a bit longer. A number of these mobile initiatives have been evaluated (have a look at www.gsma.com) and it is interesting to look at the findings to see where geodata and mobile apps could complement each other, also with an eye on new application fields, such as (inclusive) finance.
The approaches differ: apps that originate from mobile network operators (MNOs) tend to go for reaching large numbers of farmers quickly and then adjust the content, while the geodata service providers start small to get the technical aspects right and then go for scaling up.
This said, there are three areas where geodata could provide added value to mobile apps:
Conversely, geodata-based apps, such as those developed in the Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) Facility can provide lessons in scaling up from mobile apps that already target large numbers of smallholders. Getting the technical aspects right is important, but reaching a sufficient number of clients to make operations sustainable does not automatically follow from that.
Making use of power users (and/or authority figures as ambassadors), keeping the pricing model simple, making the service easy to operate for farmers, using local languages and metrics, taking illiteracy into account and taking care of long-term incentives for those in direct contact with the farmers are important findings from the evaluation of the impact of mobile apps that can be taken to heart in the further development of geodata-based apps.
In a fully operational phase, the distinction between mobile apps and geodata apps will disappear. My expectation is that the two will be fully integrated, once the geodata apps get behind the experimental stage. Expect this to happen pretty soon!
Written by Mark Noort
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement No.776691. The opinions expressed on the web page are of the authors only and no way reflect the European Commission’s opinions. The European Union is not liable for any use that may be made of the information.