Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to provide agricultural advice to smallholder farmers: Experimental evidence from Uganda
This discussion paper (PDF) by IFPRI evaluates the effectiveness of an information and communication technology (ICT) mediated approach to deliver agricultural information in a field experiment conducted among small-scale maize farmers in eastern Uganda. Agricultural advisory services generally rely on interpersonal knowledge transfers in which agricultural extension agents visit farmers individually or in groups to provide information and advice. This approach is not always effective and has often proved hard to bring to scale, particularly in highly dispersed smallholder farming systems. ICTs have been advanced as a promising way to overcome these problems associated with information delivery. The ICT-mediated approach consists of three complementary technologies: 1) effectiveness of video as a means of delivering information; 2) quantify the additional impact of augmenting video with interactive voice response (IVR) technology; 3) estimate the additional effect of time-sensitive short message services (SMSs) that remind farmers about key agronomic practices and technologies. Results showed that video is effective in delivering information, with households that were shown short videos on how to become a better maize farmer performing significantly better on a knowledge test, applying more of the recommended practices, and using inputs more effectively than households that did not see this video. These same households also reported maize yields about 10 percent higher than those that did not see the video. However, the incremental effects of IVR and SMS technologies were found to be limited. One area that needs further attention is related to spillovers, since experimental studies of information treatments are especially prone to non-interference violations. The question then becomes which ICT-mediated extension approach maximizes spillover effects, for instance through ease of sharing of content.