Information communication technology in agriculture and rural development-with special reference to mobile phone technology (Magri-RD): Prospects and challenges in Ethiopia

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Author: 
Dr. Paul Mansingh, J., Sasikumar, P. and Fikadu Abdise Erena
Subject Area: 
Social Sciences and Humanities
Abstract: 

Farmers are plagued by myriad issues such as timely and reliable access to farm inputs, access to markets, access to reliable information at the right time and cheap access to credit. The proliferation of mobile phones across the globe has impinged on agriculture in various ways. Mobiles are being used to help raise farmers’ incomes, making agricultural marketing more efficient, lowering information costs, reducing transport costs, and providing a platform to deliver services and innovate. The role of mobiles in enhancing food security and supporting rural livelihoods is increasingly being recognized and was officially endorsed at the World Summit on the Information Society (2003-2005). Several countries in Africa and Asia are now using mobiles for the dissemination of agricultural knowledge and information. Ethio Telecom currently provides mobile telephone service to approximately 50 million subscribers and aims to provide mobile telephone service to a total of 91 million subscribers, which is nearly double the number of current mobile users. Broadband internet data subscription will grow to 39 million from the current 1.46 million subscribers. Mobile internet data coverage will also grow from 8 million to 16.9 million users, while overall internet data coverage will grow to 10 per cent from the current 3.3 percentage. The most notable opportunity in Ethiopia is the presence of ICT infrastructure called the Woredanet that can be easily extended to reach most of the rural farmers and to further strengthen the research-extension-farmer linkage. The challenges of access to ICT can be divided into two: (i) access to ICT infrastructure and (ii) access to ICT services. The access to ICT infrastructure in Ethiopia is still very low despite some noticeable improvements registered in recent years. Damages on fibre optic cables and power interruptions are among the challenges the service provider faced in its expansion and network quality improvement efforts. However, the power of mobile phone technology in agriculture is its ability to catalyse a wide range of interventions that are core to transforming the sector.

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