Philosophy & Principles
Mobile-based extension and advisory services (mExtension) are location specific and, at the same time, able to transcend geographic limitations. The principles of mExtension are as follows:
- Content: The content and design should be user-centric. Combining value-added services and mobile financial services can be both attractive and sustainable.
- Delivery mechanism: The business and pricing model, mode of delivery (text, interactive voice response, call, pictures, videos, etc.), and choice of application-based versus normal access should depend on maximising client access and not the benefit of the service provider. (3)(3) Saravanan, R. and Suchiradipta, B. 2014. Mobile phone applications for agricultural extension in India. In: Saravanan, R. (ed.) Mobile phones for agricultural extension: Worldwide mAgri innovations and promise for future. New Delhi, India: New India Publishing Agency.
- Reach and interaction: Rigorous awareness-raising programmes should be conducted to increase reach, and the services should be interactive to ensure clients’ needs are being met.
- Communication, not just advisory: mExtension should encourage increased dialogue between the stakeholders in agricultural innovation systems rather than providing farmers with information. This will facilitate capacity development of farmers and pass farmers’ knowledge and experience back to the development arena.
- Sustainability: Both financial and infrastructural sustainability can be ensured by using a profit-based model of information delivery.
- Integration of technology: Different formats such as web portals, videos, voice, pictures and animations, etc. can be easily accessed from mobile phones, thus making integration of technology easier and efficient, and increasing the scope of mExtension.
- Reassessment vs development: Often it is better to build on existing services rather than coming up with new ones. This is likely to be more sustainable as the client is familiar with the services and the service provider has infrastructure to build upon. (4)(4) Addom, B.K. and Moy, L. 2014. Mobile phone applications along the agricultural commodity value chain. In: Saravanan, R. (ed.) Mobile phones for agricultural extension: Worldwide mAgri innovations and promise for future. New Delhi, India: New India Publishing Agency.
- Associated services: mExtension can only go so far in enabling economic development of the rural community. Infrastructure like roads, electricity, education, market and credit access, and so on are also required. So investments in these are at least as important as timely information delivery, sometimes even more so.
Box 1: mExtension
There are various modes – push and pull SMS, interactive voice response, mobile apps, and so on – through which mExtension services are provided either individually or in combination. While SMS and interactive voice response services are accessible from both conventional and smart phones, mobile apps require smart phones. Services can be free or subscription-based. Cost does not seem to affect popularity as shown by services such asIKSL in India,iCow in Kenya, Kilimo Salama in Kenya and Rwanda, and e-Krishok in Bangladesh. Mobile-based advisory services are mostly targeted at farmers and the rural population but collaboration among stakeholders in agricultural innovation systems (AIS) for providing content is not unknown. The advisory services also vary from providing solely agricultural information (e.g. Gobi Sahana Sarana in Sri Lanka) to providing micro insurance to rural people (Kilimo Salama in Kenya and Rwanda), real time market information (e-soko active in 10 African countries), farmer-specific fertiliser recommendations (NMRiceMobilein Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Phillipines and West Africa) or integrating agricultural and weather information along with entertainment to attract large numbers of rural people (Nokia Life Tools). (2)