News Date: December 18 2017
In the last 5-10 years hundreds of ICT-enabled services have been developed for agriculture allowing, for example, farmers to receive timely and precise information about market prices and the weather, remotely manage their finances and access profitable online markets. These services are key to enabling farmers to increase their productivity and run a sustainable business that can withstand the impacts of climate change. However, to achieve measurable impact, ICT service providers need financial backing in order to carry out the ground work required to scale up. To acquire this early-stage investment, start-ups need to maximise their visibility, which is how CTA’s new Apps4Ag database intends to help. Under development since 2014, the database showcases over 400 online and mobile applications (apps) and services for stakeholders in agricultural value chains.
Apps4Ag is designed to help investors assess the business value of different apps, as well as support development practitioners, extension workers and development organisations find the best technology for their projects. Innovative businesses such as FarmDrive– a Kenya based technology company that uses data and machine learning to give farmers credit scores and help them access loans – and Farmerline – which provides daily voice messages relaying critical farming information to around 100,000 Ghanaian farmers via their mobile phones – are rated on a five-star scale alongside a description of the services they provide.
CTA’s intention in developing the database is that increased recognition of these ICT4Ag apps among investors and development practitioners, in their early stages, will help developers, most of whom are youth, to attract more investment and scale up operations, leading to job creation and employment opportunities within the agricultural sector. It is also expected that the database will help boost information dissemination, knowledge exchange, extension and advisory service delivery, farmer engagement, and market access for agricultural inputs and outputs.
To ensure that the database evolves with the rapidly changing requirements of stakeholders, the platform also offers users an opportunity to provide feedback on how the database can be improved. The changes already planned include improvements to the categorisation of apps so that it is easier for users to search for what they are looking for, and a visual map to show how the apps are distributed geographically. Benjamin Addom, ICT programme coordinator at CTA, explains that the database will also provide ratings from app users themselves, “We want actual users to give their testimony.” The database also acts as a quality control for innovations to avoid duplication of apps with similar functions, says Addom. When a new app is conceptualised and designed, the database can be used as a check prior to a full development.
Growing awareness of the available ICT4Ag technologies is crucial to broadening their use among target beneficiaries. By enhancing the visibility of apps in the business community to help them source investment, the Apps4Ag database provides a springboard from which developers can widen the reach of their services. “For us, having a place where someone with a business mind-set can go and look at our app is super-important to give visibility with the right audience,” emphasises Van Jones, co-founder of Hello Tractor, a service featured on the database that enables farmers to hire low-cost tractors via SMS. Most of the young developers do not do much market research before investing their time and other resources into the app development. They use the limited resources, develop and later realised that such an app already exist. Apps4Ag Database can help avoid such duplication and focus on areas of the value chain with less app such as postharvest loss management.