Mobile Telephony for Agricultural Development of Sri Lanka
Thanks to mobiles, the first digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) have reached poor households
communities even in rural Sri Lanka. In another
couple of years
time the majority of Sri Lankan poor
people will have access to mobile phones and
In 2005, Leonard Waverman found that an extra ten
mobile phones per 100 people in a typical developing country added 0.6
growth in GDP per
2009]. Though it is difficult to tell whether mobile phones are promoting growth, or whether growth promotes the
spread of mobile phones, but detailed analyses of micro market data, such as De Silva’s study on transaction cost,
nstrate that phones really could make farmers better off.
the bottom of the pyramid
survey in 2007, studied the
impact of direct access to telecom
on the ability to earn more using the phone or save a certain expense that wou
ld have been incurred without the phone
among BoP users
When analysing results, t
he highest negative responses were seen in Sri Lanka, with a quarter of Sri
Lankans at the B
re feeling that direct access has in fact worsened their ability to earn or s
ave and no support for
their livelihoods. Though there is a high mobile phone growth during the last decade the idea of using phones for
agricultural development is fairly new for Sri Lanka. So it is questionable whether people have realized the full poten
of mobile phones in agricultural development in Sri Lanka. So it is a need of the hour to study the existing systems and
explore the potential of mobile phones for the agricultural development of Sri Lanka.
Access is not a
This study finds that 83% of the farmers had access to a mobile phone while 64% possessed their own phone.
But, haven’t used right technology
to deliver market price information, which is the
most wanted piece of information by 91.3% of
the farmers through the least used SMS technology which is used by just 22.6%
of the farmers.
services is low
Despite their familiarity with the telephone, their level of awareness on v
arious existing telephone based agrarian
services was low. The percentage of farmers who had any particular level of knowledge on 1920 (toll
advisory service), 1919 (government information service) and GovSMS (market price info dissemination
31.2%, 9.7% and 3.2% respectively.
armers are willing to pay
Even though poor communication, quality of service, etc. have negatively impacted the level of success of existing
telephone based services, it is argued that farmers’ willin
gness to pay for such services could assist telecom operators to
come up with services which are commercially viable.
In the efforts of bridging the Digital Divide in Sri Lanka, mainly in the remote parts of the country, mobile telephony has
played a greater role by giving some means of access to latest communication facilities for people who are in areas
where other tech
nologies yet to arrive.
This study found that 83% of the farmers had access to a mobile phone while
possessed their own phone. Another 26% had access to mobile phone of an immediate family member
10% accessed the same through either frien
d or relative.
Though mobile phones offer various technologies
agriculture solution designers should be aware of
All the farmers who had some means of
access to mobile phones had used voice service making
tly used (100%) technology. But SMS usage among
the same group was as low as 22.6% due to various reasons. Despite that government had tried to deliver market price
information, which is the most
piece of information by 91.3% of the farmers through
the least used SMS
technology through GovSMS initiative.
The services such as 1920, 1919 and GovSMS which seem to be well known services in the country were not known to
their real target audience, rural farmers. Out of those services the only service wh
ich was somewhat known to farmers
was 1920 and roughly around one third
of the farmers were aware of the service. But other two services were
almost alien to most of the farmers and they had never heard that such services were available for them.
percentage of farmers who had any particular level of knowledge on 1919 (government information service) and
GovSMS (market price info dissemination service) were 9.7% and 3.2% respectively.
That implies the need of proper
farmer focused communication m
echanism to raise the awareness of the farmers on those services. Most of the farmers
who were interviewed in this research were with the belief that the communications media such as farmer associations,
TV, handbills and posters would be the best channels
to make them aware of the new mobile phone based services.
The promotion of the private sector initiatives in this domain
would lead to provision of
of existing services through
room for market expansion (only 83% have access)
willingness to pay for
through mobile phones
would sustain those initiatives
study assessed the f
armers’ willingness to pay for market information services
, it was fou
, 15.9% of far
willing to pay between
24% of the farmers were willing to spend 2
3 LKR for the same
33% of the
farmers were wil
ling to pay the highest amount
5 LKR. When the two categories 2
combined together, it shows that more than half of the farmers (57%) are willing to pay something
5 LKR for the information.
That shows the p
rivate sector involvement or potential Private Public
Partnerships (PPP) mainly with m
obile operators would be beneficia
l to all the stakeholders
Sameera Wijerathna, Assistant Manager, Dialog Axiata PLC,