Awareness of ICT-Based Projects and the Intensity of Use of Mobile Phones Among Smallholder Farmers in Uganda: The Case of Mayuge and Apac Districts

Awareness of ICT-Based Projects and the Intensity of Use of Mobile Phones Among Smallholder Farmers in Uganda: The Case of Mayuge and Apac Districts

Stephen Lwasa (Makerere University, Uganda), Narathius Asingwire (Makerere University, Uganda), Julius Juma Okello (University of Nairobi, Kenya) and Joseph Kiwanuka (Makerere University, Uganda)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3607-1.ch007
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As the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) is embraced in Uganda, determinants of awareness of ICT based projects remain unknown. The intensity of use of mobile phones among smallholder farmers in the areas where such projects operate is unclear. To address this knowledge gap, 346 smallholder farmers in two ICT project sites in Mayuge and Apac districts were subjected to econometric analysis using bi-variate logistic and zero-inflated negative binomial regression models to ascertain determinants of projects’ awareness and intensity of use of mobile phones. The authors find that education, distance to input markets, and membership in a group positively influence awareness. The decision to use a mobile phone for agricultural purposes is affected by distance to electricity and land cultivated and negatively influenced by being a member of any farmer group. Lastly, intensity of mobile phone use is affected by age, farming as the major occupation, and distance to an internet facility, being a member of a project, having participated in an agricultural project before, value of assets, size of land cultivated, possession of a mobile phone, and proximity to agricultural offices. The paper discusses policy implications of these findings.
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1. Introduction

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are increasingly being promoted the world over owing to perceived benefits, which has, for instance, witnessed the average number of mobile phones per 100 inhabitants in Asia, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean rise by 100 - 400% in just five years (Orbicom, 2007). While developing countries are still lagging behind high-income countries in overall ICT usage and applications, the mobile phone has been regarded as a more accessible and less expensive means to close the digital divide (Wade, 2004). Several reasons account for the fast growth of mobile phones in the development efforts of low income countries. These include; ability to offer benefits such as mobility and security to owners (Donner, 2006), use of radio spectrum hence do not rely on physical infrastructure such as roads and phone wires (Economist, 2008), need basic literacy and therefore being accessible to a large segment of the population. Mobile phone use also leads to greater social cohesion (Kwaku et al., 2006). Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive economic benefits of ICT use in general (Kathuria et al., 2009) and telecom in particular, and how this development in mobile telephony is promoting the agricultural sector.

In tandem with the global trend, Uganda’s agricultural sector is rapidly embracing the ICT usage. The rush for ICTs in Uganda’s agriculture emanates from the realization that it offers the sector the opportunity to increase access to agricultural information provided by all players at a low cost (Aker, 2008; de Silva & Ratnadiwakara, 2008). In addition, mobile telephone use can enhance and diversify the livelihoods of poor subsistence or semi-subsistence farmers. Smallholder farmers are detained in low equilibrium poverty trap characterized by low investment, low marketable surplus subsistence and semi-subsistence agriculture (Barrett, 2008; Barrett & Swallow, 2006). Enhancing returns from agricultural production is therefore a vital element of livelihood improvement.

A few studies have attempted to investigate the effects of ICT-based interventions on smallholder and market performance (Kiiza et al., 2010; de Silva, 2008; Aker, 2008; Jensen, 2007; Ashraf et al., 2005). However, literature on farmers’ awareness of projects that use ICT and also intensity of ICT usage remains thin, patchy and non context-specific. This is undoubtedly a major gap in knowledge in Uganda’s agricultural development research given that the sector has moved to rapidly embrace the use of ICT. A proper and informed understanding of the determinants of awareness of ICT projects and the use of mobile phones in agriculture is necessary to facilitate the process of developing tenable strategies to promote sustainable use of ICT. To address this knowledge gap, this paper draws from a household study conducted in Mayuge and Apac districts where two ICT-based projects, namely BROSDI and WOUGNET operate. The rest of this paper is organized as follows. Section 2 provides the study context. Section 3 presents the study methods and data. Section 4 discusses the results while Section 5 concludes and discusses policy implications.

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