Socio-Economic Impact of Mobile Phones on Indian Agriculture

Surabhi Mittal, Sanjay Gandhi, Gaurav Tripathi
JEL codes: 

Deficits in physical infrastructure, problems with availability of agricultural inputs
and poor access to agriculture-related information are the major constraints on the
growth of agricultural productivity in India. The more rapid growth of mobile
telephony as compared to fixed line telephony and the recent introduction of mobileenabled
information services provide a means to overcome existing information
asymmetry. It also helps, at least partially, to bridge the gap between the availability
and delivery of agricultural inputs and agriculture infrastructure.
This paper investigates a series of questions that explore this topic: What kind of
information do farmers value the most to improve agricultural productivity? Do
mobile phones and mobile-enabled agricultural services have an impact on
agriculture? What are the factors that impede the realisation of the full productivity
enhancing potential of mobile phones? The answers to these questions have important
implications for mobile operators, for information service providers, and for policymakers.
The quality of information, its timeliness and trustworthiness are the three
important features that have to be ensured to enable farmers to use it effectively to
improve productivity.
The study found evidence that mobiles are being used in ways which contribute to
productivity enhancement. However, to leverage the full potential of information
dissemination enabled by mobile telephony will require significant improvements in
supporting infrastructure and capacity building amongst farmers to enable them to use
the information they access effectively.
As mobile penetration continues to increase among farming communities and
information services continue to adapt and proliferate, the scope exists for a much
greater rural productivity impact in the future.