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Digitalization in Agriculture, Food and Nutrition

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Philip Dayo and Ndirpaya Yarama D
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Optic fibre infrastructure offers huge Internet broadband (IBB) capacities. However, Internet broadband penetration in Nigeria is still miserably low. For several factors, Internet access today in Nigeria is 99% by wireless mobile networks. There is a general absence of government’s nationwide direct investment in optic fibre cable infrastructure. Such investments in partnership with the private sector would have reduced retain end Internet access cost. By 2016, 93% of the urban respondents, 86% of the rural respondents and 89% of the full sample had access to mobile phones. By March 2016, there were 92,424,736 Internet subscribers in Nigeria.

Comparing 2016 and 2010, urban internet access moved up to 29% from 11.6%; rural internet access increased from 1.5% to 9.8% and the national internet access increased from 3.6% to 17.4%. The top use of the Internet was to send/receive emails among the urban (46.3%), rural (45.0%) and all (45.8%) users. The use of Internet for banking services was a dismal result among urban (0.4%), rural (0.5%) and all (0.4%) users. The Federal Ministry of Communications (FMC) formulates policy on communications, while the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) implements policies on telecommunications. Numerous challenges have slowed the growth of the telecom infrastructure in Nigeria, namely, high cost of the right of way, multiple regulatory bodies, lengthy processing of right of way, conflicting agreements at federal and state levels with operators, cable theft and road works leading to damages to fibre installations/infrastructure, erratic grid electricity supply, fragile backbone infrastructure and limited investment in IBB industry.

Four case studies were implemented, two at organizational levels and two at the end-users level. The organizational interviews were granted by Kitovu and FarmCrowdy. Some of the key results from the ICT4Ag case studies were: Strong emphasis on youth empowerment and participation in ICT-enabled services (Kitovu) Strong emphasis on farmer organizations/ groups as platform for service delivery and capacity building/ training (Kitovu, FarmCrowdy, ThriveAgric, E-farms) Emphasis was mostly on data collection and other services, including connection of smallholders to input sources, product processors and off-takers (Kitovu, Farmcrowdy) Data collection used mainly global positioning system (GPS), satellites, sensors, camera , mobile phone and smartphone apps (Kitovu, Farmcrowdy) Reduction in postharvest losses due to market linkages (Kitovu) Smallholders were poorly linked to credit, while service provided had no own funds to onlend (Kitovu). Changing government agricultural policies with successive administrations (Kitovu) Online partnership with Produce buyers, smallholder farmers, investors, input sellers, insurance companies, investors, commercial farmers, and graduate farmers (Farmcrowdy) Poor access of farmers to smartphones, poor network connectivity in rural areas and language barrier (Farmcrowdy). Smallholder access to ICT-enabled linkages to product markets indicated by 9/10 farmers interviewed (ThriveAgric) 9/10 farmers had knowledge of ICT devices used for service delivery (ThriveAgric). Preliminary evidence has shown income increase among small crop and aquaculture farmers, arising from ICT services; however, further work will be needed to link the gain in income to specific services and /or ICT devices (ThriveAgric; E-farms)

Preliminary evidence has shown output increase among small crop farmers arising from ICT services; however, further work will be needed to link the gain in output to area or yield or both; and to specific services and /or ICT devices (ThriveAgric). Looking ahead, the reach and benefits of D4AG will depend on access to mobile phones and connectivity by SHFs in the near future. The future is very bright for Nigeria in terms of mobile phone access, but more needs to be done in terms of connectivity. The cost of accessing data is expected to fall with time, arising from competition among telecom operators and increase in public and private investments in the enabling inland optic fibre infrastructure. This will then stimulate the sluggish mobile money transactions to grow spirally to provide the much needed services to SHFs and other businesses along the various value chains. The private sector must lead the D4AG drive for sustainability in Nigeria. But government needs to step in to provide the fundamentals, which include upgrading smallscale infrastructure and last-mile infrastructures, both of which are ranked below the averages found elsewhere.

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