Mobile phone is the new communication technology that I am familiar with and would like to discuss its adoption in agricultural extension systems for disseminating information from lab to land.From the ages, agricultural extension has been recognized as an essential mechanism for enabling information and knowledge transfers from agricultural research labs to farmer fields. The research-farmer linkages mediated by the extension system played a crucial role in the advancement of food security during green revolution. Today, extension systems are in a state of decline in many countries. Many of the extension agents have come to believe extension has to escape from the narrow mindset of transferring technology packages while moving toward a constantly innovating knowledge transfer mode that supports decisions, innovation and personal growth among farmers and seed entrepreneurs.
Advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) provided enormous opportunities to explore web based knowledge sharing and extension functionaries in transferring technology packages from laboratory to farm to the broadest number of farmers, for example Agropedia, AgMark, Market Maker, eXtension etc. However many of these web based extension portals have limitations to establish the last mile connectivity.The advent of mobile technology has addressed a greater array of earlier ICT platform last mile connectivity issues – infrastructure, connectivity, training needs, literacy issues etc. It also further reduces the investments on capacity building activities. As the farmer’s started owning mobile phones it is relatively advantageous to use mobile as a communication medium than the array of earlier ICT platforms (information kiosks, web, fixed phones etc.) for transferring information from lab to land.
Based on its relative advantage, I believe the speed of adoption of the mobile phone technology in the future is higher than the array of earlier ICT platforms. For example, in the year 2003 in Africa there were 6.1 mobile subscribers for every 100 persons as compared to 3.0 fixed line subscribers per 100 persons. In 2005, there were 52 million mobile subscribers compared to 25 million for fixed lines. The commission for Africa estimates that the number of mobile subscribers in Africa will continue to expand at the rate of 35 per cent over the next few years.