The Impact of Mobile Phone Use and IKSL’S Audio Messages on the Asset Base of Poor Farmers in Lucknow, India

Merijn van Baardewijk


Mobile phones have the potential to improve the lives of poor farmers, in particular in combination with specifically designed mobile phone-based services (m-services) that provide agricultural information. Most impact studies have measured the economic effects of mobile phones, while disregarding how these effects have come about. Therefore, this study takes a qualitative approach in order to discover the various ways in which poor farmers’ livelihoods are influenced by mobile phone use. A case study is based on the impact of an m-service by the Indian company IKSL, which sends daily audio messages with information regarding agriculture. 45 in-depth interviews were held with a mixed group of farmers living around Lucknow, India. The used framework is based on Duncombe’s (2014) suggestions to improve the livelihoods approach, in which three asset classes are distinguished: network-, cognitive- and resource based assets. Most direct impact of mobile phones is the strengthening of social networks. Cognitive assets were also improved, due to access to more timely and accurate knowledge, which in turn leads to enhanced productivity (resource-based assets)—particularly for green SIM owners. Moreover, the mobile phone resulted in lower transaction costs which led to improvements of marketing in various ways. This research contributes to the understanding of the impact of mobile phones on poor farmers and tests the suitability of Duncombe’s (2014) framework. Moreover, striking results were found that contrast previous held assumptions by scholars of ICT4D. Whereas previous scholars assumed that mobile phone use leads to a better bargaining position and increased market participation of farmers, no evidence of these effects was found in this research.


ICT4D; mobile phone; m-service; agriculture; poverty; India; assets

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The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries.
ISSN: 1681-4835