From the e-commerce site Taobao.com to the social media app WeChat, China has drawn global attention to its digital platform economy. A third of the top-200 digital platforms were born in China according to the Global Platform Survey 2016. They are also growing fast. A 2017 report published by Ali Research shows that the digital platform sector contributes to 10.5% of China’s GDP.
We have been living with digital platforms for about a decade now and their impact on changing how we work is beginning to make itself felt. Even so, it merits much greater attention and investigation, but until now the spotlight has been trained firmly on robots and automation.
What are the key pain points smallholder farmers face? Gaps across the agriculture value chain—lack of access to affordable financial products, limited knowledge of high-quality inputs, low usage of technology and market data, and poor market links. Social enterprises (SEs) in the agriculture sector are successfully closing these gaps, believing that the cost of their services or products will be recuperated by the benefits and income gains that smallholders will achieve.
For example, SEs implement innovative solutions through information and communications technology (ICT) platforms. Esoko’s text alerts on weather conditions and crop market prices saves smallholders in Ghana both time and money. Shamba Shape Up is a “makeover” style farming reality show that gives advice on improving farms and increasing yields to Kenyan farmers. Digital Green recruits local, established farmers to share their farming techniques—from pest-control to seed treatment—in over 3,500 videos for peer smallholders in Africa and India.
And yet, Africa’s agriculture sector is facing serious challenges. Agricultural productivity in Africa lags behind other regions. One in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa are chronically undernourished. Africa’s food system is further strained by rapid population growth and climate change. The food security challenge will only grow as climate change intensifies, threatening crop and livestock production. If no adaptation occurs, production of maize—which is one of Africa’s staple crops—could decline by up to 40% by 2050. Clearly, business as usual approaches to agriculture in Africa aren’t fit for transforming the sector to meet its full potential.
Digital technology could be part of the solution. But how can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system?
It’s instructive to look at startups, which are an emerging force in Africa’s agriculture sector.
- precision farming
- Digital Platforms
- Sharing Economy
- sustainable farming
- African entrepreneurs
- Disruptive Technologies
- digital development
- Digital Technology
- food security
- Food Production
- Sustainable Communities
- Climate Change
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Congo, Democratic Republic of
Every day, more of our decisions are data-driven and our lives become dependent on digital tools —think about the weather and transportation apps on your smartphone. Today, governments produce more data than ever before, yet the Open Data Barometer finds that most countries fail to "use open data to truly change people’s lives for the better." This open data sits unused, and citizens are not able to reap the economic benefits. There is a myriad of payoffs to using government data to tackle complex problems like finding jobs, affordable housing, better schools, and making communities thrive. Open data gives us the power to innovate and be competitive at the local and global level—but how do we unleash the potential to do more with data?