This meta-review found farmers commonly benefit from digital agricultural advisory services but are rarely willing to pay for them. This review of evaluations covering Kenya, Rwanda, India, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana found the average service increased yields by 4% and adoption of recommended inputs by 22%. However, farmer willingness to pay is generally low because agricultural information is shareable and reuseable, while its quality is hard to validate.
The authors argue that more impactful digital agriculture advisory services will require both a greater reliance on public funds and creative business strategies, such as engaging more out-growers and farmer cooperatives.
Many of the efforts to establish digital extension systems, such as iCow Global in Kenya or RML Agtech in India, have sought to finance themselves by selling subscriptions to farmers, but these types of efforts have reached only a small fraction of the potential market. Economic theory suggests that three features of markets for agricultural information – nonrivalry, nonexcludability, and asymmetric information – make it difficult for pure subscription models to reach as many farmers as would be efficient from a social point of view.