Young people highlight challenges in agricultural tech industry

28 Feb 18
Around the world Uganda

Young people have shared the challenges they have in designing and using agricultural technologies, and they are not the ones that you might expect or that decision-makers are talking about.

In response to these challenges, young people are already developing their own solutions that could act as models for other actors in this sector who are looking to address these challenges in a systematic way.

These are the key messages that emerged today from the launch of a new report releasing findings from a seven-country youth-led research on young people’s experience with technology in the agri-food system.

Organised by Restless Development and Mastercard Foundation in Accra, Ghana, today, the research findings share insights from 14 members of the Youth Think Tank program’s current cohort, drawn from: Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, and Ghana.

The peer-to-peer research that they have conducted provides key insights into how young people interact with technological innovations across various parts of the agri-food system in sub-Saharan Africa.

The data that informs the report are drawn from interviews, focus group discussions, and survey data captured from young agricultural technology innovators, promoters, and adopters from various points in the agri-food system. 

Read the full report here.

Patrick Lolung, one of the Youth Think Tank Researchers from Kenya, said:

“The Youth Think Tank evidence-based research report is an echo of young people’s voices—our perspectives on ways things ought to be done. The report has come at the right time when we, the young people, are rapidly advancing and incorporating technologies in our lives in every aspect. The findings and recommendations we arrived at perfectly address the current challenges we grapple with and [suggest] what could be the way forward for the policy actors and other stakeholders.”

Catherine Rodgers, Hub Director, Restless Development Uganda

“Beyond the practical recommendations that this research suggests, we are excited that these are agenda-setting findings—findings that highlight what we should be looking at in this sector. Young people are using their voices to inform the agricultural technology community of practice on the challenges and barriers that they should be addressing. Through the solutions that they have already developed, young people are influencing how actors in this space should be responding to these challenges.” 

key findings:

  • While there are several opportunities for young people in off-farm activities, young people have encountered fewer technologies oriented at facilitating these opportunities than they have with on-farm activities. There is an untapped potential here, particularly as young people expressing struggling to access land to further their on-farm activities and as young women have a socially-constructed, cultural advantage in off-farm marketing activities.
  • Young technology designers struggle to find spaces where they can access the resources that they find instrumental to designing technologies: information, mentorship, idea-sharing, and digital and offline tools to prototype their design. The majority of young people cannot access spaces that do exist—typically those in formal education institutions that require admittance. Offering these resources at scale requires diversifying the spaces that they are offered through and making sure that these spaces are inclusive.

  • While young innovators and those who promote their designs often share innovations through high-tech media channels, such as social media, many of the rural young people whom their technologies seek to reach receive information predominantly directly through those they know in their area. Reaching these young people then can be optimized by training community-based ambassadors to share these technologies with those in their social networks through demonstrations. This could help to practicalize technologies for young people.

  • Even where young potential adopters are aware of technologies, they sometimes lack the skills to utilize them. While the necessary skills are different for high-tech and offline solutions, using both high-tech and offline solutions is complicated by the low literacy ad functional numeracy skills of some intended target end-users. Wraparound skills trainings can be provided through community-based ambassadors to close this gap.

  • The biggest constraint that both those young people who design technologies and those who take them up face is financial constraints. However, it is important to note that their needs are different, when designing financial products and options for them.

In response, the recommended approach identified through the analysis calls for the need to move away from understanding technologies as a linear path—moving from innovator to promoter to end-user. Instead, we need to facilitate these actors towards interacting with each other in an interconnected landscape built on the foundation of a supportive environment. We can build the inclusion that young people ask for by developing more spaces where actors—innovators, promoters, and adopters—are encouraged to interact meaningfully with each other. We can build the responsiveness of technology that young users call for by building more sophisticated feedback and information-sharing mechanisms so that young adopters can be part of the process from the point of informing technology design according to their needs.

Read the full report here.


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