Awareness and Use of Mobile Phone Apps by Farmers in North West Nigeria
Khidir, Abdullah Abubakar
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This research examined the awareness and use of mobile phone applications in North-West Nigeria and specifically investigated the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of farmers, mobile phone apps available, awareness and usage levels of agricultural mobile apps, extent, intensity, purpose, knowledge, and constraints to apps use by farmers. The study adopts ex-post facto design with a sample size of 385 farmers from an extension block of Agricultural Development Project in the Selected States of Katsina, Kano and Kaduna. Using a multi-stage, coupled with purposive and random sampling techniques, three hundred and eighty-five (385) respondents, who provided main statistical data for this study through the application of a set of pre-tested and structured questionnaires, were selected. Data were analysed with frequency counts, percentages, standard deviations, Tobit regression model, OLS regression model and probit regression model. The results showed that the average age of farmers in the zone was 36.5years, while the average farming experience recorded was 16 years. Majority of the respondents were males, had one form of formal education, had mean household of 7 members, had access to land through ancestral heritage, did not belong to any farmer association, engaged in farming as their primary occupation and practiced Islamic religion. Furthermore, the majority (96%) of the respondents owned mobile phone, out of which 60.5% were owners of analogue phones. Most Farmers in the region were mostly aware and used voice call and SMS apps: call app (95%) and SMS (78%), however with a low intensity of usage vis-a-vis 1.410 and 0.932 respectively. Findings further revealed the main purposes farmers use mobile phone apps include: Use of call app for contacting family and friends (96%), purchase of farm inputs (70%) and marketing/general information (65%); while SMS is used mainly to contact family and friends (59%). The farmers generally had positive perception toward the mobile phone usage and its associated technologies. Furthermore, they were highly knowledgeable on the ability to place and receive voice calls (94%; 𝑥̅=0.940, SD=0.237), understand when out of airtime (84.9%; 𝑥̅=0.849, SD=0.358), store and retrieve numbers at any time (83.9%; 𝑥̅=0.839, SD=0.368) and load airtime (81%; 𝑥̅=0.810, SD=0.393). The constraints identified by the majority of the respondents affecting the awareness and usage of mobile phone apps include the high cost of phones (78%), poor network (77%) and complexity in operating phone (73%). However, the results of the severity of the constraints showed that the most severe constraints include high cost of phone (𝑥̅=1.8; SD=1.03), poor power supply (𝑥̅=1.7; SD=1.20) and poor network (𝑥̅=1.6; SD=1). Probit regression model showed that the significant determinants of the adoption of mobile phone apps include knowledge, constraints, attitude, nature of the occupation, mobile phone as communication gadget, type of labour, ownership of farmland, religion, years of farm experience, marital status, age and location. The result of Tobit regression analysis of factors influencing use intensity of mobile apps in the study area unveiled that age (p<0.05), nature of education (p<0.01), farming experience (p<0.01), housing material (p<0.05), nature of occupation (p<0.05), attitude (p<0.1), awareness (p<0.01) and knowledge (p<0.01) significantly influence the extent / intensity of usage of mobile phone apps. Moreover, the Ordinary Least Square regression result of determinants of intensity/extent of usage of apps in the area showed that nature of education (t=3.30), years of farm experience (t=3.21), awareness (t=11.01) and knowledge (t=6.54) were significant at 1 percent level of significance, while age (t=2.20), home material for living home (t=2.32), nature of occupation (t=2.35) and attitude (t=2.04) were significant at 5 percent level of significance, thus indicating that eight variables significantly influence and determine the intensity and extent to which mobile phone apps are utilized in the study area. It was concluded that mobile phone apps are not well utilized by farmers in the study area despite their highly favourable disposition to the technologies and as such, it is recommended that stakeholders in agricultural and rural development come up with policies and programmes that would increase the awareness and adoption level of mobile phone apps in the region through the enhancement of the enlightment levels of the farmers, establishment of training centres focused on the use of mobile phone apps and internet exploration, e-extension model that is premised on mAgric and encouraging active utilization of the apps for farm-related information accessing and dissemination in the farmers-extension-workers-researchers linkage or pathway, while taking into consideration those factors influencing the use of these apps. More so, change agents like extension workers, local and international agencies should encourage the diffusion of contemporary technologies among small scale farmers and identify the highly vulnerable farmers to barriers in the adoption/diffusion pathway for special intervention.