There is a hot debate going on in Nigerian-Twittersphere (and blogosphere). Although it is not directly related to my research on democratic culture and digital media, I feel a sense of affinity, given that a digital tool (mobile) with potential for use beyond farming (to state politics, my interest) is involved.
The story in brief: The Federal Government has announced that no fewer than 10 million cell phones would be distributed to farmers to boost agricultural production in the country.The distribution of the cell phones is one of the steps being taken by the ministry to ensure food security in Nigeria. “As part of the electronic-wallet which we are promoting, the handsets will be the toll with which we will communicate to farmers in the rural areas…” For more on the story visit: Business Day, Vanguard and Bella Naija (popular Nigerian blog).
I have read from those who support the policy, and those who vehemently condemn it. I have also been following the discussion on Twitter, reading people’s point of view and learning from the critiques of the policy. I have been slow to form an opinion because I had to be careful not to be blinded by my irk for this present administration in Nigeria, Johnny-go-slow.
This is my take on this policy.
I think it’s a great policy with a wrong timing.
When you put the cart before the horse, no matter how chiseled and strong the horse is you can’t get anywhere.
The best policies are usually tied into a bigger picture than a simplistic cause-and-effect equation – like one of the tweet-o-pinions I read this morning, distributing mobile phones to farmers should be a means to an end not an end in itself. To think that giving mobile handsets to farmers will ensure food security in Nigeria is to make the mistake of falling into the category of a technophile – being overly optimistic about technology without subjecting your solution to critical reasoning.
I’m not an Agriculture or Policy expert, but what I do know is that while distributing mobile phones to rural farmers is a good deed, the government may perhaps return to the drawing board to find ways of plugging this development into actual solutions such as:
- Fixing the roads
- Training and re-training farmers in farming and tech-literacy
- Providing scholarships to best Agricultural Science students and funds to universities in Nigeria already offering agric-related courses…and more
It is when structures like these are in place that tools like mobile phones can be put to maximum use. In fact, farmers may be so productive they would be able to afford paying for the mobile phones themselves once they are trained and understand how much they need it to yield even more produce.
A mobile phone in the hands of farmer in a rural area is amazing… the potential of that tool is beyond planting seeds and communicating with the farmer next door…it’s a little seed of revolution.