We have been talking a lot lately about different uses for mobile phones for farming, fishing, market monitoring, etc. in rural and underdeveloped areas; most seem well intended but not always well implemented. This app is different from the others in that rather than relaying market demand or prices, it gives rice farmers instant information. The Nutrient Manager For Rice Application (NMRiceApp) was launched last month in the Philippines where it is available in both English and Filipino languages.
The app is designed to provide site specific information on fertilizers to rice farmers. It makes recommendations based on the specific circumstances of the farmer. The app was developed by the International Rice Research Institute, which asserts that the app is designed to be used by extension workers. These workers enter the farmers information into the app, and then relay the apps recommendations to the farmers. This procedure solves a number of problems including the farmers possible lack of cellular phone access, language barriers and misinterpretation of information.
Unfortunately this procedure also presents another looming issue: sustainability. Staffing the extensions workers to enter and interpret the information for a prolonged period of time is not likely to succeed for long. As with most projects it is likely that funding and/or company support will run out at some point, and therefore it would be more useful to make the app user friendly. Hopefully the company will use this time to monitor how the farmers themselves are able to utilize the app. Different versions of the app are now being tested in Indonesia and Bangladesh, and it will be interesting to observe the apps effectiveness.