Fostering Agricultural Informatization - Analysis of Service Quality of Mobile Network Operators in Rural Communities of Kabwe District, Zambia
The growing use of mobile phone technology in developing countries contributes significantly to economic growth. In agriculture, mobile phones can improve farmers’ access to information, modern markets, and high-value crops. They also play a role in farmers’ marketing decision and agricultural production patterns, which may affect household income, gender equality and nutrition, and further accelerate rural development and increase food security. However, seizing the opportunities provided by mobile phones depends on connectivity, content, and capacity. Particularly, increased connectivity of farmers on account of service quality of mobile network operators is vital, which unfortunately has not been well addressed in current literature. We thus narrow this research gap using cross-sectional data, obtained by administering a structured and pretested questionnaire to 300 randomly selected smallholder farmers (who are ex-miners) in Kabwe. While agriculture is predominant among most ex-miners as it is an important source of livelihood, use of mobile phones for collecting agricultural information is still below the expected levels. Therefore, the aim of the study is to analyse the service quality that farmers receive from mobile network operators and also to evaluate the determinants of perceived service quality. The result of the paired t-test indicates that the service quality of mobile network operators in rural agricultural communities is significantly less than satisfactory (t- statistic = 6.853 and Pr(|T| > |t|) = 0.000). Further examination using the ordered probit regression reveals that farmers’ subscription to multiple mobile network operators, years of subscription, unresolved problem experiences and attainment of basic education significantly influence service quality (Mean VIF = 1.305). Given these findings, the research provides empirical evidence on how to aid farmers to effectively scale up the use of mobile phones for agricultural information access, which eventually leads to auspicious agricultural outcomes. Therefore, in the interest of recuperating dynamism of the agriculture sector, we strongly recommend fostering agricultural informatization through improvements in the service quality of mobile network operators. Also, in favour of sustainable mining, mining companies should partner with mobile network operators and come up with mobile based application that help ex-miners (farmers) in meeting their agricultural information needs.