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Title:Utility of agricultural mobile apps among Indian rural farmers
Author(s):Narisetti, Siva Ratna Kumari
Director of Research:Chunoo, Vivechkanand; Twidale, Michael
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Chunoo, Vivechkanand; Twidale, Michael
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bosch, Nigel; Koh, Kyungwon
Department / Program:Illinois Informatics Institute
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Agricultural mobile apps
Indian rural farmers
Human-Computer Interaction
User research
Field studies
Information and communication technologies (ICT)
Abstract:Availability and accessibility of accurate and timely information are crucial in any field, including the knowledge-intensive agriculture sector. Yet this is very challenging in developing countries such as India. The problem of information deficiency is particularly pronounced in case of rural, small and marginal farmers. Eighty percent of the Indian farmers are small and marginal farmers; those with landholdings of less than 1.4 hectares. The current channels of accessing this information are through the mass media channels like television and interpersonal channels like extension officers. The effectiveness of these mediums of communication is often constrained by the lack of sufficient resources, skilled staff, and logistical issues. These can be overcome with more efficient utilization of information and communication technologies, including smartphone applications (apps) which can provide farmers with accurate and timely information. The usage of mobile phones and their applications (apps) is still in development and early stages of adoption in India especially among the rural farming community, and there is a lack of serious studies attempting to understand the adoption of innovation/technology and research on user experience. Hence, the focus of my research is to identify the information needs of farmers and test current agricultural mobile apps intended for Indian crop farmers for usability (ease of use) and functionality (content, features, & information needs). Towards this, I conducted three studies: studying global agricultural apps, evaluating an agricultural app developed for Indian farmers with usability experts in the United States, and finally inspecting the same app with rural farmers in India. The first study focused on understanding the characteristics of good agricultural mobile applications that are suitable for farmers and the information needs of farmers globally. To address this objective, I examined usability (ease of use) and functionality (content) characteristics of free mobile phone apps intended for global crop farmers. Eleven apps on the Google Play Store were selected for the analysis. The most essential information needs of farmers were selected from agricultural and rural development literature. Results indicated that the most prevalent usability characteristics were app performance, ease of use, navigation, and gestural design. The most frequently observed functionalities were soil management, seed and crop varieties, production and cultivation techniques, fertilizers, pest and disease management, weed control, and weather information. Using the above findings, an agricultural app titled NaPanta was selected to study with usability experts in the United States (study 2) and with rural farmers in India (study 3). The two most common usability inspection methods, cognitive walkthrough and heuristic evaluation, were used to test the app with the experts (n=18), and a semi-structured questionnaire was used to conduct surveys with farmers (n=53). A mixed-method approach was used to collect and analyze the data both qualitatively and quantitatively to get a comprehensive understanding of the findings. Results from study 2 identified 90 usability problems with 25 themes and two categories: (i) general usability problems and (ii) app-specific usability problems. Findings from study 3 indicated 108 concerns grouped into 45 themes and four categories. Along with the two categories from the expert studies, two other categories: (iii) information needs and (iv) app usage and development directions emerged from user studies. Testing and treating the soil to improve fertility, available seed varieties and their sowing times, information and awareness on natural farming methods (less expensive and alternatives to conventional farming), and preventive methods for diseases in crops are among the major information needs for rural farmers. Providing accurate and up-to-date information in a simple and clear local language is the key characteristic for an app. Development of special apps that (i) exclusively market farmers’ produce directly in connection to consumers and (ii) enable the farmers to network with agricultural researchers and fellow farmers are among the top app development directions. Insights from these studies are expected to assist future app developers, agricultural researchers, and government officers to understand and help farmers better.
Issue Date:2020-09-08
Rights Information:© 2020 Siva Ratna Kumari Narisetti
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-03-05
Date Deposited:2020-12

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