What really impedes the scaling out of digital services for agriculture? A Kenyan users’ perspective

2022 | J. Kieti | T. M. Waema | H. Baumüller | E. Bitange | N. Tonny | K. Omwansa

Published in Smart Agricultural Technology, Volume 2, 2022, 100034. Access the paper here.

Abstract

Impediments to the scale-out of digital services for agriculture (DSAs) exist in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This is despite the promise of these information systems (IS) artifacts to unlock agricultural productivity and outcomes. Existing literature identifies these impediments fortuitously, failing to explain the dimensionality and patterns of association among them. To inform suitable focused effort in the digitalization of agriculture in SSA, the study set out to examine the underlying structure of impediments to DSA scaleout from a likely users’ perspective. Employing a parallel convergent mixed-methods design, the study obtained quantitative and qualitative evidence from likely DSA users in Kenya. Using exploratory factor analysis (EFA) on a half-split sample (n=276) the researchers obtained a three-factor structure underlying the impediments to scale-out of DSAs. Using a second split-half sample (n=276), the researchers undertook confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) on the three-factor structure, yielding a good fit. The dimensions in the latent structure, christened “the three-factor structure of impediments to DSA scale-out”, were technology accessibility, service discoverability, and service value proposition. The researchers undertook thematic analysis of the qualitative evidence (n=241) and proceeded to integrate the resulting six themes with the three-factor structure. The themes were digital skills, technology infrastructure, service discoverability, service usability, service affordability, and the public policy environment. The researchers integrated five of the themes into the three-factor structure. The researchers argued that the sixth theme on the public policy environment is implicit within the three-factor structure. The study also discussed the implications of the strong covariance between discoverability and value propositions of DSAs for practitioners. This is one of the first research efforts to examine the structure underlying impediments to the scaling out of DSAs from a users’ perspective. It also proposes a measurement scale for such impediments. Attention to the three dimensions in the three-factor structure can yield focussed efforts in eliminating these impediments for the increased digital transformation of agriculture in SSA settings.