Introduction James Bucki, 2011 defines Mobile computing

Introduction

James Bucki, 2011 defines Mobile computing
as a term used to refer to a variety of devices that allow people to access
data and information from wherever they are. In
Zimbabwe agriculture is the backbone of the economic growth and poverty
eradication solutions especially in the rural areas (FAO, 2010; Muchati, 2014).
Mobile computing is one of the many ICT technologies that have evolved in the
recent years (ICT4Ag project 2014-2015).  Asongu 2015; Aker and Mbiti 2010, highlighted
that the fast penetration of ICT  will
bring in new opportunities for African farmers in improving their knowledge and
lifestyles’. The research topic will assist in coming up with a strategy for
the adoption and effective utilisation of mobile technologies in agriculture in
Zimbabwe. This research looks at some of the relevant technologies,
applications, issues in mobile computing and challenges in that affect the
effective use of mobile technologies in agriculture. It will also look at the
mobile technologies that are and can be utilized by farmers in Zimbabwe.

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To
increase production in the agriculture sector there is need to come up with a
strategy for the adoption and effective use of mobile technologies in
agriculture. Mobile phone based services have been developed in recent years,
to provide marketing information and for use in agriculture (Gakuru et al 2009;
Quiang etal 2011).  For the developed applications
to be a success there is need to have a strategy that will help in effective
utilisation of such technology. In Zimbabwe some mobile technologies are there
for agriculture but there is slower adoption because of lack of strategies.  Researchers have discovered that mobile
phones have a positive impact on poverty reduction (Silarszky et al 2008). The
main aim of the research is to come up with a strategy that can help in the
adoption of these technologies. Aguilar-Gallegos et al, 2015 highlighted that
adoption of mobile technologies and their utilizations are low and there is
need to design strategies for the adoption of mobile technology in agriculture
especially for specific groups.

Background of the study

Mobile
computing has become the most omnipresent technology in developing countries.
The use of mobile technologies has grown rapidly in different areas such as
business, education, healthy thereby helping them to deliver their services.

In
the agriculture sector information systems are common while mobile payments,
virtual markets and supply chain management systems are expanding. Mobile
technology has been greatly transforming agriculture in African countries and
the opportunities are huge against traditional technologies which needs
revamping. Through the use of technology farmers can get access to
publications, blogs and materials on best farming techniques. (Chisita 
Malapela  2012) sites that
smallholder farmers in rural areas 
requires information  on weather,
markets , pests, cultivation timing 
among others and mobile technology has been used in other countries so
that this information reach farmers. The use of mobile technology in the
agriculture sector have been underutilised as they can do much more.

Mobile
devices such as mobile phones that are normally being used to communicate with
family members can be used for agriculture business. Mobile applications
(mobile apps) are a type of software designed to run on mobile devices such as
smart phones or tablet computers. McNamara 2009, defines mobile apps as software’s
designed to take advantage of mobile technology, enabling the collection and
transmission of data and information for economic and social activities. In
agriculture these apps are being used to monitor rainfall tracking, soil
composition, maps, inventory management etc. 
They do provide not only information but help in meeting the farmers
needs with solutions that allows farmers to access data and draw insights that
make a difference . Mobile technology can help transform businesses including
agriculture sector (Jensen, 2001; Deloitte, 2012; Ewing et al 2014 and Oladele,
2015). Nyamba & Mlozi  2012 ; Oladele
2015 has shown that Mobile ICT can improve production among rural area small
holder farmers.

With
about 67,72% of the people in Zimbabwe living in rural areas  according to the world bank and an increase in
the number of base stations in rural areas(POTRAZ 2017), mobile computing plays
a significant role in agriculture. Currently the strategies that are there in
the agriculture sector include formation of cooperatives, provision of credit
facilities and information sharing through extension officers. The major
players in the agriculture sector are input providers, farmers and users of the
outputs. (Chisita  &  Malapela 
2012) points out that mobile technology adoption  is providing agriculture industry with
opportunities to extend their services to those who are disadvantaged and
geographically dispersed in rural areas.

Research
that had been done in countries, such as Tanzania, Uganda, China, Ethiopia,
Kenya shows that, mobile ICT plays an important role in providing information
to farmers. In Zimbabwe, farmers are making and receiving payments as well as
insure crops using mobile services(Econet, 2015). However the role that can be
played by mobile ICT goes beyond mobile money and strategies need to be
developed so that we can fully utilize mobile ICT in agriculture as a country.
Masuka 2016 , researched on how mobile ICT is benefiting farmers in Marondera
district, and found that there are many benefits that are being brought by
mobile ICT in agriculture. The challenge is that some rural areas do not know
of any of these benefits and what is there in mobile ICT in agriculture. Therefore
this research needs to come up with a strategy to use for the adoption of
mobile ICT in agriculture in the most areas of rural Zimbabwe

 Problem
Definition

Most
research papers on mobile computing in agriculture concentrate on the benefits
that are provided by mobile devices in agriculture and the applications
developed to achieve these benefits. 
Despite numerous benefits provided by mobile technologies it is being
underutilised, and is being adopted at a slower pace because there is no
strategy in place for the adoption and effective utilisation of mobile
technologies in the agriculture sector in Zimbabwe. This dissertation sought to
examine whether mobile technology is being used in the agricultural sector
especial in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. It will help in coming up with a
strategy that can help in the adoption of mobile technologies in agriculture.  The strategy can then be used as a roadmap for
effective adoption and use of mobile technologies in agriculture in Zimbabwe.

Dissertation statement

The
role of mobile computing and analyses of its impacts on farmers should be
looked at in order to realise the potentials of mobile technology in
agriculture. A model or strategy that considers all stakeholders such as
farmers, government and agriculture extension (AREX) workers should be
developed. Policy makers need to influence the use of mobile devices and
applications in agriculture and help them accept or be involved to accept the
technology

Research Objectives

1.      To
determine to what extent mobile computing 
has been adopted in the agriculture sector in rural Zimbabwe

2.      To
identify the benefits of mobile technologies in agriculture.

3.      To
identify the challenges that affect mobile technology adoption in agro-rural
communities in Zimbabwe.

4.      To
come up with a strategy for the adoption and effective utilization of mobile
technologies in agriculture in Zimbabwe.

 

Research Questions

1.      What
kind of mobile technologies is currently being used in agriculture to support
farmers?

2.      What
are the benefits that can be brought by mobile technologies in the agriculture
sector?

3.      What
challenges are there, those that affect the adoption and utilization of mobile technologies
in agriculture?

4.      What
strategy can be used to help in the adoption of mobile technologies in
agriculture?

 

Research Philosophy

This
deals with the source, nature and development of knowledge.  Bajpai N 2011 explains that research theory
is the belief about the ways in which data about a phenomenon should be
collected and analysed and used. Kuhn 1962 says that a research paradigm is the
set of common beliefs and agreements shared between scientists and how problems
should be understood and addressed. Cuba 1990 characterised research paradigms
as

Ontology
– what is reality, what exists and a view on the nature of reality.

Epistemology
– how do you know knowledge? This has to do with knowledge.

Methodology-
how do one go about finding the knowledge?

The
research theory exposes the ontological, epistemological and methodical
worldview that the researcher chooses to adopt. 
Since the researcher is looking at coming up with a strategy for the
adoption of mobile ICT in agriculture , the reason for conducting such a
research is to solve a problem of adoption and use of mobile ICT. There is need
to check what has been done before and how so as to be able to come up with a
successful strategy. A literature review will be conducted in this case.

The
researcher’s ontology, which is the philosophy about reality, is
constructionist. This is because there is no single reality or truth. The
research epistemology is interpretive; there is need for the researcher to
interpret reality through understanding the farmers so as to understand why
there is a problem in the adoption and utilization of mobile ICT in farming.

The
researcher will use both qualitative and quantitative research paradigms in
carrying out the research, but mainly the Qualitative research

Qualitative
Research- Denzin and Lincoln (2005) describe
qualitative research as involving an interpretive naturalistic approach to the world.
This means the researcher will study the things in their natural settings, and
attempt to make sense of or interpret in terms of the meaning people bring to
them. In a qualitative research the focus is on the why mainly, things like
what kind of order or strategies, who is doing what for what reasons and what
are the consequences of doing something. Qualitative research is going to be
used to help the researcher understand how stakeholders in the agriculture
sector feel about mobile computing and why they feel that way. Qualitative
research helps in gaining an understanding of the underlying reasons, opinions
and motivations. It also provides insights into the problem for potential quantitative
research. This can be through focus groups, individual interviews, observations
or diary studies.

Quantitative
Research- According to Mathews and
Ross(2010)  quantitative research
methods  are basically applied to  the collection of data  that is structured and which could be
represented numerically. Fellows and Liu (2008) said that quantitative research
methods are typically adopted because they are scientific methods and they
provide immediate results. The researcher will use this type of research to
determine to what extent have mobile computing been adopted in agriculture.
This can be done through interviews or questionnaires.

Research theory

The researcher will use unified theory
of acceptance and use of technology theory (UTAUT). This theory was formulated
by Venkatesh et al (2003) and it consists of four main independent variables
namely:

·        
Performance
Expectancy – The degree to which an individual believes the system will help
him/her to attain gains in job performance(Venkatesh et al, 2003)

·        
Effort
Expectance –The degree of ease associated with the use of the system(Ventakesh
et al, 2003)

·        
Social
Influence-  The degree in which an
individual perceives that important others believe she should use the new
system(Venkatesh et al 2003)

·        
Facilitating
conditions- the degree to which an individual 
believes that an organisational and technical infrastructure exists to
support use of the system(Venkatesh et al, 2003)

Dependent variables, behavioural and
usage namely gender, age, experience, volunteers of system use will also be
used to support independent variables. Behavioural intention is seen as a
critical predictor of technology use (Venkatesh et al., 2003).

Strategy formulation

 To come up with an effective strategy in the
adoption of mobile technologies in agriculture the researcher will have to look
at the following phases of strategy formulation;

·        
Diagnosis – this phase
will help in analysing the current situation in the agriculture sector in
Zimbabwe. That is what is there in terms of mobile technology and agriculture.

·        
Formulation- this phase
will look at coming up with a set of recommendations or strategies with
justifications on the recommendations. To be able to come up with an effective
strategy to the current analysed situation the strategy has to be practical
given the available resources and there is need to consider the fitness between
resources and competence.

·        
Strategy implementation
– this phase will look at how the strategy can be implemented.

Justification

Most
research papers on mobile technology in agriculture studied the mobile
applications that are used and their benefits and significance potential for
the modernisation of the agriculture sector in both developed and developing
countries. The research will intend to come up with a strategy that can be used
in Zimbabwe and look at the willingness and interest of stakeholders involved
to use mobile computing in their daily agriculture activities to achieve
specific tasks. The research will concentrate on how successful are mobile
technology applications in assisting agriculture stakeholders in doing their
work, considering most developing countries are still using traditional
technologies even with the invert of new mobile technologies to assists them.
The research will also concentrate on the challenges that are hindering the
success rate of mobile computing in agriculture.

Significance of the study

The
research will be of significant to the agriculture stakeholders such as
farmers, sellers of inputs and buyers of outputs, as well as the information
technology people. Most research papers on mobile technology in agriculture
studied the mobile applications that are used and their benefits and
significance potential for the modernization of the agriculture sector in both
developed and developing countries. The research intends to come up with a
strategy that will be used to facilitate the success of the mobile technologies
in agriculture globally and in Zimbabwe and look at the willingness and
interest of stakeholder’s involvement to use mobile computing in their daily
agriculture activities to achieve specific tasks. The research will concentrate
on how successful are mobile technology applications in assisting agriculture
stakeholders in doing their work, considering most developing countries are
still using traditional technologies even with the invert of new mobile
technologies to assists them. The research will also concentrate on the
challenges that are hindering the adoption and fully utilization of mobile technology
in agriculture.

Assumptions, Scope and limitations/
delimitations

 This section is interested on the assumptions,
scope and limitations of the research paper.

Assumptions

Acceptance
of mobile technologies in the rural sector in developing countries is moving at
a slower pace considering agriculture is the backbone of most developing
countries. Getting produce to market is logistically difficulty and farmers
sell at low price to intermediaries who then take on the burden of taking the
produce to the market. Most technical people in developing countries are
creating agriculture technologies that are assisting farmers by linking them to
buyers without the need for a middleman. For example use of mobile apps such as
ZAZU, Hurudza, icow, Wefarm, Fieldguide, Farmdrive , ecofarmer etc.

The
assumption is that the participants of the research will offer true information
of what is happening in the agriculture sector. 
Ethical issues that can hinder respondents in giving correct information
which includes anonymity, confidentiality and privacy will be considered by the
researcher.

Scope
of the study

 The scope is limited to addressing mobile ICT
in agriculture adoption by smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe. The researcher
intends to target farmers, and information communication technology people that
have developed mobile applications and services to support the agriculture
sector in Zimbabwe. The research will also look at the implementations of such
mobile technology services considering that these applications
are mostly in theoretical terms in Zimbabwe. 
That is whether they have been properly implemented and what needs to be
done for mobile apps to be adopted successfully and fully utilized.

Limitations
of the study

Constraints to this
research include that of time. More time is needed to gather data, stakeholders
involved have tight programs since it is a farming season therefore it will be
a challenge to collect data from most of them. The total number of participants
is likely to be smaller than expected. 
Physical sites will be a constraint since most stakeholders are found in
the rural areas across the country.

Delimitations

The research intends to cover mobile ICT
in rural agriculture. This implies that the assessment will focus on
smallholder rural people in as much as agriculture is concerned. Beyond the
scope of the research are issues such as buyers, input providers and government
that are involved in the agriculture sector.

Proposed contribution

The study is worth
carrying out as it intends to uncover the success and issues that hinders
success of the use of mobile computing in the agriculture sector. The
information communication and technology (ICT) body might use this document to help
them in the adoption and utilization of mobile technologies in agriculture. And
it may help them to come up with good mobile apps that can assist Zimbabwe’s
agriculture industry, with ease of implementation and adoption.

Conclusion

For
the researcher to be able to come up with a strategy on the adoption of mobile
technology in agriculture there is need to be able to answer the above research
questions. Firstly there is need to know the types of mobile technologies that
are being used in rural areas to support farming activities. Are these
technologies useful and readily designed for those farmers in rural areas where
the illiteracy rate is high?  In this
case the UTAUT theory comes into use. Do farmers in rural areas have the
knowhow on operating the mobile technologies or applications and are they
(mobile apps) user friendly in terms of language, local needs and what farmers
would like to achieve from such technologies. Secondly there is need to know
the challenges hindering mobile technologies success, that is why farmers are
not fully embracing such technologies in their day to day businesses. By so
doing we might be able to find out why mobile technologies are not yet very
popular in agro rural areas of developing countries. This research will assist
in understanding and addressing the gap between agriculture stakeholders which
can help in the future development of mobile technologies that assist farmers.
And also if we are able to find out answers of all these questions this might
help us as information technology people to design applications for farmers
that are of use to farmers and that can be accepted and used by farmers.