What does WhatsApp have to do with agriculture?

  • 12th June 2017
  • by secretary
Agricultural scientists, innovators, business and farmer representatives are typical late adopter of new technologies and love to be on as few platforms as possible, because they have other stuff to do and don’t like having to sign up again and again. 
It can be assumed that a lot of actors in the agricultural sector on the ground have similar attitudes towards new technologies
Messaging apps are however the fastest growing form of digital communication ever, with smartphone ownership rising rapidly around the world and messaging becoming many people’s favorite way to communicate. It does therefore make a lot of sense to rather use a platform or tool, that people on the ground have enthusiastically embraced already, even if it doesn’t have all functionalities instead of developing or introducing a new platform that competes with the existing habits of people.

Teams of sanitation frontline workers, in 11 municipalities in Accra, Ghana, who have one WhatsApp group per municipality and one shared WhatsApp group across the municipalities use the small groups to coordinate their activities to promote toilets to the urban poor and use the large group for friendly competition and to exchange strategies directly from the field. Eva Schiffer, Operations Officer, GGELI – EFI Learning Innovation, World Bank)

A report, based on interviews with more than 40 people working in humanitarian organisations worldwide, looks at global trends in the way that messaging apps are being used, and summarises existing research about how people affected by conflict and humanitarian crises currently use them.

ICRC, The Engine Room and Block Party
January 2017. 98 pages

Download the report OR online on the CICR Library

It then focuses on practical implications for humanitarian operations – examining how organisations are currently using messaging apps, as well as the technical challenges that these apps introduce around information management and data analysis. Finally, it looks at responsible data considerations: how introducing an app could bring in new questions related to information security, data protection, protecting users’ privacy and ensuring that they have informed consent and agency over the way that their data is used.

Messaging apps are still a new and relatively untested technology. To develop responsible, effective and safe ways to use them, organisations need to better understand the opportunities and risks they present. This report is designed as a first step in that direction: we hope it can act as a building block for future efforts to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian organisations.

Get in touch to talk more about the findings, discuss practical questions about using messaging apps in your own projects, or help take the conversation forward.