Are farmers ready to use phone-based digital tools for agronomic advice? Ex-ante user readiness assessment using the case of Rwandan banana farmers

Mariette McCampbell*, Julius Adewopo, Laurens Klerkx, Cees Leeuwis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Digital extension is widely embraced in African agricultural development, promising unprecedented outcomes and impact. Especially phone-based services attract attention as tools for effective and efficient agricultural extension. To date, assessments of digital extension services are generally ex-post in nature, thus consideration of users and broader systems occurs once an intervention is broadly identified. However, early understanding of user needs, readiness, and relevant context is a prerequisite for successful adoption and sustainable use of digital extension services. We conducted an ex-ante assessment of user readiness (UR) for phone-based services. Design/Methodology/Approach: We developed an ex-ante framework to assess UR, considering capabilities, opportunities, and motivations of targeted users. The case study of Rwandan banana farmers served to verify the UR framework, using survey data from 690 smallholder farmers. Findings: Findings demonstrate limited capacity to access and use phone-based extension services, especially those requiring a smartphone, and a mismatch between expected UR and actual UR, current capabilities and opportunities. Findings provide entry points for designing suitable digital extension projects and interventions, suggesting a need for capacity building. Practical implications: The UR-framework provided understanding about current limitations in farmer readiness for digital extension. This ex-ante approach to explore UR before designing digital interventions for African farmers is recommended. It points at the importance of embedding digital technologies into existing practices and creating blends of ‘digital’ and ‘analogue’ or 'high-tech' and 'low-tech'. Theoretical implications: The UR-framework provides a structured approach to developing pre-intervention insights about users and use-context, supporting informed strategizing and decision-making about digital extension. It is a relevant addition to existing readiness frameworks, participatory design methods, and ex-post intervention performance assessments, as part of a balanced readiness level assessment. Originality/Value: This is the first ex-ante assessment of UR for digital extension services in an African context, and the first attempt to analyse Rwandan farmers’ readiness for digital extension services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-51
JournalJournal of Agricultural Education and Extension
Issue number1
Early online date8 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • digital agriculture
  • ex-ante analysis
  • ICT4Ag
  • phone use
  • user readiness


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