Usage and Cross-Usage of Digital Financial Services across Agri Value Chains

With low digital literacy a major obstacle in achieving digital financial inclusivity, very little concern has gone towards the usability of digital financial services/products. This study examines the factors that influence the usage of digital products designed for farmers.

Background
The usability of digital financial services – a function of how intuitive and convenient to use a product is, remains a lesser considered aspect of product design in India. According to an earlier pilot by the FI team, factors such as age, gender, urbanicity, and income volatility levels are likely to interact with product design in ways that have significant Implications for usability, as well as cross-usability of various digital financial solutions. Very little work has been done to assess existing digital services available to farmers, in terms of their ease of access and usage, convenience, cross-platform ease of use and other such factors. There is a dearth of knowledge in regard to the specific needs and capabilities that farmers have in this regard. This study is a step towards filling in this gap in available knowledge as the convergence of digital solutions in agriculture is seen as a key means to improve agricultural outcomes.

Approach
This study takes an exploratory approach that relies on focus group discussions and qualitative interviews with farmers, to obtain various insights and perspectives on usability and cross-platform ease of use of mobile applications that deliver agri-services/ financial services of different kinds.

Research questions include:
1) What are the elements of product design, (user interface, navigation and other such aspects) that influence the usability of a digital financial/ agri-services solution for farmers?
2) What are the barriers to navigating the landscape of digital financial/ agri-service solutions that farmers have access to currently? How easy is it for farmers to transfer skills across mobile applications/ digital platforms, and what Implications does this have for product design principles?

Key Findings

Initial results from the study suggeste that a significant number of stakeholders are trying to leverage the smartphone as a means to provide agricultural extension services, across the country. The solutions are provided by both government and private entities — including fertilizer manufacturers, agri-tech firms, and more recently, startups. Overall, there are at least 90–100 existing app-based solutions available currently, that focus on the agriculture sector, and provide services ranging across information of various kinds — market prices, weather, farming technology, agro-advisory and nutrient management. In many cases, such solutions bundle in additional services like market linkages, expense trackers/ financial management, access to magazines focused on agriculture. The study also finds that the desirability/ usability aspect is as much a function of good product and user interface design, as it is of ensuring product relevance and suitability. Given the rapid increase in the number of such services available, the challenge is not only to ensure that users are comfortable interacting with any one service — but also that they are able to navigate the landscape of services with ease.

Implications
Low digital literacy is a roadblock to digital financial inclusion initiatives geared at farmers in rural India. Understanding factors that influence usability in order to design products and services that are easy to use and understand, can have a major impact on improving the uptake of digital financial products. Insights from the study can inform product design and delivery, by both governmental and non-governmental agencies. 

Thematic area

Financial Inclusion

Project Leads

Suraj Nair

Location

Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland

Partners

IIM Ahmedabad

Status

Ongoing