Thanks for your comment here. Just to clarify, the way we are using big data is to create an initial database of farmers and buyers to work with, using these techniques has allowed us to organise 10,000s of pieces of information that are otherwise spread across a range of public online sources, this makes existing info more usable. I agree that farmer education is something we must be aware of, which is why we’ve chosen to target farmers who are already active online. This certainly isn’t all farmers (yet), but there are a lot digitally active farmers Kenya. If you’d like to see just how much activity there is you can scan this blog quickly http://acresofdata.com/digital-marketplaces-in-emerging-markets/. As another blogger puts it nicely "There is serious agriculture going on in Facebook” (http://www.gmeltdown.com/2015/03/the-top-10-agricultural-facebook-groups.html)
The reason all this is useful to us is that we can design our service to build on, rather than work against, digital behaviours we can see from thousands of individuals. To move to another point you made, you’d be surprised by how many 25+ year old farmers are using Facebook in Kenya. Georgia referenced some very recent data from the Financial Inclusion insights report indicating that 73% of rural Kenyans have "high digital literacy" which means they can perform functions such as accessing the internet and downloading music. The same data shows that middle aged Kenyans (25-44) are more likely to have “high digital literacy” (84%) than Kenyans aged 15-24 (70%) - see this chart for more - http://goo.gl/JcPpwu. This data is interesting as it challenges views that only younger generations drive services like the one we are proposing. In fact we are already seeing evidence to the contrary.
Interested to hear your views on any of this, and hope some of the links above are helpful too!
Thanks for your response on this. You raise a great point about challenges in unreliable buyers, and how to anticipate the ways they might try and manipulate the system we propose. However, we do think that the crux of the issue is allowing people to rate their interactions with buyers. It’s worth noting that this is an idea we’ve heard directly from digital farmers themselves. You can see this blog post I wrote to get a bit more info, http://acresofdata.com/design-ideas-from-facebooks-farmers/. Many farmers are interested in seeing a list of recommended or trusted buyers, and a well designed rating system, I think, constitutes a good solution to this problem. However, the task ahead is figuring out what kind of rating system works (some nice thoughts on options are outlined in this blog https://medium.com/@poyichen/rating-system-for-online-marketplace-6d07f1704ba#.ny0068wcs). This is something we’re thinking through right now, so if you have any further ideas or suggestions they’re very welcome!