An empowerment framework for developing mobile-based applications: empowering Sri Lankan farmers in their livelihood activities
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 13:18 authored by Tamara Ginige
This thesis presents an empowerment framework, the aim of which is to underpin development of mobile-based applications that empower users in their livelihood activities. The work was carried out as part of an international collaborative project to develop a Mobile Based Information System (MBIS) for farmers in Sri Lanka. The project explored ways to overcome agriculture over-production problems. Due to lack of access to real-time, complete and relevant information, farmers often make poor decisions in their livelihood activities. Farmers only come to know, or realise, there is an oversupply when they bring their harvest to the market, and the oversupply reduces market price for the harvest, disadvantaging the farmers. Neither the farmers nor government agencies can make the necessary adjustments for lack of timely information regarding what farmers plan to cultivate, or have cultivated. A mobile-based solution was used to solve this problem due to the high mobile penetration and affordable internet connections in Sri Lanka. Many mobile-based applications have been developed for agriculture domain. Undoubtedly, these solutions have enabled improved efficiency, competitiveness, productivity and income in many sectors of the economy, including agriculture. However, these applications only support part of the farming cycle and none of the projects explicitly address empowerment or how to motivate the targeted users to utilise the technology to its full potential. The research aimed to address this gap by developing an empowerment framework that can be used to develop mobile-based artefacts. A Design Science Research methodology was selected to develop the empowerment framework because it is well suited for designing innovative artefacts. Two field trials were carried out in 2012 and 2013 to understand the goals of the farmers, obstacles they face in the agriculture environment, how they make decisions and what technology they use. From these insights and the knowledge gained through learning empowerment and related theory, an empowerment framework was developed. The empowerment framework was used to develop an empowerment model with empowerment-oriented processes in the MBIS. These processes are embedded with choices and different types of customised knowledge to support meaningful and informed decision making. This was followed by designing mobile interfaces for easy navigation through the application. To evaluate the effectiveness of the empowerment framework on which the MBIS was developed, two further field trials were carried out to capture before and after data. In March 2015, at the beginning of a farming cycle, the MBIS was deployed and the farmers were provided with smart mobile phones to access the MBIS during their farming session. At the end of the farming season in September 2015, farmers met the researchers again. A questionnaire that was designed to measure the empowerment outcomes was used to gather data at the beginning and the end of the farming cycle. This data was analysed to determine the impact of the MBIS on empowerment outcomes of the farmers during the farming cycle. The data was analysed to determine the impact of the MBIS on the empowerment outcomes, such as self-efficacy, sense of control and motivation, of farmers. The analyses revealed a statistically significant positive change of empowerment levels for most farmers. The average increase of the empowerment levels for the group because of using the MBIS were; 25% in self-efficacy, 11% in sense of control and 6% in motivation. The results also showed some significant correlations between empowerment outcomes of farmers. This supports the established theory on the relationships of the empowerment outcomes. The usage of the MBIS was further analysed by using the logs of various activities farmers carried out on the application. These showed that there was a significant correlation between how farmers used the application and behaviour which is dependent on motivation, self-belief and ability. These results validated the correctness of the empowerment framework. The impact and generalizability of the framework and artefact is evident. The MBIS has been adopted by the Sri Lankan Government and gained the attention of the Indian Government. Others are employing the framework in new agricultural contexts such as dairy production and in the health domain to empower diabetic patients. It is hoped and anticipated that the empowerment framework used for designing the MBIS in this thesis will improve the livelihood and daily life of many not only in developing countries and beyond.