The global divide in data-driven farming

Zia Mehrabi*, Mollie J. McDowell, Vincent Ricciardi, Christian Levers, Juan Diego Martinez, Natascha Mehrabi, Hannah Wittman, Navin Ramankutty, Andy Jarvis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Big data and mobile technology are widely claimed to be global disruptive forces in agriculture that benefit small-scale farmers. Yet the access of small-scale farmers to this technology is poorly understood. We show that only 24–37% of farms of <1 ha in size are served by third generation (3G) or 4G services, compared to 74–80% of farms of >200 ha in size. Furthermore, croplands with severe yield gaps, climate-stressed locations and food-insecure populations have poor service coverage. Across many countries in Africa, less than ~40% of farming households have Internet access, and the cost of data remains prohibitive. We recommend a digital inclusion agenda whereby governments, the development community and the private sector focus their efforts to improve access so that data-driven agriculture is available to all farmers globally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-160
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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