9:00—10:15 AM ET

Digital Agriculture

More From The Series


  • Michael Kremer, 2019 Nobel Laureate, University Professor in Economics and Public Policy and Director of the Development Innovation Lab, University of Chicago
  • Margaret McMillan, JRN Family Professor of International Relations and Professor of Economics, Tufts University


  • Shanta Devarajan, Non-resident Fellow, Center for Global Development; Professor of the Practice of Development, Georgetown University, gui2de affiliate


The rapid spread of mobile phones in developing countries, coupled with recent advances in our ability to analyze big data through tools such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, has generated considerable excitement about the potential of information and communications technology (ICT) for development. How does the reality of ICT use for development stack up to this excitement? And, which institutional arrangements best promote the use of ICT for development? In the first event of a new CGD-Georgetown University series The Future of Development, Michael Kremer begins to answer these questions by examining the case of mobile phone enabled agricultural extension for smallholder farmers.

Recent changes in technology have made it possible to disseminate personalized agricultural information to smallholder farmers via their mobile phones. Kremer will explore the rapidly accumulating evidence on the impact of mobile phone based agricultural extension, and its cost-effectiveness. Due to market failures and asymmetric information, private markets will typically undersupply this public good. Governments tend to fail as well due to design flaws that make their solutions difficult for farmers to understand. Kremer presents a vision of the potential for future innovation in digital agriculture, including increased two-way data exchange with farmers that could enable scientists to run large-scale experiments with citizen participation.

Margaret McMillan will serve as the discussant. McMillan has published widely in the areas of international trade, investment, structural change and economic growth focusing primarily on developing countries. Understanding the distributional consequences of international economic integration is a key focus of her work. Her comments will be followed by a short Q and A.

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