Leveraging Innovation and Technology for the Poor. The Case of Digital Agriculture
COVID-19 has disrupted the way we work and live, prompting a rapid rise in the everyday use of digital technology to communicate, learn, and participate in the economy. But these changes are not universal: low-income populations are not benefiting equally from technological advances, and the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities. Markets often incentivize innovation that meets the needs of individuals and groups with greater purchasing power. However, experimental research by organizations like Precision Agriculture for Development has shown that technology can also be leveraged to benefit low-income populations, such as using digital agricultural extension to improve yields for smallholder farmers in developing countries. Governments can pilot and refine digital service delivery using the same kind of experimental methods and A/B testing that tech companies use to optimize their products. Furthermore, societies can choose to prioritize different directions for innovation, and who it benefits, by creating institutions that incentivize this kind of research and experimentation on behalf of the poor.