By Shubhalakshmi Bhattacharya
For the purposes of this paper, social media will be looked at as a medium of communication that uses Web 2.0 which enhances the creation of user-generated content and includes platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat. The audiences of social media which generate and use the content on social media are referred to as users. Social Media has become an important tool and has a massive impact on our everyday lives. It is also fair to say that when it comes to social media, consumers are not simply a passive audience but rather they become active co-creators. An important characteristic of the active audience then becomes the fact that they have control over both the presentation and content.
A recent example of how social media applications have impacted the economy is seen by looking at the Facebook data breach. Facebook, a social media application, was criticised by several thousands of users for the data breach that took place a few years ago and the audience through other social media applications such as Twitter started a “shut-down Facebook” campaign. Due to the backlash received and people deleting their accounts, Facebook suffered an enormous economic loss as their valuation plummeted and is still continuing to do so. It is, therefore, important to understand how social media networks can influence the economy. This paper aims to research the relationship and the impact social media has on economics with special reference to the field of agriculture using the Kiambu County of Kenya as a case study.
The internet is such an invention that has had a great impact on communication and is also considered to be an archive of information which users can access. Social media has become a major aspect of the internet, especially since it is an important source of information whereby the users can both, read and contribute to the content. It is extremely convenient for those who need information instantly and also to those who cannot access information easily. Social media is a collection of technologies that allow users to share insights, experiences and opinions with one another. It also provides companies the opportunity to interact with their intended market and the public at large in real time. This then becomes important as the feedback generated from the public enables the companies to make quick decisions. Another great benefit of social media is that it tends to become cheaper in the long run. Moreover, the issue of being constrained by the geographical location which has been faced by traditional media to a certain extent is not faced by social media. It has instead, allowed for the crossing of boundaries whereby people of different geographical regions both locally and internationally have been able to exchange ideas on various forums which have allowed for necessary conversations to take place.
Agriculture in Kenya
An important facet of social media, which has a huge impact on agriculture, is information sharing. The internet has been one source of information and social media platforms have not only been a source of information but also a forum whereby users contribute to the information which also leads to determining a group outcome. In terms of agricultural development, information is critical since it becomes a tool between the various stakeholders and also serves as a model which can be used for assessing trends and making decisions. The underlying need for information and technical expertise by the farming sector results in a requirement for extension services. While extension services are required for farming, they are not readily available to farmers. The consensus that exists claims that extension services, if functioning effectively, improve agricultural productivity by providing farmers with information that helps them to optimize their use of limited resources.
According to the Republic of Kenya, the extension system is one that is ineffective and is considered to be one of the key attributes to the poor performance of the agricultural sector. Furthermore, an extension system that is not in touch with farmers and does not significantly contribute to improving the lives of its clientele is now considered irrelevant. According to another source, marketing of agricultural produce and dissemination of information is crucial for agricultural development. Poor marketing facilities and institutions are some of the constraints to increased agricultural production.
In general, agriculture has been termed as the backbone of Kenya’s economy. According to a report known as the Food Security Report by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute( KARI), agriculture contributes 24% of the GDP and approximately 45% of the government revenue is derived from agriculture. This sector is the largest employer in the economy and accounts for almost 60% of the total employment. Therefore, growth in this sector is likely to have a greater impact on a larger section of the population in comparison to any other sector. Two of the main factors that hamper the development of agriculture are the lack of infrastructure and poor infrastructure. Poor infrastructure here includes poor rural roads, markets and transport systems which result in high transaction costs for farmers as well as inaccessibility to input and output markets are among the main concerns of the agricultural sector. Kiambu County is characterized by fertile soils and plenty of rainfall. There are numerous high potential smallholder farms, which have the potential to meet the County’s demand and also supply neighboring counties with dairy products, green vegetables and fresh fruit.
Shubhalakshmi Bhattacharya is a third-year student of BA.LLB at Jindal Global Law School.
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- Image Source: Social media week