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Storm in a teacup: implications of mobile phone literacy on sustainable smallholder agri-food supply chains in developing economies

W. Madushan Fernando (Department of Mechanical and Structural Engineering and Materials Science, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway) (Center for Supply Chain, Operations and Logistics Optimization, University of Moratuwa, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka)
H. Niles Perera (Center for Supply Chain, Operations and Logistics Optimization, University of Moratuwa, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka)
R.M. Chandima Ratnayake (Department of Mechanical and Structural Engineering and Materials Science, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway)
Amila Thibbotuwawa (Center for Supply Chain, Operations and Logistics Optimization, University of Moratuwa, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka)

The International Journal of Logistics Management

ISSN: 0957-4093

Article publication date: 22 February 2024

89

Abstract

Purpose

This study explores digital transformation in the tea supply chain within developing economies, with a focus on smallholder tea producers in Sri Lanka. Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. Among the tea producers, smallholder tea producers account for a substantial portion of total tea production in several countries. Mobile phones play a significant role in providing smallholder producers with access to crucial agricultural information, markets and financial services.

Design/methodology/approach

This study adopts a deductive approach, analysing mobile phone ownership, literacy, experience and perception among smallholder tea producers. The chi-squared test of independence and hierarchical clustering methods were used to test the hypotheses and address the research questions.

Findings

The study identifies four clusters of smallholder tea producers as Basic Tech Adopters, Digital Laggards, Skeptical Feature Phone Users and Tech-savvy Adopters based on their characteristics towards mobile-based technologies. Approximately 75% of the surveyed sample, which included both tech-savvy and basic-tech adopters, showed a positive attitude toward adopting mobile-based agricultural technologies.

Practical implications

The study suggests developing targeted strategies and policies to enhance the productivity of the smallholder tea production process in developing economies. The study highlights the importance of awareness, access, affordability and availability when implementing digital services for businesses at the base of the pyramid, such as tea smallholdings in developing economies.

Originality/value

The present study aims to address the lack of data-driven empirical studies on the use of mobile phones in smallholder settings. The findings of this study enable the enhancement of entrepreneurship within the tea production supply chain, especially, within stakeholders who deliver digital transformation support services.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support given by the Norwegian Program for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development (NORHED II - Project number 68085), the “Politics and Economic Governance” sub-theme and the project “Enhancing Lean Practices in Supply Chains: Digitalization”, which is a collaboration between the University of Stavanger (Norway), ITB (Indonesia), and the University of Moratuwa (Sri Lanka).

Citation

Fernando, W.M., Perera, H.N., Ratnayake, R.M.C. and Thibbotuwawa, A. (2024), "Storm in a teacup: implications of mobile phone literacy on sustainable smallholder agri-food supply chains in developing economies", The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLM-09-2023-0413

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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