Do digital climate services for farmers encourage resilient farming practices? Pinpointing gaps through the responsible research and innovation framework
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Digital climate services can support agricultural management decisions under uncertain climatological conditions and may contribute to achieving the ambitions of the fourth agricultural revolution. However, do they encourage social and environmental aspects? Our analysis builds on the four dimensions of the Responsible Research and Innovation framework and evaluates, among other things, which production systems are promoted in climate service apps; how the services contribute to or challenge (inter)national targets for sustainable development, ecosystem restoration, and climate resilience. From a longlist of apps, we present the best documented ones as case studies: nine weather-based and two non-weather-based digital services. We target apps of relevance for Southeast Asian smallholder farming systems, where both supply of and demand for such apps have this far been limited in contrast to the access to phones, and where particularly the supply of apps is poorly documented. The key findings point out several gaps. First, digitalization in Southeast Asia’s farming system is driven by foreign investments, while partnerships with public agencies, in particular national Met Offices, were rare. Services were developed for farmers but not necessarily with farmers, thereby overlooking needs and social factors such as (digital) literacy and trust. While some of the weather-based apps included more than one crop, they primarily support single solutions and none of them targeted mixed or integrated farming systems. This calls for developers of digital climate services to innovate applications in an inclusive manner, and to support governments in achieving their commitments to global climate, biodiversity, and sustainability goals. Difficulties in generating comparable information about the reviewed apps regardless of the study’s geographical focus demonstrates a need for more transparent means and protocols for users to assess and compare digital climate services. © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.