Management Information Systems and Firm Performance: Experimental Evidence From a Large Agribusiness Company in Kenya

By implementing two pilot studies on the use of communications technologies in a large agribusiness company in Kenya, the researchers examined the impact of innovations in management information systems on firm performance.

A growing literature highlights the importance of access to information and communication technologies on firm management practices and productivity (Garicano and Van Zandt, 2012; Bloom et al., 2010; Paravisini and Schoar, 2013). This study will add to the existing literature by providing rigorous evidence on the impact of innovations in the management information system of a large private sector company in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The researchers partner with one of the largest agribusiness companies in Kenya to study how innovations in management information systems affect firm performance. The partner company runs a 100,000 plot sugarcane contract farming scheme. In collaboration with the Agriculture and the ICT departments of the partner company, the team designed two pilot projects. First, they explore whether the development of an integrated mobile-based query system can improve the company's performance in the management of the provision of inputs to the company cane suppliers (the contracting farmers). Second, they test whether an interactive communication scheme via SMS can improve the company’s ability to monitor cane suppliers’ activity in the field.

The two pilots will be evaluated through a randomized controlled trial (RCT). In order to study the impact of the program the researchers will rely on unique administrative data provided by the company which will include detailed information on program take-up by cane suppliers; input provision; and productivity. Should the pilots be successful, the company has the potential to expand them to the rest of the scheme, covering more than 100,000 contracting plots.