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Creating an enabling environment

© Flickr/Worldbank

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ACP agriculture is yet to benefit fully from the potential of ICTs. New approaches are needed to ensure the systematic use of ICT solutions, and to create an enabling environment in which ICTs could enhance the impact of agricultural development programmes.

The emergence of ICTs in the development process has witnessed great transformations in various sectors of many economies. ICTs have done a great deal to boost the exchange of information and knowledge through such platforms as the mobile phone, which is regarded today as the largest distribution platform. Broadband internet connections have improved knowledge exchange among individuals, institutions and even governments. From banking and industry to education and governance, ICTs have provided employment to individuals, reduced the cost of transactions, improved the time of service delivery and generally enhanced efficiency, transparency and good governance.

In most ACP countries, the agricultural sector is yet to benefit substantially from ICTs. This is irrespective of the dynamic developments in ICTs and their continuous evolvement, which generates new opportunities every now and then. Whatever the impact ICTs may have had on agriculture, such as TradeNet in Ghana on market price dissemination in West Africa, and the recent e-wallet for fertilizer distribution in Nigeria, they were expected to generate more benefits for the sector as a whole, and as such, they remain islands of success.

The main cause for this lack of success, however, is down to the failure to put into place a systematic approach to using ICTs so they would have a more comprehensive impact on agriculture. The World Bank observed in 2007 that if legal frameworks were in place, banking and payment services provision through mobile phones could introduce many more people into the formal financial system. Today, this is happening in many countries – M-Pesa by Safaricom in Kenya is leading the way in Africa, for example. This is an illustration of what an enabling environment can do so that ICTs equally benefit everyone in the agriculture sector.

What is an enabling environment?

An enabling environment for ICTs in agriculture in ACP countries is one in which both policies and practices, and infrastructures and general investments are favourable for ICTs to thrive and positively contribute to agricultural improvements. These are some of the crucial questions:

  • What policies have been provided in these countries to enable ICTs to play effective roles in agriculture development?
  • What are the levels of investment in mobile communication, and mobile and broadband internet access, especially in rural areas, that will make it easier for ICTs to make viable agricultural improvements?
  • What skills do citizens have that will enable them to take advantage of ICTs for the development of agriculture?
  • What agricultural business plans are being developed to stimulate the interests of young ICT professionals to invest their time, intellectual and other resources in agriculture?

These are the perspectives that will create an enabling environment for the efficient delivery of effective ICTs tool for the agricultural sector.

© Reuters/Antony Njuguna

During the ICT4Ag conference, this stream on ‘enabling environments’ will provide participants with the opportunity to share ideas, experiences and proposals on how to create enabling environments in terms of policy, infrastructure, learning skills, using apps and e-cooperation between sectors – think, for example, of e-agriculture and e-commerce, e-agriculture and e-banking, e-agriculture and e-governance – so that ICTs can make a greater impact as they transform the agricultural sector.

The conference needs to be a platform for eliciting and exchanging information, ideas and proposals that will enhance the capacity of rural people to access and use knowledge, skills, and materials and truly benefit from ICT tools. And in doing so, the conference should generate different solutions that address the needs of the different target groups in agriculture and along agricultural value chains.

With this in mind, the eight sessions of this stream will be organised in different forms, such as a discussion group, a world café and an open space. It is hoped that this will facilitate the accomplishment of three objectives:

  • develop a clear understanding of the environmental challenges facing the use of ICTs in agriculture;
  • develop appropriate guidelines and concrete proposals for reinforcing, transforming and developing communities of practice in the use of ICTs application for agriculture at various levels (continental, regional and national); and
  • harness expertise and develop adequate arrangements for reinforcing work in ICT4AG at all levels.

Read More

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CTA uses the conference to showcase how ICTs are empowering agricultural producers, processors, traders. This issue presents an overview of ICT applications in agriculture on the occasion of the CTA-sponsored conference on ICT4Ag held in Kigali, Rwanda on 4–8 November 2013.

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ICTs are powerful tools for accessing information, facilitating communication, improving decision making and improving the outreach development programmes. However, to achieve their full potential impact ICT solutions need to be integrated into daily operations.

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ACP agriculture is yet to benefit fully from the potential of ICTs. New approaches are needed to ensure the systematic use of ICT solutions, and to create an enabling environment in which ICTs could enhance the impact of agricultural development programmes.

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The conference will help to address the ‘inclusive’ component of ICT4Ag, or the idea that no one will be left out. It is imperative that emerging innovations support rather than exclude stakeholders in the agricultural sector.

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Interview with By Lee Babcock, managing director of the mobile strategy unit at ACDI/VOCA, an economic development organisation based in Washington, DC in the United States. ACDI/VOCA is dedicated to promoting economic opportunities for cooperatives, enterprises and communities through the innovative application of sound business practice.

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Interview with Eric White, managing associate and lead economist at Integra LLC, a Washington DC based international development firm specialising in ICT policy and applications. The firm implements USAID’s Global Broadband and Innovations programme.

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Interview with Dorothy Okello, senior lecturer with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. She is the founder the WOUGNET, the Women of Uganda Network. Established in 2000, the network’s mission is to promote and support the use of ICTs by women and women organisations in Uganda.

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