Overview of the presentations at the plenary sessions of the International ICT4Ag Conference in November 2013 in Kigali, Rwanda
Why the hype?
By Michael Nkonu, mAgri Programme, GSMA
The mobile agriculture industry has grown enormously over the past few years, with a broad range of mobile services and products now available for the agriculture sector. Mobile operators and others recognise the largely untapped opportunity for growth in rural areas, more success stories are emerging and the mAgri industry is set to continue growing.
Access, infrastructure, network, penetration
David Bergvinson and Paolo Pier, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)
The explosion of mobile services has strained the networks and quality is very poor. There are now approximately 22m SIMs in use and 1m new SIMs each month. Ethiopia Telecom has announced a 3-year agreement with Huawei and ZTE to develop 3G network in both urban and rural areas – expanding to cover 70% of the land area and to serve 40m subscribers by 2015.
A text message away: ICTs as a tool to improve extension?
Maximo Torero, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
The accelerating adoption of ICTs all over the world provides a great opportunity. The penetration of cellular phone technology is largely non-discriminatory – that is, even smallholder farmers with low-technology farms can increase their revenue by using ICTs. Taking advantage of these opportunities depends on connectivity, capability and relevant content.
Strategies for increasing access to both technology and meaningful content
Phil Abrahams, CAB International (CABI)
Providing information that is both highly relevant and actionable is key to making a mobile agro-advisory service valuable to farmers and therefore driving adoption. This means creating content that is highly localised, aligned with regional agricultural calendars and markets and presenting it in appropriate language through the right medium.
Revisiting extension with the changing architecture of information: CTA ’s perspectives
Benjamin Kwasi Addom, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)
CTA’s experience with extension services was consolidated through its 2011 conference in Nairobi. A number of lessons have been learned that highlight the systemic approach to extension, and calls for identification of the various components of an effective extension service. The catalytic role of ICTs in extension must be recognised.
Leveraging technology and social networks to amplify agricultural extension
Rikin Gandhi, Digital Green
Digital Green trains rural communities to produce videos of farmers, by farmers, and for farmers to exchange best agricultural practices that can boost farm productivity and improve nutrition. This approach has been found to improve the efficiency of existing government and NGO extension systems by a factor of ten, per dollar spent.
Scaling up and sustainability
Judith Payne, United State Agency for International Development (USAID)
Far too few ICT applications related to agriculture are sustainable without on-going donor funding and have scaled up to the millions of poor smallholder farmers that could benefit. Lessons learned from USAID’s experience in the design and implementation of two ICT for agriculture related public-private partnerships will be shared.
Putting the horse in front of the cart: A strategic approach to designing ICT-supported extension
Andrea Bohn, Modernising Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS)
It is easy to get very excited about certain ICT applications on their own, but this will go nowhere. ICTs are a part of the extension process and are most effective if combined with established good extension practice. For extension and ICTs to be effective, the service has to be client-focused.
Who is winning?
Bashir Jama, Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
Improving access to advisory services is essential for achieving Africa’s Green Revolution. Because of the ever-lower costs and ubiquity of ICTs such as mobile phones and the networks needed to connect them, new avenues have been opened, offering crucial information to farmers, fishermen, small traders and business people. Indeed, this is a win-win situation for all.
ICTs for agricultural extension: where we are & how to move forward?
R. Saravanan, Associate Professor, GFRAS/Central Agricultural University
ICTs are complementing conventional extension systems in coping with the emerging challenges in agriculture. Experiences from tele-centres, knowledge portals, mobile phone and social media applications from developing countries indicate that integrating ICTs along with pluralistic extension and agriculture value chain activities is crucial for realising the potential of ICTs in extension.
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More