Access to the right information at the right time is critical to the livelihoods of rural people (including farmers, foresters and fisher folk) to improve their productivity and ability to diversify and compete in modern markets. It is also essential for governments making policy decisions in an environment of globalization, as well as for intermediary organizations that assist farmers, foresters, fisher folk and others in rural areas. However, developing rural areas often do not benefit from modern technologies.
The key challenge is to bridge the information gap through effective and innovative information management – the capture, storage, dissemination and analysis of information in a way that can be used by all levels of society, from farmers to researchers to policy-makers.
Working with partners, FAO addresses these concerns through various innovative technologies, programmes and partnerships:
e-Agriculture is a global community facilitating dialogue and resources on the use of information and communication technologies for sustainable agriculture and rural development. This Community of Practice has around 7 000 active members from over 150 countries, united by the common goal of improving the use of information and communication technologies for sustainable rural development.
The Virtual Extension and Research Communication Network (VERCON) model aims to enhance interaction among agricultural research, extension, farmers and the other stakeholders of agriculture and rural development. Improving linkages among all these stakeholders is crucial to facilitate knowledge-sharing and access to agricultural information and to increase food security. To ensure this process, collaborative techniques and innovative methods of communication are used as well as information and communication technologies.
The Information Management Resource Kit (IMARK) is a partnership-based e-learning initiative targeting the effective management of information to address the information needs of people who are not in the classroom milieu. IMARK consists of a suite of distance learning resources, tools and communities on information management.
The Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development (CIARD) initiative works to make agricultural research information publicly available and accessible to all. This means working with organizations that hold information or that create new knowledge – to help them disseminate it more efficiently and make it easier to access.
AGRIS is a global public domain database with nearly 3 million structured bibliographical records on agricultural science and technology. The bibliographic references contain either links to the full text of the publication or additional information retrieved from related Internet resources.
The Agricultural Information Management Standards (AIMS) is an initiative with the goal of making agricultural information systems interoperable. The main objectives of AIMS are to create information management standards, and to share and promote the use of common methodologies and tools.
The AGORA program, set up by the FAO together with major publishers, enables the least developed countries to gain access to an outstanding digital library collection in the fields of food, agriculture, environmental science and related social sciences. AGORA provides a collection of 1 900 journals to institutions in 107 countries. AGORA is designed to enhance the scholarship of the many thousands of students, faculty and researchers in agriculture and life sciences in the developing world.