E-Agriculture

Question 2 (opens 14 Nov.)

Question 2 (opens 14 Nov.)

 Question 2: What are the priority areas that producer organizations should invest in with regard to ICT?

 


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Lalaine Mallari
Lalaine MallariUniveristy of the Philippines Open University / St. Paul University ManilaPhilippines

There is a need for broad-based and equitable access to ICTs in rural areas consistent with ongoing processes of decentralisation, democratisation and policy revisions, in the context of global and national governance considerations. There is a further need for the adjustment of policies and awareness-raising with respect to capacity building in the context of emerging ICT opportunities.

(http://www.fao.org/sd/Cddirect/CDre0055a.htm)

Marie-Helene Collion
Marie-Helene CollionWorld BankFrance

<html><head></head><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">To answer the question about the priorities for ICT investments for producer organizations (POs), I believe one should go back to the reason why small holder farmers/producers create an organization of their own: as individuals they have limited access to services and markets, also little voice in policy making spheres. &nbsp; ICT should be a tool to better perform the functions for which their members created them: that is access to services and markets, as well as voice in policy making forum. One of the constraints that POs face is how to reach many members scattered over large distances with usually poor infrastructure. &nbsp; POs can use simple technology that most rural people own, that is a cell phone, to communicate information such as improved agricultural practices, prices, weather, etc... . &nbsp;In that sense POs need to invest not so much in hardware, but more in people: that is recruiting/training professionals whose job will be to collect and package the information which will be communicated via cell phones. &nbsp;&nbsp;<div></div><div>Conversely, POs can gather information from their members using cell phones (i.e their needs for inputs, or their estimated quantities of products to be sold via the organization and when). &nbsp;Being able to collect this information is absolutely essential for PO to negotiate the sales of members' product in high value markets. &nbsp;The investment is less in hardware that in the software and in professionals to collect the information from members via cell phone, and aggregate it. &nbsp;<br><div><br></div><div>One of the POs' &nbsp;weakness &nbsp;is often the lack of transparency about the functioning of the organizations and lack of communication between leaders and members. This is even more problematic between second and third tier organizations and grassroot organizations, as Pierre pointed out. ICT can be a tool to improve transparency&nbsp;as well as bringing members and leaders closer via two way communication. &nbsp;Again the investment is in the packaging of the information that will be communicated to the members and vice versa. &nbsp;As one of the participant pointed out, ICT is about the empowerment of resource-poor people and in this case the empowerment of PO members.</div><div><br></div><div>Having said that, a number of you highlighted the essential use of ICT (i.e computer and software) to improve the financial management of an organization, which I agree is key.</div><div><br></div><div>Marie-Hélène</div><div><br><div><div>On

Lalaine Mallari
Lalaine MallariUniveristy of the Philippines Open University / St. Paul University ManilaPhilippines

 

Other Key Issues and Recommendations http://www.fao.org/sd/Cddirect/CDre0055a.htm
 
1.  Finance/Sustainability:  ICTs for rural development are not given sufficient priority in national budgets. Strategies for financial sustainability for the use of ICTs in rural development need to be formulated. Investments in ICTs should be assessed in the context of their contributions to long-term human capital development in areas such as health care, skills development (e.g. for employment), continuing education and environmental management.
 
2.  Design:  There is a need to develop ICT strategies for rural areas taking into consideration differences in languages, culture, socio-economic conditions and infrastructure. There is also a need to encourage the private sector to invest in the design of ICTs appropriate for use in rural areas. ICTs should be linked to traditional communication forms to meet identified needs and reach specific groups (e.g. rural radio linked to the Internet).
 
3.  Capacity building: The realisation of the opportunities offered by ICTs for rural development and food security require a culture of information and new skills. The private sector should be encouraged to extend its current involvement in technical training for ICTs to rural areas and efforts should be made to ensure new opportunities for training in open source as well as proprietary software.
 
4.  Content / Applications:  There is currently a shortage of content, applications and access to existing data of particular interest to rural development and food security. Beyond physical access, data need to be timely, retrievable and easily applied by a broad range of users. There is now the opportunity for participation by small and decentralised content providers, ensuring that information is available in local languages and reflects local cultures.Rural development institutions should provide support at the local level for rural people to generate their own content and applications.
 
5. Studies: There is incomplete information about the use and impact of ICTs in rural development.There is a need to extend the monitoring, evaluation and documentation of successful and unsuccessful applications of ICTs for rural development and to develop models for identifying strategic future investments and programmes.Research and pilot projects on the role of ICTs in support of rural development should be extended. http://www.fao.org/sd/Cddirect/CDre0055a.htm
 
Michael Riggs
Michael RiggsUN-APCICT/ESCAPRepublic of Korea

Dear Lalaine,

These are indeed important issues in ICT4D, particularly at the policy level. Much has been discussed on these points in past e-Agriculture forums.

Can any of these points be refined to guide producer organizations in prioritizing investment (time/money) in ICT? As we know, many of these organizations are small and have very limited resources.

Lalaine Mallari
Lalaine MallariUniveristy of the Philippines Open University / St. Paul University ManilaPhilippines

I beleive that the refinement of organization policies as regards investments will all depend on the thrusts of the organization. Their priorites will all depend on key areas such as vision and mission and  organization thrust/focus, and their strenghts. For istance, if the organization's thrust and focus is on research then the organization may be of help in doing research that would contribute to the development of ICT for use in rural development, agriculture and the like.

Hi Lolaine,

All five of the key issues you highlight are should be part and parcel of all ICT adoption strategies and plans. I would add only one caveat and that is that such strategies should be implemented in a staged approach proceeding from the simple to the more complex, with plenty of flexibility to back out of the process or shift objectives if the  process proves to be too costly or risky.

Lalaine Mallari
Lalaine MallariUniveristy of the Philippines Open University / St. Paul University ManilaPhilippines

Yes I also believe in flexibility and moving in stages from simple to complex.

Hi Lalaine,

You are corrent in pointing out that financin and sustainability are major concerns in pursuing ICT in producers organization. I mean, in the Philippines, it is very difficult to fully adopt ICT in local agricultural cooperatives for the following reasons:

1. High cost of purchasing desktop / laptop computers.

2. Non-reliable inmternet service in rural areas

3. Absence of trained IT personnel to administer the cooperative's IT resources

 

Local cooperatives can pursue social mobilization program for corporations to donate their computers which are more than five years old to local organizations such as agricultural cooperatives. This will jumpstart the efforts of local cooperatives adopt ICT for development.

We just have to think out of the box in order to finance ICT in agirculture.

susana codotco
susana codotcoPhilippines

Hi yitzhak613,

Yes, just like in advocacy work, mobilization is an effective strategy to be included in priority areas for the producer organizations to consider.  It is through mobilization that people find support in their endeavors, especially, if it is coupled with networking with the right groups to promote the product/services of the cooperatives, for instance, in the agriculture sector. 

In mobilization and networking strategies, the use of ICT will be crucial to the producer organizations if they are to attract supporters and  members alike who have the necessary resources they are willing to share.

 

Raquel Laquiores
Raquel LaquioresPhilippines

 

Once ICTs are available and given that the users are well trained in the use of it, I suggest that producer organizations must prioritize to invest on appropriate software which will enhance the collaboration between them and the farmers and form researches and extension services. The easiness and up-to-date sharing of experiences, lessons and even news (especially weather reports) will increase adaptability and accuracy in farming mechanisms. Farmers’ struggles and questions can be answered with a nice dialogue.
 
Another is a software on simple accounting which I believe would be helpful for farmers and will distant themselves with the opportunists mushrooming nowadays.

Readings from:

Kelly