Question 4 (opens 30 September)

Welcome again to everybody and thank you for all your replies to the first three questions. Today we are opening a new question: What can be done at policy level to promote the use of community media and ICTs, and improve rural communication services?

Share your ideas with the community!

Helen Hambly
Helen HamblyUniversity of Guelph (Canada)Canada

Looking back at this post -  Thu, 25/09/2014 - 10:10 by Ajit Maru (GFAR Secretariat)~~However, I would like to point out that while there is a lot of documentation and anecdotal information available on the potential use of ICTs to improve family farming based on pilot projects, as provided in this forum also, there is very little hard evidence on the impact and sustainability of these projects as also what has been the learning from almost 20 years of our experience in the use of the “new” ICTs such as computers and cellular telephony, for agricultural development.

I think the Question 1 comment that Ajit posted is quite relevant here in the discussion of policy. I believe there is a lack of outcome and impact assessment work in e-agriculture. Models/methodologies from other agricultural R&D do not transfer well to ICTs. Likewise telecoms/ICT studies are mostly adoption studies - fairly limited in determining development outcomes and impact. Work by  leading international bodies (OECD, World Bank, etc.) is too "macro".  Work at the local level is too anecdotal and qualitative methods will go so far for policymakers  (but I firmly believe quantiative/econometric analysis alone is insufficient without qualitative, user-oriented data collection methods).

 So in other words, there is a  "catch 22" evidence based decision making for e-agriculture is demanded by policy makers and yet there has been little investment in this area.

Around the world, we are dealing with issue (hence the importance of baseline data collection in a project or sharing M&E info) . Just to say that in work here in Ontario this is also a huge issue - an example of what's happening in rural Canada  see: http://swiftnetwork.ca/


hI Helen, 

i am curious to know what a "catch 22" is . Can you explain?

Thanks a lot 


walther ubau
walther ubauTELCORNicaragua

- Consultation with communities on actual needs to formulate policies.
- The policy must embody respect for the cultural identity of communities.
- Policies accessibility of ICT resources.
- Make it a gender inclusive policy and youth.

raul enrique
raul enriqueNicaragua

Policy and regulatory frameworks.
Policy and regulatory provisions in many countries are still far from the potential of ICT we have presented. Government regulations often overlook the possibilities offered by ICT. A number of developing countries still controls access and protects incumbents. In other countries, a few operators tend to agree on prices and services, thus preventing competition.
While reform of the sector in some countries has increased access to basic communication, especially mobile phones, the underlying policy objective of providing affordable access to the population has not been performed in most countries. The race for the privatization of inefficient operators has not yielded the expected results due to the lack of other elements of reform, such as competence and efficient regulation. Similarly, the enthusiasm for the development of national ICT policies and e-strategies in order to overcome the digital divide did not generate the expected digital opportunities, excessive emphasis on bureaucracy and less attention paid to the institutional possibilities , resources, markets and levels of governance and policy coordination in each country. E-strategies aimed exclusively at national level activities have also been one of the main obstacles to investment in key areas such as training, infrastructure and community based innovation.

There were also significant differences between sector reform agendas and efforts to develop national ICT policy in recent years. Efforts to reform the sector failed to recognize the implications of integrated ICT policy while national ICT strategies failed to capitalize on the efforts of creating competitive environments to generate affordable access. The deviation between the two paths and the failure to integrate policy objectives of affordable access to applications and content was one of the main problems faced by political processes over the last decade.

Policy and management capacity
There is a significant lack of political and managerial skills in developing countries, which often leads to ICT projects poorly planned and worse executed. On the one hand, lack of evidence of the benefits offered by ICTs to solve basic problems of development. On the other hand, has been much emphasis on pilot projects that failed to generate a long-term impact. This has been exacerbated by the lack of participation of poor groups and groups in favor of the poor in public policy processes and decision-making. As attention focuses on ICT solutions by experts / as in technologies, information and knowledge that arise in poor communities are often ignored.
The lack of adequate funding is another challenge for ICT access for the poor. Donors have been the main source of funding for ICT initiatives in most countries, but only a few donor-funded projects were self-sustaining once the external support (financial and material) was completed.





Nchimunya Chaamwe
Nchimunya ChaamweThe Copperbelt UniversityZambia

To start with, how much do our policy makers (politicians) understand about ICT and its effect on agriculture, especially in developing countries like my country Zambia. Do they understand that ICTs such as mobile phones can be used for other activities such as agriculture, other than for commucation purposes only? Until our politicians get a better understanding of this particular subject are we going to see policies that would promote the use of community media and ICTs and improve rural communication services. In my country Zambia for example, policies are needed to look at issues such as affordability of communication services by rural farmers, ICT infrastructure in rural areas, ICT illiteracy issues in rural areas and so on.

Involving young professionals into policy discussions, processes and making will be key in promoting innovative enhanced use of community media and ICTs, and other rural communications services, The young generation is ICT savvy, "social"-oriented, they are innovative and thus have a huge potential in developping these means. As we know policies frame/nfluence what can be concretely implemented on the ground. Young people, by being on board on strategic and policy level can help bridge practice and policy and bring strategic solutions to real, concrete challenges.

Interesting point by IICD reports: young people, thanks to ICTs, gain credibility within their societies. Indeed, ICTs mean access to information, knolwedge, active information and knowledge sharing - they thus gain voice, a certain "power" and leading or advisory roles into their communities.

Simone Sala
Simone SalaFAOItaly

Dear friends and colleagues,
sorry if I joined you just now - it's always a pleasure to contribute to ComDev and our community.

When thinking about policy actions that may help spreading the use of community media and ICTs, there are two main points that pop up in my mind:

  1. Expand physical access to services and tools. Adequate policies in the Telecommunication and related sector can make a true difference in reducing the costs linked with access to ICT tools. The ITU uses an interesting indicator, named ICT Price Basket, that provides the cost of accessing to mobile services (i.e. mobile subscription), Internet (i.e. fixed broadband) and worldwide. More info here. As you can see there are huge differences across developing and emerging regions: policy enabling competition among ICT providers can make possible a cost-effective offer of ICT services and tools. Good examples are Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Guyana, and Uganda - where relative overall prices decreased by over 50% between 2008 and 2010!
  2. Invest on training. Both producing and consuming media needs capacities. Policy makers can play a huge difference in the uptake of ICTs as well as in community media development if providing adequate training to communities. It is also extremely important to promote training (and facilitation, whenever possible) to make communities able to translate online and offline content that may be relevant to them but available in another language and/or not tailored to them as target users. Capacity building and strengthening policies can start from literacy programs up to facilitation skills - when it is possible, for example, to train local infomediaries that can guide communities in taking the best out of media and ICTs.


Finally, I know this may seem obvious but I believe we should never stop repeating it: policy making can largely improve rural communication services if local voices are listened since the beginning of projects/programmes/initiatives. This means going beyond consultation and rather make policy making truly participatory. Moreover, policy making should include communities in the monitoring and evaluation of communication services to make them more effectively respond to the communities' needs. Incidentally, the role of ICTs is growing in providing simple and cost-effective ways of providing feedback to policy makers - getting back to the former point: expand access and build/strengthen capacities!

Freddy Freddy Leonardo Arias Guerrero
Freddy Freddy Leonardo Arias GuerreroAsociación de Ingenieros Agrícolas de Colombia ASIACColombia

En el País se viene trabajando en el caso de Colombia digital, mejorando el acceso del territorio a la internet, yo creo que paralelamente se debería empezar a capacitar o formar a los productores, o sus hijos, en la utilización de este medio, que sirva para tomar decisiones y que permitan ser un punto de difusión del desarrollo de nuestras comunidades. 

In the case of Digital Colombia, the Country has been working for improving access to the internet in the territory, I think that, at the same time, we should start training producers, or their children, in the use of this mean of communication, that will serve [as a tool] for decision-making, and will enable it to be a point of diffusion of development of our communities.