Boniface Akuku

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Boniface Akuku
Boniface AkukuKenya Agricultural and Livestock Research OrganizationKenya

Development of an Open Data Knowledge Management Framework Using Information and Communication Technology: The case of Arid and Semi-arid Land - Agricultural Productivity Research Project in Kenya

The past decades have witnessed an increased growth in the use of information and communications technology (ICT) as a mechanism for improving the management of agricultural research knowledge. However, the management of agricultural research knowledge continue to face enormous challenges especially in Arid and Semi-arid Lands (ASAL) areas. This is because open data, open access and use of ICT in agricultural research field has remained low. It is therefore clear that ICT plays an essential role in agricultural research sphere as an innovation as well as an intervention. The empirical data further serves to support argumentation for supporting open data in nutrition and agriculture as an essential factor in research collaboration, learning and training among the stakeholders. It is evidenced that ASAL research knowledge and information are not well organized and structured in a suitable formats to support ease of access and utilization by the intended beneficiaries. In this regard, careful selection and development of ICT based systems, tools and processes for sourcing, storage, sharing and dissemination of information and knowledge in an open manner is considered a suitable innovation and intervention.

ICT and Open Data Perspective in Agricultural Research the case ASAL areas in Kenya

A large of body of theoretical and empirical literature assert that ICT plays a critical role in the management of agricultural research knowledge such as improved access and sharing of knowledge and information products and services. Likewise, the research attention given to ICT in Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) is a testament to its potential role and impact on improving agricultural productivity, economic growth and poverty reduction. However, agricultural research scientists in ASAL-APRP have cynical perception on sharing of data through ICT tools and systems, as a result this has led to unexplored opportunities and resources. By and large in ASAL areas, the access, availability and management of agricultural research knowledge and information is “unsystematic”, and this has partly contributed to declining agricultural potential and food crises. Specifically in ASAL-APRP it has been reported that “despite the availability of various knowledge channels, most farmers do not have access to information on good agricultural practices (GAP)”. This low perspective of ICT and open data approaches  contributes to the project’s inability to effectively meet the diverse demand for research technologies for the different actors in ASA mainly farmers. Similarly, there are inherent complexities, difficulties and resistant from scientists in the use of ICT tools and systems as well as open data strategies in the management of research knowledge and information. This is mainly due to “the fear of unknown” with regard to data security and intellectual property rights (IPR). Other challenges include systematic organization of the data, information and knowledge to meet specific purposes. This is because farmers need information on a variety of subjects and at multiple stages from pre-production to post-harvesting. Similarly they have different types of information needs during each stage of the process for instance information on weather, pests and diseases, inputs, improved farming practices and markets among others. The persistency of these challenges is because the role, value and effectiveness of ICT and open data in supporting the management of agricultural research data, information and knowledge is sometimes dismissed and unexplored by agricultural research stakeholders. In the case of ASAL-APRP agricultural data, information and knowledge is scattered and stored in different forms mostly in hard copies and personal computers. This condition is possibly caused by low utilization of ICT and impoverished understanding of ICT and open data opportunities and value. In this case the developed “a Knowledge Management Framework” using ICT and open data principles for this project has provided real benefits and potentials to farmers and stakeholders in ASAL areas. The framework known ASAL-Knowledge Hub embraced ICT and open data has been instrumental in consolidating, managing and making available agricultural research data, information and knowledge for different stakeholders mostly the small holder farmers. The case of ASAL Knowledge-Hub as an open data platform is a testament in facilitation of equitable access to data, information and knowledge by different actors in the agricultural sector within the ASAL areas. The platform included innovative approaches including the development of mobile application which have been made available openly.

The case of ASAL Knowledge hub provides evidence to the fact that ICT and open data plays a significant role in AR4D particularly in the development of virtual open platforms such as “the ASAL knowledge hub”. The findings has produced new insights in the management of agricultural research data, information and knowledge. Moreover, as result of reflexivity using the privilege of empirical data, the concept of developing ASAL knowledge hub as the “artifact” was pivotal to the achievements of ASAL-APRP project vision of establishing a “Centre of Excellence” for agricultural research data, information and knowledge access, sharing and utilization ASAL.  In addition, the platform has meet the postulated requirements of a suitable interventions for achieving equitable access and utilization of agricultural research data, information and knowledge for ASAL areas and beyond. The empirical evidence further serves to support argumentation for ICT and Open data as key in supporting research collaboration, learning and training among the stakeholders. In this regard, careful selection and deployment of ICT systems, tools, techniques, and processes for sourcing, storing, sharing and dissemination of agricultural research data, information and knowledge is paramount. Furthermore, ASAL K-Hub an open data interactive platform has proved that allowing for inquiries and feedback can benefit demand driven research agenda. Additionally, it can inform practice and policy makers on critical research themes ultimately addressing the needs of small holder farmers.