E-Agriculture

Marie-Helene Collion

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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

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; ">Hi, Peter,<div></div><div>I think you are absolutely right: governments should focus on providing public goods, mainly as you mentioned, rural infrastructure. &nbsp;In terms of ICT, governments may want to invest in partnerships with the private sector, in order to ensure that remote areas have access to low-cost internet and cell phone coverage. &nbsp;Grants to help producer organizations finance start up costs of investing in ICT (such as computers) can also be justified, as well as offering training for producer organizations' staff on the use of ICT, for example the use of software for financial management. &nbsp;Governments should also ensure that research institutions publish their research results in a form that producer organizations can readily use to communicate to their members the information that can be of use for their members (through their members' mobile phones for example, or their own web page). &nbsp;Often, research results are not published in a form that can be readily used by producer organizations and their members. &nbsp;I would say therefore, that governments should help producer organizations with the content that can be communicated via ICT rather than in the hardware itself. &nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>Marie-Helene</div><div>&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;<br><div><div>

Marie-Helene Collion
Marie-Helene CollionWorld BankFrance

 

Dear All,

 

Whether ICT can empower or marginalize even more already marginalized people in an organization depends a lot upon the type of technology being used, i.e whether the technology requires a good level of education and is costly to acquire or not (ie computers and web pages, or radios and mobile phones).

 

One of the problem with that women and the poorest face when participating in an organization is their ability to participate in meetings where discussions take place, information is shared and decisions are taken.  Women have little time to spare, the poorest cannot afford to leave their economic activities, and for both it requires being able to afford the cost of transportation.  Not attending meetings, they also miss the opportunity to communicate their concerns/needs which are often different from that of the richer or male members.  POs can use simple technology that most rural people own and know how to use, such as cell phones and radios, to communicate information, and also to gather information from them.

 

One of the POs'  weakness  is often the lack of transparency about the functioning of the organizations and lack of communication between leaders and members. This is even more the case  with marginal members precisely because they do not attend meetings and cannot participate much in the life of the organization. As Pierre pointed out, ICT can be a tool to improve transparency and accountability as well as bringing marginal members and leaders closer via two way communication.   As a number of forum participants pointed out for question #2, ICT can help empower the most resource-poor members and women.  

 

The result is obviously different when information is communicated via more sophisticated ICT tools.

 

Does any of you have examples of either cases?

 

Marie-Hélène

Marie-Helene Collion
Marie-Helene CollionWorld BankFrance

 

Hi, Peter,

 

I think you are absolutely right: governments should focus on providing public goods, mainly as you mentioned, rural infrastructure.  In terms of ICT, governments may want to invest in partnerships with the private sector, in order to ensure that remote areas have access to low-cost internet and cell phone coverage.  Grants to help producer organizations finance start up costs of investing in ICT (such as computers) can also be justified, as well as offering training for producer organizations' staff on the use of ICT, for example the use of software for financial management.  Governments should also ensure that research institutions publish their research results in a form that producer organizations can readily use to communicate to their members the information that can be of use for their members (through their members' mobile phones for example, or their own web page).  Often, research results are not published in a form that can be readily used by producer organizations and their members.  I would say therefore, that governments should help producer organizations with the content that can be communicated via ICT rather than in the hardware itself.  

 

Marie-Helene