E-Agriculture

Megan Mayzelle

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Megan Mayzelle
Megan MayzelleUniversity of California Davis International Programs OfficeUnited States of America

Steph, Thanks as always for a thought-provoking post.

The concept of making data sharing easy and common practice is a good one.  I'd be interested in hearing others' thoughts on the best approach to this/lessons from existing platforms.

*Implementor --would the ideal be a business?  think tank?  national organization? government entity?

*Scope-- would national systems be most appropriate, or would a regional or global system for data sharing have the most impact?  

*Motivation -- what would motivate projects to add their data to the platform?

* Design-- How could the platform be designed to ensure that all data types can be acommodated?  Would this data collection project also serve as a source of suggested indicators/ impact assessment tools?  

*Unity -- would copycat data sharing systems detract from the concept?  If so, how could this be avoided?

Megan Mayzelle
Megan MayzelleUniversity of California Davis International Programs OfficeUnited States of America

Is customer satisfaction the ultimate mark of a successful initiative?

My own project uses outputs (ex: access frequency, bounce rate, number of topics visited, etc) as  "suggestions" of success--ergo if the product was not useful, no one would be using it!  But ultimately user feedback is the greatest measure of impact; there is nothing we value more than a user's comments on what they found useful and how the product could be improved.  

Surveys capture the cultural appropriateness of the project and its approach.  Especially given the short time frames of many projects, surveys also better capture what may not be yet visible in the numbers.  

I.e. there's been a drought since the project was implemented; harvest numbers haven't increased; families are farming together, and youth and women feel included in information access; female farmers state that their knowledge of GAPs has substantially increased and they feel confident that they can increase their yields.

Did the project meet its goals?  

These sorts of outcomes could only be captured by eliciting user feedback.

As with all approaches, survey has disadvantages: time-expensive, perhaps difficult to extract honest opinions.  However, its advantages may make it a worthwhile componenet of measuring progress. 

Megan Mayzelle
Megan MayzelleUniversity of California Davis International Programs OfficeUnited States of America

Steph, once again thanks for a very thoughtful post.  I believe you are correct that publicly accessible data would enable a effective macro-scale approach to measurement of impact.  Of course, however, that approach is not without obstacles:

1- establishing practice. Perhaps the quickest way to encourage the practice of sharing data would be via large donors requiring it.  Over time such a convention could also come about via large projects setting the example, the "good reputation" such transparency may offer the project, and other public perception benefits.

2-business practices. If the project is a self-sustaining business, it may have valid concerns about making its data publicly available

3-project competition- unfortunately, projects tend to be competitive rather than collaborative, thus discouraging their willingness to make their data available to their "competitiors"

4-privacy concerns- how much information can you share about a user before you begin to invade their right to privacy and anonymity?  Especially in a bottom-up, user-generated system and/or a system that utilizes user information (ex: location, crops produced, season, consultation history, etc) to narrow the options given to a particular user when they connect to the system, the knowledge that data is publicly available may deter the user from taking advantage of what the system may have to offer.

5-situational factors - oftentimes keys to project success lie in how well the project understanding and accommodates the local culture (gender disparties, indigenous knowledge/practices, etc).  Obviously these are unique to each community and difficult to compare across project.  Using data alone, it may be difficult to account for such facets of the project and their role in the impact of the project.

6- consistency - even if every project shares its data, if there is no standardized way to measure impact, then those data will not be comparable.  

Thoughts?

Megan Mayzelle
Megan MayzelleUniversity of California Davis International Programs OfficeUnited States of America

Mr. Kamal, I'm having trouble accessing/locating any project information on your website.  Do you know if viewing is limited in some countries?  Thanks.

Megan Mayzelle
Megan MayzelleUniversity of California Davis International Programs OfficeUnited States of America

Betty, Thanks for this excellent example of how family farming was promoted in your community!

Could you tell us more about any involvement of youth or children in the women's group's meetings in your community?  Was it attempted?  How did the women react?  The men?

To respond to your question, I believe if content development grows out of communication between end users experts (as Steph described in previous discussions) and if these experts or other involved intermediaries (such as radio hosts) are appropriately sensitized to appreciate the knowledge and experience that the end users bring to the table, then indigenious wisdom and tradition will absolutely be captured and transmitted the other users via the ICT initiative.  
 

Megan Mayzelle
Megan MayzelleUniversity of California Davis International Programs OfficeUnited States of America

LeeHBabock, thanks for pointing out this often overlooked aspect of gender empowerment--negative impact. A few additional points of eloboration on that topic:

*Normal is Easier Our own culture often leads us to assume that disempowered women see themselves as such, are looking for an opportunity to change, and would make significant sacrifices to change their situation.  In reality, however, gender discrimination is often a cultural tradition that is embraced as wholly by women as men in the culture.  Therefore, when women are encouraged to break with the cultural norm, even when the benefits are obvious to them, they will at least feel uncomfortable and at worst will be treated badly by others in the community--perhaps particularly other women--as a result.  We must be aware that women's lifelong culture may be telling them that what we are encouraging them to do is "wrong", "strange", "manly", or "out of line" and understand why some women may choose to stick with the norm and not to adopt the "empowered" behavior that we are encouraging.

*Empowerment can be an Obligation One approach to women's engagement is to offer benefits (supplies, microloans, gifts, etc) only to women.  Yes, this does empower the women.  However, it may also put her in a position of obligation--ex: husband pressures wife to take out a microloan because he wants the money. In this example, she is then left with the responsibility of repaying the loan without necessarily having the means to do so.  We must keep in mind that empowering a woman in one particular aspect (ex: access to microloan) does not ensure that she is universally empowered (ex: ability to choose whether she takes out a loan, or ability to earn money to repay the loan).  

*Overburden Women are the workhorses in many developing cultures, and are already facing a very full day of exhausting work--farm, home, children.  What project we are asking them to participate in either lengthens their day or compromises their work, the latter of which can result in domestic conflict.  We must be sensitive to the other demands on their time.

*Youth as a Connection to Women Unlike many housewives, children and youth have relative freedom of movement about the community and relatively more free time.  Children and youth are often employed as messengers between housewives tied to their homes, and are frequently the most literate in the household.  If this is the case in the host culture, the possibility to engage youth in the project should be kept in mind as an option for indirectly engaging women who are not yet able to participate themselves--either in community meetings or via devices such as cell phones--and keep them in the loop.  

Megan Mayzelle
Megan MayzelleUniversity of California Davis International Programs OfficeUnited States of America

Rachel,

Thank you for this wonderful post outlining the steps Esoko took to engage women and help break down paradigms of excluding women from information exchange!  As Lee suggestions, the idea of encouraging families to attend trainings together is particularly interesting.  Could you share a bit more about your approach to this?  I.e.:

1--What specific steps were taken to encourage families to attend together? I can imagine in some communities I've visited it would be challenging to overcome the tendency to separate genders in public, as well as overcome the preference to leave someone at home at all times to protect the family's valuables (esp where homes are more rudimentary without secure locks).

2--Did you attempt to incorporate youth/children as well?

3--Would youth in the home facilitating information exchange for women (esp. in the case of illiteracy) be a easier first step for husbands with hesitations re: wives using cell phones?

4--Did you find that these interventions were effective?  Was there a change in ownership of cell phones by women?  

Megan Mayzelle
Megan MayzelleUniversity of California Davis International Programs OfficeUnited States of America

Steph, the idea of empowering intermediaries to better serve the user is a great example of what I was envisioning when I referenced connecting people to existing services or "repurposing" systems which are already there.  Thanks for such a well articulated point.

Megan Mayzelle
Megan MayzelleUniversity of California Davis International Programs OfficeUnited States of America

dwakhata,  Thanks for highlighting some of the many challenges women face as they attempt to benefit and participate in the services made available to them through ICT.  

The vocabulary you employ (cultural prejudice, insecurity, fear, excited, inappropriate...) suggest that the discrimination women face is not isolated to ICT initiatives, but rather is very much ingrained in the surrounding culture.  Of course, that is not to say that our projects cannot help chip away at such cultural divides.

Interventions such as incentives for female participants and gender-based listener's clubs may make things easier for women in the short term, but in the long run they are still separating genders and suggesting that women are somehow different or merit different attention than men (this applies in some situations--such as health issues--but not, I believe, in professional arenas such as agriculture).  

The best solutions are those that promote equal treatment of both genders.  Examples include the consideration of gender issues in the planning stages and, most importantly, sensitization of people in power (in your example, the radio producers and presenter) that you rightly mention.  Another avenue is the engagement of "crusader" women in the spotlight of the project (in your example, as producers or presenters) who are willing to perhaps face some discrimination and hardship in the name of demonstrating that their gender is no different when it comes to business/agriculture/etc.  As we all know, putting a face and a personality on a "faceless" issue (such as gender discrimiantion) is the most effective way to change individuals' perceptions.  

Thanks for bringing up this hugely important point.

Megan Mayzelle
Megan MayzelleUniversity of California Davis International Programs OfficeUnited States of America

Steph,

I really like the concept that you've presented here.  Could you expand a bit on the nature of the role of the experts in the projects in your experience?  You mention they are renumerated per request.  How are they accomodated as the knowledge base of FAQs build and their input becomes less necessary?  What is the process for accessing the knowledge base (user access, or is there an intermediary that receives and responds to queries?)? Does the expert add to the knowledge base or someone else as new queries come in?  How does the system ensure that the expert responses are of quality?  etc.

Regarding a small point in your post, I've found the COST of voice services to be a consistent barrier in using IVR rather than SMS.  Confounded by the fact that many users are challenged by SMS due to literacy limitations.  What is your experience with this?