The World Bank recently launched an electronic sourcebook to explore and capture the expanding knowledge and use of information and communication technology tools in developing country agriculture. The ICT in Agriculture Sourcebook offers practical examples and case studies from around the world on applying information and communication technologies in poor rural areas.
The aim is to support development practitioners in exploring the use of or designing, implementing and investing in ICT-enabled agriculture interventions.
Managed by the World Bank’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department and infoDev, a global partnership within the World Bank Group, the ICT in Agriculture website highlights innovative applications, media, and updates on ongoing projects, among other features.
Fifteen modules touch on a wide spectrum of sub-fields in agriculture, including risk management, gender, forest governance, rural finance, markets, value chains, and farmers’ organizations. FAO authored module 6, “ICT as Enablers of Agricultural Innovation Systems”.
The complete e-Sourcebook is freely available on the website.
To disseminate this work and to get inputs from others in the field, the World Bank is organizing participative online forums on some of the Sourcebook modules in partnership with FAO on the e-Agriculture community website.
“The idea is to create a living document with a living community around it,” says FAO’s Michael Riggs, e-Agriculture Lead Facilitator. “So besides contributing to specific chapters, we’ve helped spread the word about the Sourcebook within our community.”
Bridging the digital divide
e-Agriculture grew out of the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 and 2005, which understood the potential of these new technologies to revolutionize development but also recognized the big urban-rural divide in terms of access to ICTs.
“At the time, ICTs had virtually no impact in rural communities,” say Riggs. “But information and communication are crucial to empowering rural communities, and improving farming methods, market access and livelihoods.”
FAO was formally tasked with leading efforts to engage stakeholders at all levels and decided to create a community of practice for individual practitioners to share news, good practices and to get to know each other.
Enter e-Agriculture, which since its launch in 2007 has grown to include 8 000 registered members in 160 countries. This geographic and linguistically diverse group of information and communication specialists, researchers, farmers, students, policymakers, business people, development practitioners, and others share a common goal: improving policies and processes around the use of ICTs in support of agriculture and rural development.
The e-Agriculture platform hosts online discussion forums, and contains links to case studies, statistics, policy briefs, news items and other information submitted by members, with thematic sections curated by technical experts in the topics.
In December, e-Agriculture hosted its first discussion forum related to the ICT in Agriculture Sourcebook, focusing on Module 9, “Strengthening Agricultural Marketing with ICT”. Next up, according to Riggs, will be a forum linking ICT to green growth and climate-smart agriculture.
“The Sourcebook is the go-to resource for anyone developing projects or wanting to benchmark projects in this field,” says Riggs. “Once you familiarize yourself with the Sourcebook, with e-Agriculture you can contextualize the information to your setting and tap into some of the biggest experts in the field.”