Posted September 1996
INTERNET is not a panacea for the removal of constraints to rural development. But it does bring new information resources and can open new communication channels for rural communities. It offers a means for bridging the gaps between development professionals and rural people through initiating interaction and dialogue, new alliances, inter-personal networks and cross-sectoral links between organizations. It can create mechanisms that enable the bottom-up articulation and sharing of local knowledge.
Rural communities represent the "last mile of connectivity" challenge in both developing countries and developed countries, with regard to access to Internet services and the telecommunication connections that help transmit those services. How can development agencies coordinate and support activities to assist rural stakeholders in completing the last mile of connectivity?
In an effort to explore the relationship between the Internet and rural development, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the Department of Rural Extension Studies at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, sponsored a fact-finding mission. We present here the executive summary and a series of pilot project ideas from a report titled "The Internet and Rural Development" prepared by Dr. Don Richardson of the University of Guelph. The mission was organized through FAO's Programme of Cooperation with Academic and Research Institutions, and FAO's Sustainable Development Department's "Electronic Information Systems" working group, with funding from FAO and the University of Guelph.
The fact-finding mission took place between March and July of 1996, during which time the author met with individuals and organizations in Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, Italy, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Senegal, Egypt, Mexico and Chile.
The following report outlines the elements of a communication for development approach applied to the Internet and rural development, together with recommendations for strategy and activity, and an overview of Internet activities in developing countries. A key recommendation for FAO is an Internet and development strategy focused on rural and agricultural communities and the intermediary agencies that serve those communities with advice, project support, research, extension, and training. The cornerstone of this strategy is capacity building activities for rural and agricultural organizations in order to create and enhance locally managed Internet use, tools and resources.
The recommendations and project ideas in this report may be of interest to other development agencies which have or are interested in supporting activities focused on developing Internet infrastructure and applications in developing countries. Collaboration among agencies supporting Internet and development initiatives can achieve important “multiplier” effects as agencies harmonize their efforts while insuring that their particular constituencies are served. The goal is for development agencies, in partnership with stakeholders, to make full use of Internet tools such as the World Wide Web and interactive discussion tools to assist rural development efforts.
We welcome comments and requests for a full copy of the report in MS Word or WordPerfect format. Please contact:
Riccardo DelCastello, Facilitator
Electronic Information Systems Working Group
Sustainable Development Department, FAO
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy
To: Report on Internet and Rural Development by Don Richardson