Communication for development Knowledge

Posted October 1996

The Internet and Rural Development: Recommendations for Strategy and Activity

Project Suggestions


Introduction | Table of Contents | Executive Summary | Preface/Acknowledgements | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Project suggestions | Bibliography/Resources | WWW sites | Glossary


IN ORDER TO FACILITATE the implementation of FAO project activities related to the Internet and electronic knowledge and communication tools, this Report addendum provides eight suggestions for FAO projects. Each project suggestion is scalable, making it possible to begin with a small pilot initiative, or extension of a current FAO project, or alternatively, with a full project combined with a project implementation assessment with verified costing. Therefore the cost figures presented are only indicative and further project formulation will be required. All inputs can be scaled according to the number of users participating in the networking initiatives.

Each project may have the potential to be linked with Internet project activities (particularly Internet infrastructure initiatives) facilitated by other international agencies such as the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), USAID, the European Union, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Information Centre for Low External Input and Sustainable Agriculture (ILEIA), and the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Linkages are strongly encouraged.

Other linkages can be made with the numerous organizations and agencies involved in Internet and development activities, particularly in Africa, including (by no means an exhaustive list; majority of references obtained from Jensen, 1996, http://www.idsc.gov.eg/aii/sota.htm):


Egypt: Agricultural Community-Access Telecommunication Services (ACATS)

Pilot Project/Bridging Project: $150,000 (1 yr.)
Full Project: $1,000,000 (4 yr.)

Project Goal: Improve agricultural productivity, efficiency, profitability and sustainability in Egypt, given changing economic, social and environmental realities

Project Objective: Provide effective electronic communication and information services to the Egyptian agricultural community in support of agricultural and rural development, and to improve telecommunication services in agricultural "service cities." Project duration: 4 years.

Project Description: Improving access to extension information within Egypt, and among its millions of farm families and thousands of agricultural extension workers, is a significant problem faced by the Government of Egypt's Central Administration for Agricultural Extension Services. Via the proposed project one hundred Extension Information Units and staff will be provided with low cost network terminals and printers, enabling extension workers to retrieve and print relevant agricultural and rural development information on demand at district and village level facilities. Agricultural information providers will be provided with the tools and training required to publish electronically to meet the real information needs of rural populations. Sustainability will be tied to assisting existing Egyptian commercial Internet providers (through incentive packages), and para-statal Internet backbone services, to extend Internet access to rural areas and agricultural service cities throughout Egypt.

Possible Egyptian Partners: Expert Systems for Improved Crop Management Project, Central Administration for Agricultural Extension Services (CAAES), Agricultural Cooperatives, Agriculture Extension and Rural Development Research Institute (AERDRI), Regional Information Technology and Software Engineering Centre (RITSEC), National Agricultural Library.

Outputs:

  1. Sustainable extension information system.
  2. 100 Extension Information Units (EIUs) operated by the Central Administration for Agricultural Extension Services (CAAES) providing timely, accurate and beneficial information and communication services to meet the real needs of clients.
  3. Support for commercial Internet nodes in 5 under serviced regions of Egypt.
  4. Income generating extension information and world wide web publishing services within the Expert Systems Project (ESP), the Egyptian National Agriculture Library (ENAL), and the Agriculture and Rural Development Research Institute (AERDRI).
  5. Publication of existing information (modified where necessary) in electronic form for instant access via local network terminals, and using Arabic language and relevant cultural forms and aesthetics.
  6. Income generation through commercial sponsorship of information and communication services.
  7. Improved computer and telecommunication resources for ESP, AERDRI, CAAES, and ENAL.
  8. 100 basic computer networking systems, printers and telecommunication lines installed and functioning at CAAES Extension Information Units.
  9. 300 Extension workers and stakeholders trained to use Internet systems to realize information benefits.
  10. 20 ESP, ENAL, AERDRI and CAAES management and technical staff trained and operating electronic agricultural information services.
  11. Information Needs Assessments and Impact Evaluation Studies in selected regions.
  12. Appropriate and beneficial agricultural information, communication and advisory services available to extension workers, cooperatives, farm organizations, and researchers who work directly to improve the lives of farm families through agricultural development.
Inputs - Full Project (Four years):

Inputs - Pilot Project/Bridging Project (One year):


West Africa: Village to Village, and Village to World Communication - Sharing Electronically

Pilot Project/Bridging Project: $150,000 (1 yr.)
Full Project: $1,000,000 (4 yr.)

Project Goal: To improve the lives of rural populations of West Africa through improving agricultural and environmental knowledge sharing processes and techniques.

Project Objective: Provide effective electronic communication and information services to the West African agricultural and forestry communities to assist in documenting, sharing and exchanging information between communities and with policy makers, the media and the world via monthly electronic newsletters on the Internet. Project duration: 4 years.

Possible West African Partners: ENDA-Dakar, local government agencies, farm organizations such as CNCR-Senegal, local Internet Service Providers in participating countries

Project Description: The standard extension message is developed by urban-based experts and passed on as a package of practices to be adopted by farmers. Many development communication and extension specialists now recommend "flipping" this pattern and "putting farm families first, and supporting and involving them in the generation of new technology" and the process of documenting and sharing their experiences. This participatory approach requires the use of media that enable rapid and low cost dissemination, and sharing of information with fewer urban-biased intermediaries involved. It requires a decentralized media that encourage lateral (not linear) communication, creativity and learning, and which enable the rapid spread of practical experiences and lessons learned. Via the proposed project fifty rural NGOs in West Africa will be provided with low cost network terminals, printers, and digital cameras to enable both staff and clients to:

By working with existing Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as ENDA in Dakar (Senegal) to establish Internet nodes in under serviced areas to connect project participants, the project will also enable ISPs to provide Internet service to any individual, business (including existing "Telecentre" businesses), NGO or government office within the telephone dialling range of the node. Staff of participating NGOs will be provided with the tools and training required to publish electronically to meet the real information and communication needs of rural populations. Links will be made to NGO federations (such as CNCR in Senegal), farm organizations, and existing FAO projects (such as the National Rural Forestry Program and the Regional Pesticide Management Project) to identify participating communities and NGOs. Sustainability will be tied to assisting existing Internet providers (through incentive packages), and para-statal Internet backbone services, to extend Internet access to rural areas and agricultural service towns in targeted areas of West Africa. Information content will be accessed locally and via NARS, FAO, and existing information providers such as CTA and ILEIA.

Outputs:

  1. 50 NGOs and their clients producing and disseminating, via the Internet, monthly newsletters containing local ideas, experiences and lessons learned.
  2. Sustainable commercial Internet nodes in up to 5 under serviced regions of West Africa.
  3. Electronic newsletter templates to assist in the production of local newsletters.
  4. Publication of information in electronic form (text, graphics, photographs and, in some cases even sound and video for instant access via local network terminals, and using local dialects and relevant cultural forms and aesthetics. In essence, this will be like an electronic version of Participatory Rural Appraisal Notes (PRA Notes)
  5. Electronic archiving and searching of newsletters via the global Internet.
  6. Improved computer and telecommunication resources for rural and remote areas of West Africa.
  7. 50 basic computer networking systems, printers, digital cameras and telecommunication lines installed and functioning via ten new Internet nodes operated by existing Internet Service Providers.
  8. 250 NGO staff and clients trained to use publish electronically and use Internet systems to realize information benefits.
  9. 20 NGO federation and farm organization management and technical staff trained (trainers of trainers) and operating Internet terminals to relay information to their membership and to the media and government.
  10. Information Needs Assessments and Impact Evaluation Studies in selected regions.
Inputs - Full Project:

Inputs - Pilot Project/Bridging Project (One year):


Zambia - Internet Services in Support of Decentralized Extension Services

Pilot Project/Bridging Project: $120,000 (1 yr.)
Full Project: $ 430,000 (4 yr.)

Project Goal: To improve the lives of the rural population and agricultural producers of Zambia through improving agricultural and rural development services provided by extension services.

Project Objective: Provide effective electronic communication and information services to Zambian government extension services and affiliated agencies at the central and regional. Provide mechanisms for documenting, sharing and exchanging information between extension services and related agencies, NGOs, government agencies, the media and policy makers. Improve the telecommunication context in rural and remote areas of Zambia.

Project duration: 4 years.

Possible Partners: Southern African Development Community (Food Security Unit, Development Communication Board, etc.), University of Zambia, Food Security Network of SADC NGOs, IRED, Inter Press Service, ZAMCOM, national and regional farmers' organizations, rural development organizations, ZAMNET, People's Participation Project.

Project Description: The Project will begin with a participatory communication needs assessment among targeted extension services and client groups to identify communication problems, solutions, and priorities, together with existing communication networks' strengths and weaknesses. This will be followed by awareness building workshops to assist extension services and clients with developing pilot network applications. Suggested applications will be evaluated and appropriate applications will be chosen for. Priority will be given to those applications that enhance rural economic development, agricultural development, environmental sustainability, rural education and women's participation. Technical infrastructure will be provided by a local Internet Service Provider which may receive incentives for extending service access to selected sites. Technical training, administrative, and management training will be provided by local Internet Service Providers and expert consultants to network administrators and to user groups. A trainer of trainers methodology will be employed to insure technical training and support is available to network users. Applications will be carefully monitored, evaluated and documented. Results and lessons learned will be widely shared throughout the SADC region.

Outputs:

  1. Zambian extension information and communication system.
  2. Ten small regional extension information and communication system offices.
  3. Participatory communication needs assessments in each participating region.
  4. Improved network infrastructure in rural and remote areas of Zambia.
  5. Improved information resources developed by extension staff and participating organizations and accessible locally and globally via the Internet.
  6. Regional Internet awareness building workshops for Zambian national and regional NGOs and government agencies active in supporting food security, rural development and environmental activities for rural, agricultural, fisheries and forestry communities.
  7. A minimum of 30 application developers and users trained in developing applications, system administration, management and development communication related to the needs of the selected networking applications.
  8. Trainer of trainer methodology in place to provide training and user support to user groups.
  9. Sustainable communication and support linkages made between each regional office and local media, local NGOs, educational institutions, rural libraries, and other stakeholders.
Inputs - Full Project:

Inputs - Pilot Project/Bridging Project (One year):


Southern Africa: Rural and Agricultural Development Network for Southern Africa (RAD-Net)

Pilot Project/Bridging Project: $120,000 (1 yr.)
Full Project: $1,100,000 (4 yr.)

Background: Internet services, together with the telecommunication infrastructure they require, are developing rapidly in Southern Africa. Many rural and agricultural development organizations (government units, non-governmental organizations, and private sector) are using Internet services and discovering the benefits of low cost and efficient communication and information delivery. Internet access is enabling these organizations to dramatically reduce their telecommunication costs, access a huge variety of global information services (eg. World Wide Web, gopher), participate in global electronic conferences, and broadcast information about their activities to the world.

The average price for Internet access, and all of the above services, is about $20.00 U.S. per month. In comparison, a one page fax from Southern Africa to North America can cost between $15.00 to $25.00 for a single page. In a region where postal services are generally weak, and telephone costs are high, the efficiency, reliability and low cost of Internet service offers a dramatically improved communication and information system. Many organizations report that Internet service can reduce communication costs by a factor of ten, while enabling staff to access previously unobtainable information.

Established rural and agricultural organizations have little difficulty connecting to Internet services at their head offices in capital. Most capital cities in Southern Africa have at least one private sector or non-profit Internet Service Provider (ISP). Despite this relative ease of "connectivity" there are several circumstances that deter the use of Internet services among rural and agricultural organizations:

  1. Field offices in rural areas and agricultural service towns, and the end beneficiaries/clients of rural and agricultural organizations, very seldom have access to Internet services. This prevents "head office" from utilizing the Internet to communicate and share information regionally.
  2. National rural and agricultural organizations are less likely to use the Internet than internationally affiliated organizations (such as those connected with FAO projects or international NGOs). There are several reasons for this, the primary reason being lack of awareness of Internet services and benefits.
  3. There is very little national and regional communication and information sharing among existing Internet users. Most Internet use is directed internationally. Low levels of local information provision (eg. via the World Wide Web), and lack of inter-organizational planning and coordination are factors that prevent Southern African rural and agricultural development organizations from experiencing the benefits of the "community" networks that operate in other parts of the world.
  4. Private sector and Non-governmental ISPs are cautious about providing services to rural areas and agricultural service towns because of the financial risks involved and the lack of market information on service demand in such areas.
  5. Computer use, technical support and computer availability are at generally low levels in rural areas and agricultural service towns.
Project Goal: To improve the lives of rural populations of Southern Africa through improving food security, rural development and environmental knowledge sharing processes and techniques.

Project Objective: Provide effective electronic communication and information services to Southern African national and regional NGOs and government agencies active in supporting food security, rural development and environmental activities for rural, agricultural, fisheries and forestry communities. Provide mechanisms for documenting, sharing and exchanging information between communities, NGOs, government agencies, the media and policy makers. Improve the telecommunication context in rural and remote areas of Southern Africa.

Project duration: 4 years.

Possible West African Partners: Southern African Development Community (Food Security Unit, Development Communication Board, etc.) University of Zimbabwe, University of Zambia, Food Security Network of SADC NGOs, IRED, Inter Press Service, Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre, rural library associations, local government agencies including extension, farm organizations, rural development organizations and local Internet Service Providers in participating countries (such as SangoNet, ZAMNET, MangoNet, Internet Africa, etc.)

Project Description: The Project will begin with a participatory communication needs assessment among targeted user groups (organizations and clients) to identify communication problems, solutions, and priorities, together with existing communication networks' strengths and weaknesses. This will be followed by awareness building workshops to assist organizations and clients with developing small proposals appropriate for network communication initiatives and applications. These proposals will be evaluated for cost/benefit and sustainability factors, and selected proposals will receive technical support. Priority will be given to those proposals that improve general Internet access to rural communities and organizations, and support local objectives for rural economic development, agricultural development, environmental sustainability, rural education and women's groups. Proposals will demonstrate organizational and user group commitment through identification of financial and in-kind contributions. A regional selection committee will determine the selection of proposals. Regional Project execution may be provided by either SADC or through a regionally situated NGO such as IRED. Technical infrastructure will be provided by local Internet Service Providers who may receive incentives for extending service access to selected sites. Technical training, administrative, management and marketing training will be provided by local Internet Service Providers and expert consultants to network administrators and to user groups. A trainer of trainers methodology will be employed to insure technical training and support is available to network users. Projects will be carefully monitored, evaluated and documented. Results and lessons learned will be widely shared throughout the SADC region.

Outputs:

  1. Ten small, sustainable networking initiatives, individually executed by local and/or regional organizations.
  2. Participatory communication needs assessments in each participating country or region.
  3. Improved network infrastructure in rural and remote areas of selected sites in Southern Africa.
  4. Improved information resources developed by participating organizations and accessible locally and globally via the Internet.
  5. Regional Internet awareness building workshops for Southern African national and regional NGOs and government agencies active in supporting food security, rural development and environmental activities for rural, agricultural, fisheries and forestry communities. These awareness building workshops will be held at the beginning and later stages of the Project. Approximately 500 people will participate in these workshops.
  6. A minimum of 30 organization and user group members trained in technical applications, administration, management and marketing related to the needs of the selected networking initiatives.
  7. Trainer of trainer methodology in place to provide training and user support to user groups.
  8. Sustainable communication and support linkages made between each initiative and local media, local NGOs, educational institutions, rural libraries, and other development stakeholder groups.
Inputs - Full Project:

Inputs - Pilot Project/Bridging Project (One year) :


Mexico: Red de Informacion de Apoyo a la Organizacion de Agricultores (RIOAg-Net)

Pilot Project/Bridging Project: $150,000 (1 yr.)
Full Project: $1,300,000 (4 yr.)

Background: Internet services are widely available throughout many agricultural regions of Mexico. FAO development communication initiatives have initiated two small electronic knowledge and communication systems that have achieved considerable success, despite low levels of funding and technical support (Mexicali and Hermosillo). In Hermosillo, an existing market information system serves as a good model for similar activities in other regions. In Mexicali, a producer association Internet network serves as a powerful example of the potential of networking tools placed in the hands of local users. By combining elements and methodologies of both of these systems, and integrating those systems with national market and rural development electronic information initiatives, Mexico could have one of the most effective agricultural information networks in the world.

Project Goal: Enhance agricultural productivity, market development and rural development through the provision of national and local agricultural information and communication systems.

Project Objective: Extend existing FAO supported pilot projects in agricultural community networking and electronic market information services and further development of agricultural information services.

Possible Mexican Partners: University computer departments, Apoyos y Servicios a la Comercializacion Agropecuaria (ASERCA), Unidad de Informacion Tecnica y Comunicacion (UICT), Secretaria de Agricultura Ganaderia y Desarrollo Rural (SAGAR), Instituto Mexicano de Tecnologia del Agua (IMTA), El Banco de Mexico - Fideicomisos Instituidos en Relacion a la Agricultura (FIRA), AgroRRED - Sistema de Informacion AgroPecuaria.

Project Description: Following initial awareness building and demonstration exercises among producer organizations and government agencies involved in agricultural development, participants will be identified and recruited. Training in development communication needs assessment techniques will be provided to enable participants to identify appropriate applications for development. Training in system operation, information analysis and development communication techniques will be provided to staff at central and local offices. Support will be provided to central information providers (especially market information agencies) to enable them to produce information required by producer organizations and to respond to specific information requests. Local offices will have the capability to analyze and disseminate information appropriate to local contexts. Producer organizations will be encouraged (where appropriate) to provide Internet access to their members and to fund acquisition of low cost network computers.

Outputs:

  1. Mexican agricultural information system and network.
  2. Twenty producer organization networks and information/communication offices at the local level.
  3. Improved network infrastructure in rural and remote areas of Mexico.
  4. Improved information resources developed by participating producer organizations and accessible locally through various media, and globally via the Internet.
  5. Regional Internet awareness building workshops for Mexican producer organizations and government agencies. These awareness building workshops will be held at the beginning and later stages of the Project. Approximately 500 people will participate in these workshops.
  6. A minimum of 60 organization and user group members trained in technical applications, administration, management and marketing related to the needs of the selected networking initiatives and applications.
  7. Trainer of trainer methodology in place to provide training and user support to user groups.
  8. Sustainable communication and support linkages made between each producer association and local media, local NGOs, educational institutions, rural libraries, and other development stakeholder groups.
Inputs - Full Project

Inputs - Pilot Project/Bridging Project (One year):


Latin America - Regional Agriculture and Rural Development Network Initiative

Pilot Project/Bridging - Chile only: $180,000 (4 yr.)
Each additional country: $430,000 (4 yr.)
Total for 8 countries: $3,440,000

Project Goal: Enhance agricultural productivity, market development and rural development through the provision of regional, national and local agricultural information and communication systems.

Project Objective: Extend existing FAO supported pilot networking and market information systems in Chile to Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico and Nicaragua. Establish information resources and information sharing networks related to markets, methods for reducing transaction costs, alternative crops, on-line training and distance education applications, and exchange of rural and agricultural development information. Creation of small information and communication centres managed by local producer organizations or NGOs.

Project Description: Building on FAO's successful development communication approach to network development, the project will seek to strengthen and extend this methodology to support centralized and decentralized information development and flow among participating producer organizations and NGOs at the local level, together with information provider agencies at the national and regional levels. A comprehensive and diverse World Wide Web information network, with content provided at all levels managed centrally but with strong encouragement for decentralized information creation, will provide Spanish speaking Latin Americans with an electronic library of appropriate agriculture and rural development information. Local information and communication centres will be enabled to create local strategies for transferring information to client groups via other media (eg. rural radio). Given the importance of such a project, emphasis will be given to ongoing project documentation and analysis of lessons learned. Implementation will be phased on a country by country basis.

Outputs:

  1. Agriculture and Rural Development Information Network for Latin America.
  2. Up to 120 local information and communication offices based within local producer organizations or NGOs (approximately 15 per participating country).
  3. Participatory communication needs assessments with each participating producer organization and each group of national partners.
  4. Improved network infrastructure in rural and remote areas of Latin America.
  5. Improved information resources developed by participating producer organizations and national information providers, and accessible locally through various media, and globally via the Internet.
  6. Regional Internet awareness building workshops for producer organizations and government agencies. These awareness building workshops will be held at the beginning and later stages of the Project. Approximately 250 people will participate in these workshops in each country.
  7. In each country, a minimum of 30 organization and user group members trained in technical applications, administration, management and marketing related to the needs of the selected networking initiatives and applications.
  8. Trainer of trainer methodology in place to provide training and user support to user groups.
  9. Sustainable communication and support linkages made between each producer association and local media, local NGOs, educational institutions, rural libraries, and other development stakeholder groups.
Inputs - Full Project - Costed per country:

Inputs - Pilot Project/Bridging Project (One year - Chile only)


Support for University-based Agriculture and Rural Development Internet Initiatives for the Creation of Applications and Learning Systems

Maximum funding per initiative: $400,000
Total funding recommended: $2,000,000
(Between 5-10 initiatives)

Background: Universities tend to play a strong supporting role in most successful Internet and development initiatives. In virtually all cases, local Internet service provision and application development is provided by entrepreneurs or organizational employees who are recent university graduates who received technical training while in school. Graduates from agriculture and rural development programs who receive such training tend to pioneer agriculture and rural development Internet services and applications within the organizations, agencies and business with which they affiliate after graduation. Universities that integrate Internet curricula within agriculture and rural development programs tend to also be involved with catalysing local NGOs and government agency Internet services and applications. Thus, investing in University programmes with faculty and staff who wish to create Internet curricula in support of agriculture and rural development will provide opportunities for many local and national initiatives in the future. Such investments may provide the more long term results for each dollar spent than direct investments in infrastructure and application development with government agencies and NGOs.

Proposals would be funded to a maximum of $400,000 over three years. Matching financial and in-kind support would be required of participating universities. A $2,000,000 fund could therefore provide support to between five to ten proposals.

Project Goal: Enhance national development of Internet applications in support of agriculture and rural development.

Project Objective: Integration of Internet curricula within agriculture and rural development programmes in universities in developing countries. North-South agriculture and rural development Internet curricula development linkages between universities. Graduation of students with strong computer and Internet skills, who will act as catalysts for national Internet application development. Creation of local Internet learning projects with government agencies and NGOs.

Project Description: Universities from the South that have active affiliations with universities from the North will be encouraged to submit joint curriculum development proposals to FAO, according to criteria related to agriculture and rural development learning objectives. Learning objectives will include small projects to assist local government agencies and NGOs to develop agriculture and rural development Internet resources and local networking initiatives. Successful proposals will receive funding for equipment, technical support, travel and training activities. Participating universities will be encouraged to document their activities and share them via international fora, publications and World Wide Web information sites.

Outputs:

  1. Agriculture and rural development curricula related to the Internet.
  2. University graduates with the skills necessary to establish and support national and regional Internet projects related to agriculture and rural development.
  3. University programs facilitating small Internet application and networking pilot projects at the local level.
  4. Strengthened North-South linkages providing enhanced understanding of global Internet resource development needs for agriculture and rural development.
  5. Distance learning activities linking students and faculty among participating universities.
  6. Internet learning labs at participating universities in the South.
Inputs - Costed per funded proposal (suggested maximum allocation per proposal):


Virtual Diploma in Extension and Participatory Development Communication

Full Project: $ 220,000 (3 yr.)

Background: FAO support to curricula development in the fields of extension and participatory development communication has assisted in the creation of many useful teaching and learning materials and learning activities. The opportunity exists to leverage this output through the creation of electronic distance education programmes. These programmes could serve as models for similar initiatives in other topic areas.

Demand for training among extension and development communication practitioners in developing countries tends to be high. Opportunities to access such training are few. Internet based distance learning is a relatively new, but promising field. Already there are full degree granting "virtual universities" in the United States, and many universities around the world are offering individual distance learning courses via the Internet. The advantage of the Internet as a delivery mechanism, over traditional modes, is that it enables learners to actively interact with one another and with instructors and tutors. A variety of group learning techniques have been developed to enable learners to work together on group projects. Such projects may involve individual learners who meet "virtually" or they may involve groups of learners at specific site locations who then interact with other groups. Learners can access these learning environments from wherever there are Internet nodes in the world.

A pilot project to implement a distance learning programme in extension and development communication would help to identify the potential of such programmes in many other topic areas. This could eventually lead to a wide variety of FAO sponsored and affiliated distance learning programmes reaching learners wherever there is an Internet connection.

Project Goal: Demonstrate the viability of distance learning programmes via the Internet and provide learners in developing countries with new learning and training opportunities.

Project Objective: Establish a pilot distance learning programme in extension and development communication, building upon existing curricula materials and training experiences. Conduct research on the viability of such a programme. Training of 100 participants per year over a three year period.

Project Description: FAO will solicit the participation of universities which could execute a "virtual diploma" training programme in extension and development communication. Either a single university, or a consortia of universities will be selected to execute the programme according to criteria and outputs mandated by FAO. It will be important to link the programme with existing and future Internet and development initiatives of FAO and other agencies to coordinate Internet access for learners.

The programme will be designed with cost-recovery mechanisms in place. Participants from the North will be required to pay tuition fees of approximately $500 per course. Participants from developing countries will be required to pay a modest fee of approximately $50 per course. Participants will enroll in groups of 4 to 6 participants to enable local learning project activities and to foster interaction and reflection among learners. Learners will access curricula on-line and participate in interactive fora and discussion groups using an Internet tool such as the IDRC/TeleCommons Development Group "CommonSpace" interactive conferencing tool.

One year diploma programme will consist of four courses, each delivered in a three month block. Participants can register and take courses (one course at a time) at throughout the calendar year, and will receive a diploma after successful completion of all four courses.

Suggested courses:

Outputs:
  1. Distance learning one year diploma programme in extension and development communication. Projected full operating cost recovery after three years.
  2. Training of 200 extension and development communication practitioners in second and third and fourth year of project.
  3. Research study on the viability of Internet distance learning processes for the training of personnel from both the South and the North, with particular emphasis on prospects for future Internet distance learning activities in the South.
Inputs



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