Monday, 15 February 2010

ICT: Opportunities to Mobilize Agricultural Science for Development

Four recent articles refer to FARA's inventory of innovative farmer advisory services

1) Opportunities to Mobilize Agricultural Science for Development P. Ballantyne, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); A. Maru, Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), E. Porcari, CGIAR ICT-KM Program, Published online 22 January 2010. © Crop Science Society of America 
Knowledge, information, and data—and the social and physical infrastructures that carry them—are widely recognized as key building blocks for more sustainable agriculture, effective agricultural science, and productive partnerships among the global research community.

Through investments in e-Science infrastructure and collaboration on one hand, and rapid developments in digital devices and connectivity in rural areas, the ways that scientists, academics, and development workers create, share, and apply agricultural knowledge is being transformed through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). This paper examines some trends and opportunities associated with the use of these ICTs in agricultural science for development.
2) A field Study of an Interactive Voice Forum for Small Farmers in Rural India. Neil Patel, Deepti Chittamuru, Anupam Jain, Paresh Dave, Tapan S. Parikh. IBM India Research laboratory, February 2010
In this paper the authors present the results of a field study of Avaaj Otalo (literally, “voice stoop”), an interactive voice application for small-scale farmers in Gujarat, India. Through usage data and interviews, they describe how 51 farmers used the system over a seven month pilot deployment. The most popular feature of Avaaj Otalo was a forum for asking questions and browsing others’ questions and responses on a range of agricultural topics.
3) Impact of ICT on Community development in the ESCWA member countries. 26 November 2009. United Nations. ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR WESTERN ASIA
This study describes the efforts and progress made by the international community, in particular the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development. Particular attention is drawn to the endeavour to develop a unified model able to address the many aspects of the information society, including the impact of information and communication technology (ICT) on society and community development.
4) Mobile-Based Livelihood Services In Africa: Pilots And Early Deployments; Technology for Emerging Markets Group /  Jonathan Donner, Microsoft Research India, December 2009.
The paper describes a collection of initiatives delivering support via mobile phones to small enterprises, small farms, and the self-employed. Using a review of 26 examples of such services currently operational in Africa, the analysis identifies five functions of mobile livelihood services: Mediated Agricultural Extension, Market Information, Virtual Marketplaces, Financial Services, and Direct Livelihood Support. It discusses the current reliance of such systems on the SMS channel, and considers their role in supporting vs. transforming existing market structures. 
The inventory of FARA is quoted as an excellent review.