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Question 4 (opens 30 September)

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Question 4 (opens 30 September)

What can be done at policy level to promote the use of community media and ICTs, and improve rural communication services?

Alice Van der Elstraeten's picture
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Policy level

Welcome again to everybody and thank you for all your replies to the first three questions. Today we are opening a new question: What can be done at policy level to promote the use of community media and ICTs, and improve rural communication services?

Share your ideas with the community!

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Looking back at this post -

Looking back at this post -  Thu, 25/09/2014 - 10:10 by Ajit Maru (GFAR Secretariat)~~However, I would like to point out that while there is a lot of documentation and anecdotal information available on the potential use of ICTs to improve family farming based on pilot projects, as provided in this forum also, there is very little hard evidence on the impact and sustainability of these projects as also what has been the learning from almost 20 years of our experience in the use of the “new” ICTs such as computers and cellular telephony, for agricultural development.

I think the Question 1 comment that Ajit posted is quite relevant here in the discussion of policy. I believe there is a lack of outcome and impact assessment work in e-agriculture. Models/methodologies from other agricultural R&D do not transfer well to ICTs. Likewise telecoms/ICT studies are mostly adoption studies - fairly limited in determining development outcomes and impact. Work by  leading international bodies (OECD, World Bank, etc.) is too "macro".  Work at the local level is too anecdotal and qualitative methods will go so far for policymakers  (but I firmly believe quantiative/econometric analysis alone is insufficient without qualitative, user-oriented data collection methods).

 So in other words, there is a  "catch 22" evidence based decision making for e-agriculture is demanded by policy makers and yet there has been little investment in this area.

Around the world, we are dealing with issue (hence the importance of baseline data collection in a project or sharing M&E info) . Just to say that in work here in Ontario this is also a huge issue - an example of what's happening in rural Canada  see: http://swiftnetwork.ca/

Helen

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catch 22

hI Helen, 

i am curious to know what a "catch 22" is . Can you explain?

Thanks a lot 

Sophie

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At the level of policy

- Consultation with communities on actual needs to formulate policies.
- The policy must embody respect for the cultural identity of communities.
- Policies accessibility of ICT resources.
- Make it a gender inclusive policy and youth.

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reflections

Policy and regulatory frameworks.
Policy and regulatory provisions in many countries are still far from the potential of ICT we have presented. Government regulations often overlook the possibilities offered by ICT. A number of developing countries still controls access and protects incumbents. In other countries, a few operators tend to agree on prices and services, thus preventing competition.
While reform of the sector in some countries has increased access to basic communication, especially mobile phones, the underlying policy objective of providing affordable access to the population has not been performed in most countries. The race for the privatization of inefficient operators has not yielded the expected results due to the lack of other elements of reform, such as competence and efficient regulation. Similarly, the enthusiasm for the development of national ICT policies and e-strategies in order to overcome the digital divide did not generate the expected digital opportunities, excessive emphasis on bureaucracy and less attention paid to the institutional possibilities , resources, markets and levels of governance and policy coordination in each country. E-strategies aimed exclusively at national level activities have also been one of the main obstacles to investment in key areas such as training, infrastructure and community based innovation.

There were also significant differences between sector reform agendas and efforts to develop national ICT policy in recent years. Efforts to reform the sector failed to recognize the implications of integrated ICT policy while national ICT strategies failed to capitalize on the efforts of creating competitive environments to generate affordable access. The deviation between the two paths and the failure to integrate policy objectives of affordable access to applications and content was one of the main problems faced by political processes over the last decade.

Policy and management capacity
There is a significant lack of political and managerial skills in developing countries, which often leads to ICT projects poorly planned and worse executed. On the one hand, lack of evidence of the benefits offered by ICTs to solve basic problems of development. On the other hand, has been much emphasis on pilot projects that failed to generate a long-term impact. This has been exacerbated by the lack of participation of poor groups and groups in favor of the poor in public policy processes and decision-making. As attention focuses on ICT solutions by experts / as in technologies, information and knowledge that arise in poor communities are often ignored.
The lack of adequate funding is another challenge for ICT access for the poor. Donors have been the main source of funding for ICT initiatives in most countries, but only a few donor-funded projects were self-sustaining once the external support (financial and material) was completed.

 
 
 
 
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Policy Makers

To start with, how much do our policy makers (politicians) understand about ICT and its effect on agriculture, especially in developing countries like my country Zambia. Do they understand that ICTs such as mobile phones can be used for other activities such as agriculture, other than for commucation purposes only? Until our politicians get a better understanding of this particular subject are we going to see policies that would promote the use of community media and ICTs and improve rural communication services. In my country Zambia for example, policies are needed to look at issues such as affordability of communication services by rural farmers, ICT infrastructure in rural areas, ICT illiteracy issues in rural areas and so on.

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Involve the youth in policy processes

Involving young professionals into policy discussions, processes and making will be key in promoting innovative enhanced use of community media and ICTs, and other rural communications services, The young generation is ICT savvy, "social"-oriented, they are innovative and thus have a huge potential in developping these means. As we know policies frame/nfluence what can be concretely implemented on the ground. Young people, by being on board on strategic and policy level can help bridge practice and policy and bring strategic solutions to real, concrete challenges.

Interesting point by IICD reports: young people, thanks to ICTs, gain credibility within their societies. Indeed, ICTs mean access to information, knolwedge, active information and knowledge sharing - they thus gain voice, a certain "power" and leading or advisory roles into their communities.

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Two ways policy can help: expand physical access and training

Dear friends and colleagues,
sorry if I joined you just now - it's always a pleasure to contribute to ComDev and our community.

When thinking about policy actions that may help spreading the use of community media and ICTs, there are two main points that pop up in my mind:

  1. Expand physical access to services and tools. Adequate policies in the Telecommunication and related sector can make a true difference in reducing the costs linked with access to ICT tools. The ITU uses an interesting indicator, named ICT Price Basket, that provides the cost of accessing to mobile services (i.e. mobile subscription), Internet (i.e. fixed broadband) and worldwide. More info here. As you can see there are huge differences across developing and emerging regions: policy enabling competition among ICT providers can make possible a cost-effective offer of ICT services and tools. Good examples are Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Guyana, and Uganda - where relative overall prices decreased by over 50% between 2008 and 2010!
  2. Invest on training. Both producing and consuming media needs capacities. Policy makers can play a huge difference in the uptake of ICTs as well as in community media development if providing adequate training to communities. It is also extremely important to promote training (and facilitation, whenever possible) to make communities able to translate online and offline content that may be relevant to them but available in another language and/or not tailored to them as target users. Capacity building and strengthening policies can start from literacy programs up to facilitation skills - when it is possible, for example, to train local infomediaries that can guide communities in taking the best out of media and ICTs.

 

Finally, I know this may seem obvious but I believe we should never stop repeating it: policy making can largely improve rural communication services if local voices are listened since the beginning of projects/programmes/initiatives. This means going beyond consultation and rather make policy making truly participatory. Moreover, policy making should include communities in the monitoring and evaluation of communication services to make them more effectively respond to the communities' needs. Incidentally, the role of ICTs is growing in providing simple and cost-effective ways of providing feedback to policy makers - getting back to the former point: expand access and build/strengthen capacities!

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Herramientas de toma de decisiones

En el País se viene trabajando en el caso de Colombia digital, mejorando el acceso del territorio a la internet, yo creo que paralelamente se debería empezar a capacitar o formar a los productores, o sus hijos, en la utilización de este medio, que sirva para tomar decisiones y que permitan ser un punto de difusión del desarrollo de nuestras comunidades. 

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[Translation] Decision-making tools

In the case of Digital Colombia, the Country has been working for improving access to the internet in the territory, I think that, at the same time, we should start training producers, or their children, in the use of this mean of communication, that will serve [as a tool] for decision-making, and will enable it to be a point of diffusion of development of our communities.

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the role of policy makers and government officials

I'm really pleased to see how many people have already highlighted the important role of policy makers in enabling the envvironmen that is needed for family farmers to fully benefit from ICT.

My organization, APCICT is dedicated to developing ICTD capacity among policy makers in Asia-Pacific. You can read more about the programme online at www.apcict.org  Based on our success in this region, a similar centre is just being established in Nicaragua to work in the LAC region. 

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Info about apcict in Nicaragua

Hi Michael you can tell us more about the new proyect of in Nicaragua, may be we can make a link between you proyect and some iniciative of gubernamental organizations try to do en last year

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Reasons why ICT presents some risks to policy makers in Africa

In the case of Madagascar, I would like to relate some observations that we have made. 

I) it should be agreed that ICT has impacted and could have greater impacts on rural areas as well as on agriculture. For example, Mobile Banking System reduces the risks of highwaymen and pickpocket attacks on those doing ambulant trades and farmers that just saled their produces. In addition, mobile banking system leaves traces on financial transactions where traditional banking is very costly and/or unavailable to the multitude of small farmers and small producers. Furthermore mobile phone with local radio offers the opportunity to farmers to be abreast on agriculture market information and news. Some of the information broadcast on these local chains enables community leaders to stand out to abuses as well as to respond to development call for application.

II) what is less analyzed and communicated are threats that ICT brings into the livelihood of those who control rural economy as well as on opportunity of ICT to reduce ability of politicians to manipulate votes. For example, it is well known facts that bribed local officials have the ability to change local election results. Increasing the uses of wireless access, which is the most applied technology now, for rural and agricultural development, would not be supported by politicians because most importantly, they are the one who control the local economy and local governance….Their is immediate risk for them to be publicly denounced with proof on their misconduct and/or render to them more difficult to manipulate vote. 

III) it is also observed that most of projects are carried out as “pilot” with limited consideration to sustainability as well as long term overall development. 

 

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Promoting the use of community media and ICT

Engaging youths in policy processes is essential. I recommend the approach IICD, CTA, FARA and the youth movement YPARD are using, and appeal to community media organisations/ associations/consortium to adopt a similar approach.

 

The provision of Community Media and ICT services has a lot of potential in empowering the youth and attract them to participate in the provision of these services. Deliberate policies and initiatives should be put in place to actualise this.

 

Conducting comprehensive research to understand the information, knowledge and

communication needs of government extension service providers, private extension

enterprises, farmers and telecentres across the agricultural value chain.

 

Establishing and strengthening public private partnerships involving different

stakeholders such as telecommunication companies, entrepreneurs’ associations,

government line ministries and departments, local and regional public and private

agricultural research institutions, farmer associations, community development agents,

local communities, telecentre networks, and government and private agricultural

extension service providers.

 

Develop an agricultural information and knowledge content management model for

community media initiatives where various key projects and organisations such as African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Service, Regional Agricultural Information and Learning System,

Dissemination of News Agricultural Technologies in Africa, FARA, CTA, FAO, local private and

public agricultural research and extension services and other related institutions

participate in content development and capacity building for Community Media.

Below are some interesting reads that adds to this write up...

http://www.slideshare.net/Co-Capacity/110518-telecentres-africafarming-systemsfinal

http://www.slideshare.net/swandila1/telecentres-as-agriculturalknowledgehubsnsf2aasw6simonwandila2013-24267872?related=1

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Sorry for the very basic

Sorry for the very basic comment: we are just Internet service providers and we are not "à la mode", we don't use mobile phones !!
Nevertheless, we have around thousand users all over Sub-Saharian Africa including some in the agriculture sector enjoying Internet access thanks to our service.

One of the main reasons why it is quite difficult to extend such service to a larger subscriber base are local taxes and duties. Our satellite terminal getting out of the factory at half the price of a smart phone gets 3 times more expensive after transport and most important import taxes often around 35% of the value of good PLUS cost of transport !!

Similarly, our local partners providing the service to the end user (so also contributing to local economy) are in too many countries confronted with yearly taxes per  antenna which are up to 10 times the yearly price of the service, making it unaffordable for the smaller users.

If policy makers would remove import taxes and apply blanket licensing for micro-VSAT, as the kind of technology we use could be defined, this would alaredy give a lot more chances to small agriculture exploitation to have access to very decent Internet access services which is a conditio sine qua non to enjoy the benefits of ICT.

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taxes and duties

I am very glad that this issue is brought up. Indeed at government level, some countries have high taxes and duties which prevent from having equipement, infrastructure in place at a reasonable cost. I think that regulors need to be aware of such decisions. ICTs are not only a new juicy market, but an enabler of development. Taxing heavily thsi porming sector is killing the potential for nationla growth. it is therefore very important to have awareness campaing at politcal level, for policy makers and regulaors to understand better the decsions they take.

 

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Improving rural communication services

Government intervention is must to promote usage of ICT and improve rural communication services. Supportive policy will ensure respective organizations (both private and public sectors) and initiatives to focus more on relevant content and services targeting to the rural communicties. Incentives (Tax benefit & subsidy for connectivity, services etc.), engagement (iinvolve in local level decision making process) and recognition can be introduced to create positive impression among the actors.

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ICTs and Family Farming: The issues we ought to discuss and cons

The potential of ICTs, as this discussion by its proponents indicates, to contribute to improving family farming, especially of smallholders and resource poor as the majority of farmers are in Africa, Asia and South America are, is now accepted without much doubt.

The overwhelming notion that an individual may get from reading the opinions and perspectives addressed in this forum would be that ICTs are the panacea that has alluded this category of farmers for all their problems since the dawn of farming.

Is this notion true?

Or is it that ICTs will usher changes that will further diminish this type of farming and cause even a more drastic decline with smallholder farmers leaving this livelihood even more rapidly. And, what will be the consequences on our food systems and quality of life when such a phenomenon as the exit of these farmers from farming occurs?

First of all, it is a very romantic perspective that ICTs will hold, stop and reverse the decline of family farmers in this livelihood. ICTs cannot even maintain the status quo of today’s agriculture as this agriculture is largely influenced in its rapid evolution by global, highly competitive agricultural commodities markets and not by advances in technologies.

The use of technologies, be it biotechnological, nano-technological, materials related or ICTs will be influenced by these markets and not by what we as a group of very interested persons in the betterment of these farmers would want to happen. History tells us this again and again.

The discovery of Mendelian genetics applied to breeding of crops and animals, of urea, the development of the tractor and the genetically modified organism as seed or embryo all have contributed to the formation of an agriculture that has always challenged and replaced the existing farming system.  But behind their effective use was change in economies. The settlement and growth of larger cities in industrializing Europe and the USA with their demand for food created the need to increase productivity and yields with the use of fertilizers and breeding more higher yielding corn that could not be done with traditional methods. Tractors came into being to replace the loss of labor in USA in the First World War. Similar shifts such as through highly competitive, globalized markets are happening now and will continue to happen in the future bringing the need for new agricultural technologies.

There are many signs that portend the decline of the family farmer. This is because current theories of economic growth force it. Current theories see rapid economic growth only through industrialization and growth of services. Because of these theories, public sector investment and that of government is rapidly declining in supporting and developing rural areas, except to set up industries and new cities, and especially for this type of farming and farmers. The private sector has no reason to support small family farmers as their participation in markets is more expensive and less profitable for the sector. The community sector is too weak to even protest against this phenomenon.

The investment by the public sector has also declined and is further declining in the development and use of scale neutral or small farmer biased agricultural technologies and measures as the state of Agricultural extension and research in developing countries shows. The policy maker in developing countries as already stated wants development of industries and services and that can only happen, according to them, through urbanization. This is what China, the largest and most populous country and India, closely following are implementing as policies. This is what Sub-Saharan Africa desires and wants to emulate.  In my opinion, the world at least in the next few decades will continue to see this decline of smallholder family farmer till new farming systems (See some of these discussed here: http://www.egfar.org/documents/e-discussion-forward-thinking-ict-use-asian-agri-food-chains-proceedings) replace them. And along with these farming systems there will be a new type of farmer. Maybe she may not be a farmer as we have considered them but a knowledge worker using autonomous machinery, sensors and large knowledge based systems to manage these agricultural production systems.

In my opinion all that we can hope for is to somehow slow this decline of family farmers so that we and the small farmers do not face economic and social chaos which we see already emerging in the growing urban slums, urban poverty, hunger and malnutrition and total abandonment of rural areas is indicating to us in many developing countries.

We have not discussed how ICTs can contribute to ease and enable family farmers to cope with the current economic, social and environment related pressures on their livelihoods and quality of life in our discussions.

This forum did not discuss in detail necessary whether these farmers can afford to use these technologies and who will bear the costs for rural connectivity so essential for many of these technologies to work? Or how we will develop and provide access to the content that these farmers now need to cope as their environment, physical, economic and social change? What happens to their rights to privacy, the property rights of data and information they may produce or how we will create the necessary learning systems that will enable them to use ICTs effectively to cope with the problems and issues they face in their farming now be it in participating in markets or dealing with change in climate?

As I sign off from this discussion IMHO we must all ask ourselves how responsible we all are and will be in future in presenting all dimensions in their starkness in such dialogues when we offer a very optimistic future through the introduction of ICTs for family farming?

With warm regards,

Ajit

 

Ajit Maru, GFAR Secretariat

 

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recommendations from WSIS e-agriculture session in June 2014

The vision for implementation of WSIS Action lines beyond 2015 was presented as follows:

  • As part of national ICT strategies, foster the development and implementation of national e-agriculture strategies focusing on providing reliable and affordable connectivity and integrating ICTs in rural development to support food security and hunger eradication.
  • Foster collaboration and knowledge sharing in agriculture via electronic communities of practice, including the e-Agriculture Community, in order to showcase and promote models, methodologies, good practices and the adoption of Open Access and interoperability standards, for effective and equitable use of ICTs for sustainable agriculture and rural development.
  • Promote the creation and adaptation of content including in local languages and contexts from reliable and trusted sources, including, to ensure equitable and timely access to agricultural knowledge by resource-poor men and women farmers, foresters and fisher folk in rural areas.
  • Foster digital literacy of institutions and communities in rural and remote areas taking into consideration local needs and constraints by providing appropriate learning opportunities for all which will enhance individual and collective decision-making skills.
  • Promote the use of ICTs to reinforce the resilience capacity of states, communities and individuals to mitigate and adapt to natural and man-made disasters, food chain challenges, socio-economic and other crises, conflicts and transboundary threats, diseases, and environmental damages. 

The recommendations are the following at policy level is : 

Bridging e-agriculture with the policy audience. The regulators and ministries while responsible for infrastructure are not aware of the opportunities of ICTs for agriculture and their infrastructure and policy demand. Therefore there is a need to inform better the different ministeries in chare ge of agriculture, planning and telecommunications of the potential offered by ICTs.

 

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policy to promote the use of community media and ICT,

Agriculture is an economic activity. As such, ICT is imposed on it as in our daily lives. ICT appear as a boon to agricultural development in Africa. Their inclusion would enhance productivity. The internet and intranet for example accelerate the flow of information. Open these networks to rural areas could help boost knowledge sharing. Applications like Facebook, Twitter and blog provide this speed in the dissemination of information. Wikis and blog could help revolutionize education and training in the agricultural sector. Thanks to the establishment of basic and contained important data and advantageous for rural. However, the application of ICT in agriculture in Benin is still a myth. http://tradefarmer.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/integration-des-tic-dans-lagriculture-quelles-strategies-pour-le-benin/

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Formation continuelle des membres du personnel

[Input from Mr Isaac Cherestal via email]

Formation continuelle des membres du personnel: en ligne via l’internet, élaboration d’un site web spécial, à travers des séminaires ou de partage de d’expérience sur la bonne pratique

Mettre matériels nécessaires à disposition de ces medias: énergie solaire et éolienne, génératrice, équipements, support à la construction de locaux

Formation des membres du personnel

Interconnexion des médias communautaires locaux

Organisation des forums intercommunautaires afin de sensibiliser les décideurs politiques, les hommes d’affaires, les leaders politiques et communautaires.

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Sería bien tener un servicio TIC neutral

[Input from Noemi Stadler-Kaulich, Agroforestería dinámica en MOLLESNEJTA/Bolivia​ via email]

Talvez es esto el punto clave: información sin influencia de partidos políticos, esto hace cansar a la gente y cierran sus orejas y hojos, entonces el mensaje no llega. Sería bien tener un servicio TIC neutral, que enfoca los temas de interés para el productor familiar.

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