This post was written by Martina Mascarenhas, the Communications Fellow for the CGIAR Consortium.
The ICT4Ag conference is set to bring together a set of diverse players, including research organizations, the private sector, policy institutes and others to showcase the spectrum of innovation that falls into this category of ICTs to exploit its potential and empower the lives and livelihoods of the poor. The conference also revolves around ensuring that youth and social media are highlighted as a significant component.
Several CGIAR Centers, Research Programs and partners of the CGIAR Consortium will be in attendance and participating in a variety of sessions. The conference kicked off yesterday with a plug and play component which involved a session by IFPRI on Mendeley – a tool used by researchers and a presentation by Absolomon Kihara, from ILRI on the Open Data Kit.
If you google the definition of ICTs; the results display that it stands for information and communication technology (ies) , and it is fast becoming today’s IT word. Just about everyone is talking about ICTs and how they are transforming lives, including the lives of the rural poor. ICTs enable innovation, which in turn enable the rural poor; most of whom are employed in agriculture or depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.
In short, ICTs have evolved into being one of the drivers for agricultural growth, especially given the spread and usage of smart phones throughout Asia and Africa.
However, we need to remember, that ICTs are more than just mobile phones, and that ICTs4Ag have expanded beyond the use of just smart phones. It’s not simply about receiving information on crops or weather patterns via mobile phones; ICTs also include remote sensing technology that can help map irrigated areas; or developing applications that help farmers know the right mix of fertilizer to use based on the crop(s) that they are growing and their farm size.
One of the main trends that have emerged out of this “digital revolution” is the opportunity for business opportunities. It’s not only about improving the lives of farmers but also of those along the value chainThis also includes the suppliers and the researchers who carry out the research that develops the information, which is then passed onto the farmers using the technology. However, more needs to be done, or we need to do it better in order to “harness” the “power” of ICTs.
Technology can help innovate and link people. The key to empowerment, however,also lies in access. Access to technology provides access to timely, necessary information which can empower the lives of the poor and especially marginalized groups, including women and children.
A key statistic which is often cited when talking about gender and agriculture is about the number of women employed in agriculture who often lack decision making power and access to information. ICTs can help to change this; a great example of empowering women through ICTs is demonstrated through the Infoladies initiative.
Another key group who can be targeted through ICTs is youth. Youth are currently moving away from agriculture and technology is an alluring avenue to help reel them back in. ICTs provide a key component that helps entice them- through engagement. Social media is changing the way that we interact with each other. Conversations happen in real time and today’s content is often dynamic. Investing in ICTs therefore, and ensuring improved access is a key element in keeping today’s youth engaged and involved in agriculture. The ICT4Ag conference in Kigali aims to do just this.
For more information:
CGIAR at ICT4Ag: http://www.cgiar.org/calendar-events/ict4ag/
Social reporting at ICT4Ag: blog.ict4ag
ICT4Ag website: ict4ag.org