Presentation on theme: "Mobile Applications in Agriculture and Rural Development Framing the Topic, and Learning from Experience Kerry S. McNamara Scholar in Residence, School."— Presentation transcript:
1 Mobile Applications in Agriculture and Rural Development Framing the Topic, and Learning from ExperienceKerry S. McNamaraScholar in Residence, School of CommunicationAmerican University, Washington DCWorkshop on Mobile Innovations for Social and Economic TransformationWorld Bank, September 16, 2009
2 Structure of my presentation Framing the topic: how should we approach thinking about mobile’s impact on agriculture and rural development?Evidence, Scale and Replication: the ongoing challengesThe ICT for Agriculture Sourcebook: purpose, structure, topics
3 1. Framing the Topic Why is the mobile revolution so important for agriculture and rural development?The vicious circle of rural povertyPhysical isolation; poor infrastructure; few services; few assets; weak access to appropriate and affordable inputsThe significant intangible dimensions of rural povertyWeak access to information and communication; poorly-functioning markets and institutions; poor knowledge flows; weak opportunities for collective action; high information and transaction costsThe growing challenges, and opportunities, of “the new Agriculture”The growing importance of timely information and responseThe increasing integration of regional and global agricultural value chainsThe volatility of commodity markets and the challenge of food securityThe virtuous circle of access, affordability, appliance innovation and applicationsAccess: the growing mobile coverage of developing country populations thanks to innovations in network design, hardware, financingAffordability: the combination of pre-paid service and cheaper devicesAppliance innovation: multi-format, multi-functionApplications: the unanticipated virtues of low-tech (SMS)
4 1. Framing the Topic Key dimensions of ICT’s potential contribution to agriculture and rural development (and a few examples)Increasing smallholder productivity and incomes (Reuters Market Light, India; Life Lines, India; Mali Shambani interactive radio program, Kenya; National Farmers Information Service, Kenya)Making agricultural markets more efficient and transparent (Esoko/TradeNet; Jenny Aker research on mobile impact on grain markets in Niger; Kenya Agricultural Commodities Exchange; Xam Marse, Senegal)Linking poor farmers to urban, regional and global marketsImproving services and governance for the rural poorPromoting – and including smallholders in – agricultural innovationHelping farmers manage a range of risksImproving land and natural resource management and addressing environmental pressuresHelping poor farmers participate in higher-value agricultureSupporting the emergence of a more diverse rural economy, and supporting rural family decisions about their mix of productive activities
5 1. Framing the Topic The Best Interventions begin with a proper definition of the problem and clear design principlesThe problem is not “lack of ICT”; focus on the information, communication, transaction, monitoring and/or networking dimensions of the problem being addressed, and how ICT – appropriately adapted and sustainably deployed – can assistWhen thinking about “M”, focus on mobility, not mobilesBe clear about when and why mobility is a virtue (timeliness? customization? empowerment? Multi-directionality?)Focus on applications/services, not devices (“access” to what?)The importance of “platform agnosticism”The newest tool or application is not automatically the bestThe vital importance of a locally-contextual understanding of the rural information economy in a given place and its constraints. How is information -- broadly defined -- produced, valued, exchanged and consumed in a given context? How can mobiles and/or other ICTs promote innovation and improvement in that information economy? (ICTs don’t produce valuable information; people, markets, firms and institutions do.)The importance of thinking about policy and regulation in a cross-sectoral way – many of the key enablers of success in using ICT in ARD entail several different areas of policy and regulation
6 What works? How do we know? 2. Evidence, Replication, Scale: the ongoing challenges The Evidence Gap in ICT4DWhat works? How do we know?The relatively recent penetration/adaptation of mobile services in rural areas means that we still rely heavily on anecdote and pilot “successes”, although more robust evidence/analysis is starting to emerge (including the other presentations in this session!)Shifting the focus of analysis from access and use to impactThe inherent challenges in drawing robust conclusions about ICT’s impact (mobile phones are not like vaccines), and the (often-difficult) strategies for addressing these challenges (e.g. randomization)What lessons can we draw from a “success”?Thinking about which lessons to draw from the Kerala fisheries case studyThe challenge of teasing out the contribution of other enabling conditions“Success” of a pilot does not automatically equal “solution” to the problem the pilot was trying to address
7 2. Evidence, Replication, Scale: the ongoing challenges “Replication” and its ambiguities: cautionary questions at the design and implementation stagesIs replication applying the same ICT intervention, effecting the same desired change (e.g. in resources, capacities, networks), or achieving the same outcome (e.g. productivity, incomes, price stability) ?How much do local context, local enabling conditions and local practices matter?The importance of making explicit the “theory of change” behind an intervention (and of having one in the first place!)The added challenge/opportunity of rapid innovation in ICT devices/applications/services and the peril of replicating yesterday’s successDuplicating innovation or re-creating the conditions for innovation elsewhere?
8 2. Evidence, Replication, Scale: the ongoing challenges The puzzle of “scale” Since many ICT interventions begin as pilots, the challenge of knowing what and how to “scale” is particularly troublesomeAt the pilot level, was the intervention a “workaround” of a problem that, at scale, should be addressed differently?Will the impact change (or wash out) at scale?At scale, would a different intervention be more effective at achieving the desired result? Even a non-technological intervention? (e.g. policy changes, shift in public finance priorities, institutional capacity, etc.)Letting the market (for innovation) decide: creating the conditions for multiple solutions to emerge and compete (particularly given the rapid pace of technological change) – engineering the enabling conditions for innovation rather than engineering the innovations
9 3. The ICT for Agriculture Sourcebook Overview Modeled on several other successful ARD Sourcebooks (Agriculture Investment Sourcebook, Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook)A Resource for Task Teams and Bank staff – and their country counterparts – seeking to integrate ICT effectively in ARD operations, country programs and policy dialogueA synthesis of good practice, key design principles, data, evidence and examples across a range of sub-sectorsStatus: PCN approved; module teams being formed; funding (Government of Finland TF) being finalized; first modules expected Spring 2010; goal to complete Sourcebook in FY11
10 3. The ICT for Agriculture Sourcebook Structure, format, modes of delivery Composed of a series of Modules on specific sub-sectors, along with an Overview/Framework chapter and related resource materialsEach Module consists of:Module overview (6-8 pages) giving the general context;A series of Topic sections, each consisting of:A 6-8 page Topic NoteA 4-6 page Innovative Practices SummarySourcebook will be delivered in both print and electronic formats, and provisions will be made for ongoing updating of the electronic version (including community/Wiki tools)Each Module (and each Topic within a module) will be separately downloadable, so users can pull out those sections most relevant to themOverall Sourcebook project co-managed by ARD (Eija Pehu) & infoDev (Tim Kelly); a Task Force including colleagues from across the Bank Group plus selected outside experts will guide the overall projectTeams from across the Bank Group are being recruited to take leadership on individual Modules
11 3. The ICT for Agriculture Sourcebook Proposed Module Structure Introduction/Framework: the contribution of ICT to developing country agricultureDesign and Implementation of Effective ICT-for- agriculture projects: principles and toolsImproving Smallholder Productivity with ICTStrengthening Agricultural Markets with ICTICT and Rural FinanceStrengthening Rural Governance, Institutions and Collective Action with ICTMaking ICT infrastructure, appliances and services more accessible and affordable in rural areas
12 Building stronger and more inclusive agricultural value chains 3. The ICT for Agriculture Sourcebook Proposed Module Structure (continued)Anytime, Anywhere: mobile devices and services and their Impact on agriculture and rural developmentStrengthening and diversifying agricultural research, extension, advisory services and innovation through ICTBuilding stronger and more inclusive agricultural value chainsGlobal Markets, Global Challenges: improving food safety and traceability while empowering small producersICT for Land Administration and Natural Resource ManagementManaging environmental risk in agriculture: ICT for monitoring and early warning
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