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Mobile Applications in Agriculture and Rural Development Framing the Topic, and Learning from Experience Kerry S. McNamara Scholar in Residence, School.

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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 Experience Kerry S. McNamara Scholar in Residence, School of Communication American University, Washington DC Workshop on Mobile Innovations for Social and Economic Transformation World 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 challenges The 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 poverty Physical isolation; poor infrastructure; few services; few assets; weak access to appropriate and affordable inputs The significant intangible dimensions of rural poverty Weak access to information and communication; poorly-functioning markets and institutions; poor knowledge flows; weak opportunities for collective action; high information and transaction costs The growing challenges, and opportunities, of “the new Agriculture” The growing importance of timely information and response The increasing integration of regional and global agricultural value chains The volatility of commodity markets and the challenge of food security The virtuous circle of access, affordability, appliance innovation and applications Access: the growing mobile coverage of developing country populations thanks to innovations in network design, hardware, financing Affordability: the combination of pre-paid service and cheaper devices Appliance innovation: multi-format, multi-function Applications: 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 markets Improving services and governance for the rural poor Promoting – and including smallholders in – agricultural innovation Helping farmers manage a range of risks Improving land and natural resource management and addressing environmental pressures Helping poor farmers participate in higher-value agriculture Supporting 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 principles The 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 assist When thinking about “M”, focus on mobility, not mobiles Be 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 best The 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 ICT4D What 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 impact The 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 study The 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 stages Is 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 success Duplicating 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 troublesome At 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 dialogue A synthesis of good practice, key design principles, data, evidence and examples across a range of sub-sectors Status: 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 materials Each 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 Note A 4-6 page Innovative Practices Summary Sourcebook 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 them Overall 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 project Teams 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 agriculture Design and Implementation of Effective ICT-for- agriculture projects: principles and tools Improving Smallholder Productivity with ICT Strengthening Agricultural Markets with ICT ICT and Rural Finance Strengthening Rural Governance, Institutions and Collective Action with ICT Making 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 development Strengthening and diversifying agricultural research, extension, advisory services and innovation through ICT Building stronger and more inclusive agricultural value chains Global Markets, Global Challenges: improving food safety and traceability while empowering small producers ICT for Land Administration and Natural Resource Management Managing environmental risk in agriculture: ICT for monitoring and early warning

13 Questions, suggestions, follow-up?
Thanks! Questions, suggestions, follow-up?

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