Meeting the Content need of Mobile-based Agriculture Services

Organised by: FAO

This session will look at the critical issue of agricultural content/information. Technology is advancing quickly (e.g. mobile tools and service penetration) and the demand for information is growing. Yet entrepreneurs and development workers report in many cases the information needed to meet that demand does not exist. How do we ensure that actionable digital content is actually available to meet the opportunity and demands? The session will take a broad view of content sources and custodians, looking at stakeholders including farmers, agribusiness, the public sector, and media. In addition to sharing successful experiences, the speakers will engage the audience in a discussion about the many challenges that we face. Based on real and collective experience the session will delve into issues such as: What is the role of the public sector in providing content that will be used by the private sector? Can local/indigenous knowledge be captured and used in mobile information systems? What role does content supply have in the business models that will make agricultural information services sustainable? What can technology alone facilitate and where are concerted interventions needed to ensure that content is available?

Nov 5, 13:30 - 15:00
Room: Mugesera
Stream: Emerging Innovations

Sessions Chair

Chair of the session is Michael Riggs
Knowledge & Information Management Officer, FAO

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Mobile technologies for agriculture and rural development – the role of the private sector

New information and knowledge are critical inputs for the practice of agriculture the world over. This is especially true for resource-poor farmers living in rural areas of ACP countries. Yet most of these farmers are not only resource poor but also information poor. Mobile technology holds great promise in enabling information services to resource-poor farmers and, as a consequence, improving their livelihoods. The number of mobile connections is presently six billion and growing. There are many examples of mobile-based interventions in agriculture, health, education and rural livelihood projects, however, few have moved from the pilot phase to fully functional and sustainable initiatives. There is a need for sharing experiences and good practices about the use of mobile phones in agricultural development and poverty reduction. In particular, senior officials from government, from the private sector and experts in mobile agricultural information systems need to further explore how effective partnerships between the public and private sectors can deliver mobile agricultural information services.Mobile-based information delivery/systems (MAIS) hold great promise for agricultural advisory services.

  • Clear policies need to be formulated by governments and the public sector that define the principles for their involvement in the development of MAIS, that also take account of national communication policy or information and communications technology (ICT) policy.
  • Partnership with the private sector has proven to be an essential mechanism for the public sector to develop MAIS sustainably. The roles and responsibilities for the private and public sectors have to be clearly defined in each particular case, preferably through a formal written agreement.
  • Trustworthiness and reliability of the public sector information and advice delivered through MAIS is of paramount importance to the people whose livelihoods depend on actions influenced by what they receive. Clear policy guidelines are needed to ensure the validity and accuracy of the technical information and advice, potentially including quality control by government-approved experts.
  • Accountability for the quality of technical information and advice delivered through MAIS should be formally recognized by the respective public and private sector actors involved.
  • Lessons learned and good practices have to be captured and disseminated systematically and through various mediums.
  • Ideally, agricultural information services should be platform-independent, and special attention given to literacy and gender.

Organization : FAO


Michael Riggs

Information and Knowledge Manager, FAO

Souktel’s Mobile Irrigation & Market Price Services: Linking smallholder farmers with regional networks

Market price and irrigation information, delivered via mobile, has the potential to reach millions of farmers globally—increasing access to, and quality of, crucial production and market information. This session/plenary component will present the mobile services that were designed by Souktel in partnership with Orange and USAID, and delivered by DAI Inc. as part of the Morocco Economic Competitiveness Program. The core platform comprises several components: The Irrigation Advisory Service aims to improve water efficiency on farms by offering irrigation advice via SMS, based on data collected at government weather stations. Farmers send an SMS indicating their crop type, location, and field size, and based on the weather data for their location, they’ll get an automated reply with specific instructions saying, for example, “Hello! Temp-8, Rain-0mm. Artichcoke: 42 min at rate of 20 m3/hr/hectare”.The second component is a Market Price Information service which lets farmers and vendors post & search for real-time market prices for crops, via SMS.A Souktel-designed mobile platform is integrated directly with the Ministry’s price database: As MoA market reporters capture prices across 11 cities and 25 rural marketplaces, farmers get real-time access to this key information. Leveraging Souktel’s “mobile matching” software, farmers create a profile listing the crops they farm, and their location–and then query the system to get real-time market price information based on this profile. The session/plenary component will outline why this approach was selected for the project, along with its benefits and limitations. By using this service as a case study, this presentation will serve as the basis for a wider discussion among on how a multi-stakeholder partnership approach might be expanded or adapted to other African settings—with the ultimate goal of forging new relationships and partnerships to improve the access to and quality of agriculture information in Africa.


Yazeed Sheqem

Director of Business Development, Souktel Inc.

Technological convergence among the new and conventional technologies – the case of online journalism

Technological Convergence Among the New and Conventional Technologies--- The Case of Online JournalismLeveraging Information Communication Technology (ICT) for Mass Media Communication seeks to apply the cost-effective application of the Internet in the dissemination of public information and education.Emphasis will be placed on technological convergence among new and conventional technologies to ensure the widest possible distribution of content to the target audience.This is given the fact that Internet density alone of about 24 percent in Guyana does not guarantee mass accessibility of disseminated information. Here in Guyana and other Caribbean States, radio remains a potently influential mass medium.The leveraging of ICT for Mass Communication can, indeed, have a Transformative Power in Media for Agriculture because of the option of instantaneous feedback of not only text but also videos and pictures from the field and factory. This has been proven in the immediate delivery of general news information from and to areas where newspapers, radio and domestic television are inaccessible.The strength of media and in particular ICT as it relates to agriculture can be critical in public awareness, public education and information in promoting the value of agriculture from the farm-to-the-table. The strength is also to report issues to influence public opinion, create social pressure and sound policy decisions and allow for effective participation of civil society. It can also be used to make decision-makers more accountable decision-makers.My presentation will also highlight how farmers and others in the agriculture chain can drive content by sharing information from the ground via Social Media, rather than just relying on what producers and journalists decide is important. Looking at ICT as a Distance Education tool, the presentation will illustrate how this may be possible.As an example of how we are leveraging ICT: Currently, Demerara Waves Media Inc; the parent company of Caribbean News Desk, is actively engaged in networking with more than one dozen radio stations to broadcast a daily 15 minute news magazine programme. These will include not only news but also panel discussions on agriculture, the social sectors and the environment.Currently, Demerara Waves /Caribbean News Desk - as an Online publication- is regarded as a highly credible news source. Built from the bottom upwards, people from the far-flung remote areas of Guyana, densely populated coastland and the large Caribbean Diaspora depend on us for bringing today's news the same day. Equally, many readers are themselves Citizen Reporters who share tips and images via Blackberry Messenger, Twitter and Facebook. From the field, they provide pictures and raw information which are verified by professional journalists before they are crafted into journalistic content and distributed.There is no reason why Specialized Content such as that about agriculture cannot be gathered and disseminated in the same manner.


Denis Chabrol

Managing Editor, Demerara Waves Media Inc

Mobile indigenous knowledge: the “cloud” for local knowledge dissemination

Majority of the populations in developing countries are the rural poor who often are illiterate, off grid-power, far from a government extension worker and lack access to important agricultural information and knowledge that would enable them to make informed decisions and improve their livelihoods. A wide range of undocumented local knowledge exits which loses important components across generations, scattered and not accessible yet smallholder farmer are unable to buy expensive synthetic inputs and have environmental and health concerns about synthetic inputs. This presentation will demonstrate how through innovation a network of Community Knowledge Workers (CKWs) use mobile technology to collect local knowledge that people in communities have developed over time, continue to develop and It is based on experience, often tested over centuries of use, adapted to the local culture and environment, embedded in community practices and rituals.These CKWs based at the grass roots use mobile technology to deliver this same local knowledge and other agricultural extension services to the hardest to reach rural farmers. There is potential in local experiences and practices and we believe that access to this local knowledge increases yields, reduces losses, and increases incomes of the poor. Indigenous knowledge in agriculture is having effect as it has changed the approach and attitudes of policy makers and agricultural development partners and this has led to renewed interest in understanding challenges of rural communities.

Organization : Grameen Foundation App Lab


Charles Marc Wanume

Research & Quality Analyst, Grameen Foundation - Applab