17 February 2008

Agricultural ICT success stories from Latin America

In 2007, FORAGRO (Forum for the Americas on Agricultural Research and Technology Development) mobilized several success stories in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) within agricultural research and technological innovation projects or programs.

This effort was part of a project co-sponsored by the Global Forum on Agricultural
Research (GFAR) as part of its program for promoting information and communications management for agricultural research and development.

The report has now been published (pdf format). It contains 6 case studies:
  • REDesastres: A Cuban contribution to the management of health disasters involving plants and animals
  • An early warning system on Asian soybean rust, Paraná State, Brazil
  • Agricultural Information System for Cauca Valley, Colombia (SISAV)
  • The National Voice Network as a pillar for technological innovation
    and research at Venezuela's National Agricultural Research Institute (INIA)
  • The Electronic Potato Network (REDEPAPA)
  • The Virtual Network on Rural Agro-Industry (PRODARNET)
The cases show how ICTs have made it possible to work in a network, have facilitated the organization, dissemination or exchange of information, and have even favored capacity building.

While each case introduces the project, the role of ICTs in the project, and the lessons learned, the compilers also draw together come cross-cutting lessons:

One of the elements is the importance of choosing the specific ICTs to be used according to the characteristics and needs of the users and the project. In this respect, although there are no universal formulas, several of the cases underscore how significant it is to apply certain mechanisms such as email (in the form of mailing lists or e-groups) rather than focusing on a presence on the Web, when users’ broadband access is limited.

Another point worth stressing is the importance of the effort and dedication shown by the facilitators or organizers of these experiences. The promotion of fluent and productiveexchanges, as well as the ongoing growth of the virtual communities involved by taking advantage of new possibilities and tools as they emerge, are vital for achieving a positive impact.

A final challenge evidenced by the cases gathered here is the need to focus more on the qualitative assessment of information projects. It is necessary to document not just the experiences themselves but also the conditions prevailing before the start of the project. Only then will it be possible to show more precisely the positive impact of the effort.


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