Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Harnessing the internet for agriculture development


IN TODAY’S information age, new developments in information and communication technologies (ICT) are offering many exciting opportunities and new challenges in rapid and effective dissemination of agricultural innovations and technologies to stakeholders.
With such technologies, exchange of information and expertise to a large number of people is also possible.
Jimmy Maro (left) of NARI showing these officers representing various organisations on how enter data into a horticulture database. With Web 2.0 tools, this process could cover a lot more people, with them also contributing in the process

 One such technology that is making this possible is the second generation internet or Web 2.0. 
Web 2.0 is a mini internet revolution that is proving its effectiveness among users, enabling each user to share his or her knowledge, opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other.
Web 2.0 is proving to be a different way of working together and sharing information using free tools on the internet.
 It is something that everybody could use and benefit from using it. Web 2.0 includes discussion forums, blogs and wiki style encyclopedias, where users actively contributing to the sites.
Web 2.0 doesn't just give us information, but interacts with users while giving that information. In other words, one as a reader also becomes a writer.
It is unlike a one-way street media where we can read a newspaper or listen to report on television, but we have very limited ability to give our thoughts on the matter.
Web 2.0 tools, on the other hand, is a two-way street that gives us the ability to share our thoughts. 
While Web 2.0 tools are already being used to share information and expertise in agriculture development issues elsewhere, the Pacific including Papua New Guinea is lacking behind.
This is so with limited or no internet access.
While this may be so, efforts are being made to explore the use of social media or Web 2.0 tools to share information and expertise relating to agriculture development in the region.
With support from regional and international organisations such Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), Global Fund for Agricultural Research (GFAR) in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), efforts will be made during 2012 to see how best to use Web 2.0 tools and ICT in general to share information and experience for agriculture development in the region.
A number of training workshops are being planned to discuss the opportunities offered by the social media and also the challenges of using these applications.
The workshop will look at the role of the internet and how social media can facilitate information sharing and collaboration among organisations and experts in the region.
The SPC is spearheading this in the region and is hoping member countries and relevant organisations have in place relevant information and communication technology (ICT) policies to facilitate this process.
SPC is working towards ensuring the use of ICT tools such as the mobile telephone and internet tools such Web 2.0 are fully appreciated and used by the people region to improve their livelihoods.
Lack of access to internet in many countries in the region is not allowing the people to fully realise the benefits and capabilities of the different Web 2.0 tools.
SPC is currently using Web 2.0 applications in its ICT sector and thereby creating a new environment conducive to economic and social development, and organisations in the regions will do likewise.
Director of land resources division of SPC, Inoke Ratukalou, says technology, particularly those relating to the internet and computers, is transforming our lives at unbelievable speed and is making conversations, dialogue and interactions possible.
He believes that  Web 2.0 is changing the way we do things and the way we perceive things and it empowers people to create awareness about the impacts of global issues such as climate change, environmental degradation, sea level rise and food security through the use of digital media, social networking tools and e-learning technologies.
 It also gives a voice to people.
 Ratukalou says CTA and other organisations that are in the forefront of Web 2.0 training and applications in agriculture development in ACP countries recognise the need to improve management of agricultural information in the region and will partner with his organisation to see how best the people in the region can tap into using these tools.
Through this collaboration, countries in the region will discuss on the adoption and further dissemination of appropriate, low cost, simple and replicable internet-based technologies and applications.
In PNG, some reports have indicated an increase in the use of the internet and social media tools such as blogs and Facebook.
However, the use of these facilities is still a struggle for the agriculture sector and efforts will be made to promote the use and application of Web 2.0 tools to enhance effective information exchange.
With support from regional and international partners, efforts will be made to promote the use and application of Web 2.0 and social media tools in providing information to users in agricultural innovation and market chains especially through participatory and open information and communication exchange.
While this remains a challenge in PNG, we believe it is possible to make some progress through collaborative efforts.

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