ICT for Agricultural Services
Why is transformation needed in this program area?
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have long been recognized as playing a major role in the delivery of information and services throughout many sectors. In particular, ICT can play a huge role in agricultural development and the lives of smallholder farmers. Data, research, quantifiable information, performance history, and statistical analysis are all essential components necessary to inform and fuel transformational change.
For Ethiopian agriculture, reliable data and analysis, in all of their synthesized forms, are pivotal to informing the identification and prioritization of interventions and deliverables, as well as enabling necessary course corrections and validation that quantifiable progress is underway. At the smallholder farmer level, locally and context-specific information is vital to ensure that the investments made on each plot of land are those that will yield the greatest return.
The power of ICT in agriculture is its ability to catalyze a wide range of interventions that are core to transforming the sector. For example, ICT can leverage mobile information for farming advice, enable mobile money to exchange and save capital, or rapidly alert farmers in emergency situations such as severe weather, diseases and pests.
However, much work remains to ensure that ICT interventions in Ethiopian agriculture can overcome ongoing challenges reducing the speed at which its innovations and benefits are realized, including limitations in technology infrastructure, human capacity, and awareness – all of which threaten the long term potential for pilots to be fully scaled out. For example, the capacity of individuals who might use new technologies is often overlooked, or taken for granted, leaving groups such as older people and women at a particular disadvantage in some communities. In addition, ICTs are tools – ones that make information easier to access – but unless farmers or end users are informed of their purpose, benefits and operation, their usefulness can be overlooked.
What are the objectives of this program area during GTP II?
The main objective of the ICT for Agricultural Services program during GTP II is to develop and support ICT related solutions for all agricultural challenges encountered by government institutions, smallholders, and other key stakeholders. Drawing upon insights and recommendations from Ethiopia and abroad, the program will also actively support the establishment and implementation of a comprehensive ICT in agriculture strategy to enhance innovation, efficacy, knowledge sharing, and transparency in the sector.
What are the focus areas of this program?
The program plans to focus on the following areas: 1) Digital technology in the form of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), including the Ethiopian Soil Information System (EthioSIS) and the Agro-Meteorology Project, which provide pertinent information enabling key decision makers to take actionable steps and make more accurate decisions; 2) Connecting sm allholders to resources and information that can help them increase their productivity and household income, through the scale up of an Input Tracking System and e-Voucher System respectively; 3) Enhancing the ability of extension workers and farmers to make agronomic decisions that increase productivity through the recently scaled up IVR/SMS Agricultural Information Hotline; and 4) Implementing digital tagging technology as part of the Teff International Market Access (TIMA) project, which will add value to, and enable the tracing of Ethiopian agricultural teff products from ‘farm to fork’ so that consumers in developed countries can understand and make purchasing decisions based on where food comes from.