07 August 2013

In preparation for International Youth Day 2013, August 12th

As the leader of the team that supports the e-Agriculture Community, I think International Youth Day is critically important in the context of agriculture, and in particular when we think about ICT and agriculture. This year's theme (2013) is focused on migration issues, which is not a clean fit with our interest in ICT and agriculture. However, there are linkages and we have again collaborated with YPARD, IFAD, and the ARDYIS project from CTA. At the very least we provide an opportunity for young people to express themselves, and hopefully we will be providing a forum for talented young people to hone their ideas and gain recognition.

In looking forward to this year's event, I reviewed last year's activities and found an article that I published on the e-Agriculture site. I think it is worth revisiting, as I stand by the points made.

What do you think?

(Originally published in 2012 in e-Agriculture news here.)

Young people play a critical role in agriculture. Not only are they the future of agriculture, but they bring new perspectives and ideas today. Young people are also more inclined to be comfortable with new information and communication technologies (ICT). For these reasons, as the leader of the e-Agriculture Team I think it is important that we recognize International Youth Day along with our colleagues at the ARDYIS network, GYIN, YPLD, ‘This is my story…’ and YPARD. Read the Youth Day communiqué from YPARD here.

We know that in agriculture, forestry and fisheries ICT has an important role in disseminating technologies, improving agricultural practices, linking people, and enhancing the livelihoods of agricultural communities. This is the reason the e-Agriculture Community exists! We also know that ICT has a special role in its ability to interest youth in agriculture*, so we cannot think of ICT and agriculture without thinking of youth.

As part of our desire to bring youth, agriculture and ICT together, the e-Agriculture Community works with young volunteers and interns. It is my personal belief and professional responsibility to mentor and support these people. These young people bring enthusiasm, fresh perspective and technical knowledge to the community, while learning about development and ICT, and expanding their professional networks. We have a great team at the moment. I encourage you to learn more about them on the Team page, and interact with them through Andrea and Carlo's new blog.

International Youth day 2012 is on August 12th. To learn more about activities that are part of this event, go here.

* See for example point 7 on page 4 of the FAO report:  http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/ap097e/ap097e00.pdf

08 May 2013

UNFAO's presence on Twitter - both main and affiliated accounts

Social media has an important role in the day to day activities of many units and teams at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, or "UNFAO" as it is known in social media).

Answering a common question, below is an explanation of FAO's Twitter presence taken from the FAO Web Guide.

FAO’s presence on Twitter

Currently, FAO maintains the following FAO Twitter accounts as primary channels for communicating and engaging with the general public on issues with broad appeal and that span the range of the Organization’s activities:
  • @faonews – FAO’s primary “PR stream” on Twitter (managed by OCP)
  • @faoknowledge - promotion of FAO's knowledge products such as recent publications, presentations, videos, events, etc. (managed by OCP/OEK)
Additional Twitter accounts focused on specific themes, areas of work, or regions are maintained by various programme entities and units, including decentralized offices, a practice that is encouraged by this policy provided the guidelines it contains are adhered to. All FAO-affiliated accounts are listed here.

You will find @e_agriculture on the affiliated accounts list.

21 July 2009

Reaching New Audiences

I have been looking at examples of how different organizations use and guide the use of social media and web 2.0 tools the past day or so.

One issue that has come up repeatedly in discussions (from several organizations who are still "testing the waters" of social media) that I have been involved in is a concern about negative responses, comments, etc.

Just now while actually looking for something else I came across this clip on YouTube about World Food Day 2008.

I like the clip very much ... but there's something else that's more important to see.

The most interesting thing is the comments that come after the clip ... take a look, there's just sixteen, but they are all very positive and many of them indicate that the person(s) has a new awareness of World Food Day as a result of seeing the clip. Not bad :-)

10 July 2009

Improving the Organization's image through knowledge sharing and social networking

Understanding what someone does is an important part of gaining respect for their work.

There is an interesting OpEd piece (“Would you let this girl down?” by Nicholas D. Kristof; thanks to @ithorpe for sharing) in today’s New York Times about the marketing efforts of humanitarian organizations. It is about the ability to connect with people, in particular one-on-one connections, and how this impacts interest in development aid and charitable activities.

The article looks at where the marketing of development organizations faces shortcomings and some possible reasons behind this. It is not as prescriptive about what should be done. Still it is a good (and short) piece, relevant not only to people in the external relations and marketing type work of humanitarian organization, but also to the rest of us in development work.

The idea Kristof put forward fit very well with the currently trending organizational theory of "tribes" and offer an explanation for the success of initiatives like Kiva. What is particularly interesting to me is how the ideas in this article fit with the increasing use of social media (web2.0) tools and a focus on knowledge sharing (KS) in some of the organizations I work with.

Consider, for example, the need for "feel-good rewards" and the personal responsibility factor.

Could we as an organization reach out and stimulate individuals to a higher level of personal responsibility, reinforced by feel-good rewards through the use of social media tools? (Many of these tools were designed to reach people with a one-to-one feeling, even when they are one to many, after all.)

What if we designed a village level project to include one villager or an intermediary (say a village teacher) who was selected and trained to blog once a week about the problem s/he faced in life, what s/eh learned in the project, how s/he acted on that learning at home and the results? What if that blog was translated from the local language into the languages of developed countries, along with pictures or video (made with inexpensive hand held digital equipment)? What if staff Twittered about these new blog posts to their family and friends?

Development organizations will always need the professional, high level marketing and communication efforts that already exist. The time may have come for more, for there to be a concerted effort to ignite the masses into marketing at the grassroots level of the organization. Engage more people on a personal level. Show a direct link, no matter how small, to development interventions and the aid that supported it. Latch on to the personal responsibility factor and provide the feel-good rewards that motivate it to react in a positive manner. Stimulate a thousand individual voices to share these feeling with others, and then as the old American shampoo commercial from the 80s said, “They’ll tell two friends ... and they’ll tell two friends ... and so on, and so on....”

02 June 2009

Will the Future bring Equality or a Greater Divide?

Yesterday I was struck by a thought (that led to a Tweet):
@mongkolroek: brilliant ICT futurist paper http://bit.ly/ipxcF deepens my concern about rural digital divide - will progress be equal?
The report from the first Workshop of the Foresight 2030 series Harnessing the Digital Revolution is a fascinating read and provides a brilliant vision of a knowledge enabled society, with technology and culture in harmony.

So why did this vision leave me more concerned that one might expect? I'm not a Luddite, new technology fascinates me. The issue is that I see a real possibility that any upside from this vision becoming a reality will be more than negated by the disparity and inequity it may cause in the world. Could this report in fact allude an increase in the rural digital divide?

In 1999 Subbiah Arunachalam expressed concerns in "Information Poverty" that the information revolution was actually creating a new form of poverty in the developing world. We still grapple with many of these issues described ten years ago, not only in differences between developed and developing, but also between urban and rural.

There continues to be a serious risk of the rural digital divide increasing. The much vaunted improvements in speed and capacity of technology, and reductions in infrastructure cost do not guarantee access or usability due to many other complex factors. Consider issues such as telecom regulations, pricing structures, literacy and language, individual capacity to utilize a new technology, culture, organisations, physical location, content format, economic poverty, socio-political marginalization, etc.

Without a doubt not everyone would benefit from social and technological advances at the same rate. However, without great forethought it is very likely that there will be groups of individuals who will be excluded from these benefits much longer than others. In the worst case, this exclusion will occur amongst those already the most in need of better access to the world's information and knowledge ... the poor, the food insecure, the marginalized of society.

The future may be brilliant, but we cannot be proud of illuminating one corner if it leaves the rest of the world in even greater darkness.

25 May 2009

Funds for creative ICT in development solutions in Asia-Pacific

The Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF) is taking applications now for their 2010 round of grants. ISIF is a joint initiative between the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Internet Society (ISOC), and the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC).

These grants are focused on supporting creative solutions that use digital ICT to benefit development in the Asia-Pacific region. Funding of up to AUD 40,000 per project is available.

Deadline for the grant submission is 31 July 2009, so don't delay.

24 May 2009

Donate Your Used Mobile Phone to Help People

Now here's something really great, a new program called HopePhones that was just launched.

Old phones save lives. Donate yours to a medical clinic in a developing country today.

Not only can you do good with this, it provides a service to you! You have an old phone, you go to their website, print the mailing label - postage paid, put the phone in a box and send it off! How easy is that?

HopePhones uses the value of your old phone to acquire appropriate mobile phones in developing countries. Those phones are placed with community health workers who are part of programs to improve the health and welfare of those who need it most. The HopePhones website has more details about where these phones are helping people live better lives, and how some are working with the FrontlineSMS:Medic platform. Mobile phones are causing a small revolution in rural development, and one of the key areas for impact is in health care due to their ability to transmit information quickly and easily, from anywhere there's a cellular signal. (Some of you will know I am a great believer in the potential of mobile telephony to improve rural livelihoods through my work with the e-Agriculture community.)

Also, you are saving the environment by not throwing your old phone into the trash.

So far the postage paid service is only good within the United States. To any of my friends in Italy or Thailand or elsewhere, if you give me your old phone I will send it in to HopePhones on my next trip to the States. That's the least I can do.

(Why didn't we have examples of initiatives like this at WSIS last week?)