31 July 2008

Focus on multi-stakeholder partnerships and develop tangible new ICT projects says forum

“Making e-Agriculture Work through Public Private Partnership in Asia” a panel discussion.

At eIndia yesterday, partners in the global e-Agriculture initiative came together to continue the discussion about the role of public private partnerships (PPP) in supporting e-agriculture. (Building on the March 2008 online forum on www.e-agriculture.org.)

I’m very pleased that we were successful in creating a lively audience-focused discussion, anchored by four experienced panelists. During the 90 minute period we identified the need to move from a focus on PPP to a more inclusive “multi-stakeholder partnerships” (MSP). The importance of MSP was further supported with examples of the important roles that could be played by stakeholders from government, the private sector, NGOs, farmers, intermediaries, and others.

The complexity of this form of relationship has great potential for advancing the use of ICT to support sustainable rural development. Success depends on merging the different agendas of each stakeholder in complementary ways, finding complementary competencies, and recognizing the professional integrity and incentives of all participants.

In addition to the critical issues identified in the online forum (which are summarized in a two page policy brief), the discussion added the critical role of addressing organizational issues from the beginning of the programme, in order to assure sustainability and maximizing benefits.

These are the organizational management issues that I continue to find are key to most ICT4D projects. This very issue had been emphasized earlier in the day by the presentation of Dr. Sapna Narula, Assistant Professor at the University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar.

The importance of delivering user-focused, demand driven content was re-emphasized, as well as the need to not only continue documenting successful cases of MSP supporting e-agriculture, but to develop from these cases a comprehensive set of business models for implementation.

Finally, it was recommended that the next forum should focus on in country interventions, with clear objectives of defining pilot and proof of concept projects, clearly defining the focus of part of my own work in the coming months.

16 July 2008

Looking Towards e-Agriculture at eIndia 2008!

The next main ICT4D event in this region will be eIndia 2008, 29-31 July, in New Delhi.

In the eAgriculture track at eIndia, FAO, GKP and OneWorld South Asia have teamed up to bring some of the brightest minds in KM4D and ICT4D together at this event, people dedicated to improving rural development. The group will discuss some new topics, shine the light on some challenges, and see what innovative ideas the collective group can identify for acting on in the near future.

There will be a headline presenation on
the global e-Agriculture initiative and the growing importance of the e-agriculture.org platform in Asia-Pacific.

On Wednesday, 30 July there will be a panel discussion on "Making e-Agriculture work through public-private partnership in Asia."
Public private partnerships (PPPs) in e-Agriculture are generally found at the community level where the strengths of the public and private sectors complement each other in providing information and advisory services that address the needs of farmers and rural communities. Examples of PPP in e-Agriculture abound in Asia-Pacific, and range from establishing access points (e.g. cybercaf├ęs, telecenters) to generation and delivery of content through mobile phones (SMS) and the internet. Understanding why a PPP is required, the respective mandates and incentives of the partners, and their roles in the partnership, are fundamental to its success. This face-to-face event builds on the March 2008 online forum hosted by www.e-agriculture.org with an audience led discussion on how to further this understanding, and to identify opportunities for collaboration.
- Mr. Amit Dasgupta, IBM Global Services India
- Mr. Manish Pandey, Deputy General Manager , Katalyst-Swisscontact
- Mr. Naimur Rahman, Director, OneWorld South Asia
- Dr. (Mr) N.T. Yaduraju, NAIP/ICAR
- Dr. (Ms) Amrita Patel, Chairman, National Dairy Development Board (TBC)
Moderated by Michael Riggs, FAO

On Thursday, 31 July there will be a panel
discussion on "The role of communities of practice (COP) and networks in e-Agriculture." COP strengthen links between networks of practitioners, allow individuals to gather and gain access to policy and technical information, facilitate sharing and exchange of complementary knowledge and resources, and can organize and create knowledge in ways that are flexible. Following up the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) plan of action, the e-Agriculture Working Group conducted a global survey on "e-agriculture". The need for networks of experts and a community of practice was high on the resulting list of actions. This panel representing some of the leading COP in Asia that are active through virtual collaboration spaces, face-to-face events, and in-country interventions. The panel will interact with the audience to analyze what role COP play and what value they bring to the application of e-Agriculture and through that successful, sustainable rural development in the region.
- Dr. Gopi Ghosh, Assistant FAO Representative, and Solution Exchange India network coordinator
- Dr. Alexander Flor, Dean & Professor, Faculty of Information and Communication Studies, University of the Philippines Open Univ.
- Mr. Michael Riggs, e-Agriculture.org
- Mr. Rikin Gandhi, Assistant Researcher, Microsoft Research India; Founding Member, Digital Green
- Dr. (Ms) Prema Ramchandran, Director, Nutrition Foundation of India
Moderated by Ms. Shalini Kala, IDRC, ENRAP coordinator

And so much more!! It's a chance to listen, learn, speak, meet and network ... all key to personal knowledge sharing!
I hope to see you there. Do come up and say "hi" when you see me! ;-)

09 July 2008

Network Globally, Focus Locally - success in the age of Internet networking

The uniquely successful use of social networking by a candidate* in the upcoming American Presidential race is discussed in an online International Herald Tribune article. The article notes that by borrowing from principles that drive Facebook the highly successful social networking site (indeed they even “borrowed” one of Facebook’s founders to manage the site), this candidate’s website growth strategy is driven by the principle: keep it real and keep it local.

This is a true challenge in the facilitation of any large online community. While novelty and the excitement of newness can quickly galvanize a new community online, it remains a challenge to keep a large, geographically and culturally disperse community dynamic and working together productively in the medium-term. The e-Agriculture community, while still young and growing, recognized this challenge from the beginning and has been striving to keep it real and local, buy targeting solutions to key issues identified by the community itself, and by fostering locally-relevant events on subjects such as public private partnerships.

This political candidate’s site discussed on IHT.com also shows the power of reaching beyond the typical younger, Internet savvy crowd that flocks to social networking sites by advocating “off line” actions and more traditional modes of communication such as house parties and telephone banks. Here I think there is another parallel with the e-Agriculture community, as it focuses on three levels of action: the online Community of Experts global platform www.e-agriculture.org; face-to-face events, including GK3, and the upcoming eIndia2008 and IAALD World Congress; and in-country interventions.

The e-Agriculture community developed for everyone trying to improve sustainable rural development through the use of ICT. Join the community, voice your concerns and opinions, and use the online platform to sound out issues important to your local community as we did with the public private partnerships forum. Success is there waiting for us!

* While many of you have probably guessed who this candidate is, I have intentionally left out a name so as not to distract from the ICT issues at hand, and leave the debate on national politics to other blogs ;-)