26 August 2008

The Challenges of Reaching Individuals with Information

Setting the stage on day one of the IAALD-AFITA-WCCA World Congress

On the first day of the IAALD-AFITA-WCCA World Conference, Peter Ballantyne proposed a question to unify and focus our thoughts over the duration of this conference, “How can we make agricultural information and IT truly accessible?”

An excellent keynote presentation by Fedro Zazueta (University of Florida) reviewed the development of online education, in which he characterized new means of disseminating information and knowledge sharing as “connected, fast, smart, alien and deeply disruptive”! I found the last two adjectives the most critical and deserving of consideration, as I think it is something we IM/KM professionals tend to lose sight of. Even in developed countries, new technologies for information delivery can create stresses at both the individual and organizational level which were not present before the paradigm shifts we are experiencing in this information age. In developing countries, how much more alien and disruptive can this be?

These issues were picked up in a slightly different light in the presentation by Luz Marina Alvare on how IFPRI has recognized that different generations and disciplines both respond to and access information in very different ways. The situation poses several challenges, both from the need to reach all these generations and disciplines, as well as to managing the concerns that arise from the different dissemination and knowledge sharing methods used. In particular it is necessary to address concerns about the risk versus the value of web2.0 tools, which are still not widely appreciated or supported by positive data. As we might expect, the younger generations are more responsive to information delivered in web2.0 applications, as are certain disciplines such as journalists who like to glean information from blogs.

Prof. Mei Fangquan (Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences) focused his keynote on ICT4D strategy in China and emphasized the challenges of the “first mile” of connectivity and providing locally relevant content, an issue that was echoed and developed in many of the papers presented later that day.

20 August 2008

Meeting of Minds, Sharing of Knowledge: e-Agriculture next week in Japan

e-Agriculture at the IAALD-AFITA-WCCA World Conference

I'm looking forward to joining the World Conference next week. It is a great opportunity that all three organizations have joined together for this conference, as I am sure it will not only bring together a large group of people from around the world dedicated to the application of ICT in development, but will also bring together a wide cross-section of experiences, knowledge and perspectives, from organizational capacity building to IT infrastructure, from metadata standards to community KS forums. It is this opportunity to interact and form new relationships, share knowledge and extend our personal networks that will be the great value at the end of the four days.

The conference takes place 24-27 August 2008 in Atsugi, Japan at the Tokyo University of Agriculture. The e-Agriculture plenary session will be on Wednesday, 27 August, from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM. I really believe in the e-Agriculture initiative and am pleased that I was asked to participate in this event.

Information from the e-Agriculture news flash sent out yesterday notes:

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will facilitate an e-Agriculture panel to deliberate issues of ICT as enablers in various critical areas of development, as well as the role of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in support of e-Agriculture.

The session will be an interactive discussion with the audience, with the panel anchored by:
- Alexander Flor, Dean, Faculty of Information and Communication Studies, UPOU;
- Manish Pandey, Deputy General Manager, Katalyst-Swisscontact;
- Michael Riggs, Information Management Specialist, FAO RAP;
- Roxanna Samii, International Fund for Agricultural Development;
and Stephen Rudgard, FAO, as the moderator.

The panelists will share knowledge and experiences, and the audience encouraged to contribute on topics such as the use of mobile telephony use in rural areas, with particular reference to ameliorate global soaring food prices, and knowledge brokering services in support of agricultural development, including Communities of Practice and approaches to building capacity.

There will also be a reprise of the issues arising in this year’s PPP online forum and eIndia conference discussion session entitled "Making e-Agriculture Work through Public Private Partnership in Asia". Experience and lessons in Bangladesh (Katalyst) and West Africa (Tradenet) will be contributed.

Full details of the PPP online forum, and reviews of the two sessions organized by FAO, the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP), OneWorld South Asia and Katalyst in the e-Agriculture track of India's largest ICT Event, eIndia 2008 in July 2008, can be found on www.e-agriculture.org.

For more information on IAALD-AFITA-WCCA World Conference please see http://iaald-afita-wcca2008.org/

Launch of CIARD

There will also be a plenary session on the 27th to launch CIARD, the Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development. Earlier this year, a group of organizations from around the world got together to establish this initiative, which aims to make agricultural research information publicly available and accessible to all. Several of the founding partners will be present to help launch CIARD with all the World Congress' participants this day.

Twitter Trials entry Two

Well I've been using Twitter for several days now ... my initial impression is it is a potentially powerful knowledge sharing tool for those who can make full use of the application, i.e. those who can easily (and inexpensively) send and receive "tweets," particularly real time.

However as I've discovered in many countries, my home base Thailand being one of them, there is no way to receive SMS-based tweets on one's cellphone. It is possible using cellphone apps that take advantage of EDGE or similar data transfer protocols, but this introduces a different cost factor. After reading a bit I decided to install Twitteriffic on my iPhone, which has been easy to use and seems to be a decent application for tweeting. However, I have yet to decide I want to pay for a higher level of data transfers using my provider's EDGE service. This would be necessary if I use Twitteriffic very much.

My iPhone won't work at all from Japan next week, where I will be attending the IAALD-AFITA-WCCA World Congress. However, I will attempt to tweet from my laptop - I was inspired by Nancy White's tweets from a meeting in New Zealand this week. Just one more element of my own personal "Twitter trials".

14 August 2008

The Twitter Trials

OK who out there is using Twitter?

Although I have been aware of it and done some reading about it, I'll admit to being a lagging adopter in this case. I even brought it up in the KS course I took earlier this year to learn more about it, but still didn't join. Then today I read some blogs on Twittering by

So today I signed up for Twitter. My ID is "mongkolroek" if you are interested in following me there...

Really what I want to know is how Twitter will be useful for me and also for the communities I am working with. There is a growing interest in the use of mobile phones in the ICT4D field. The interest in, indeed the use of mobiles in the development field is not new. It seems the frequency of mobile phones coming up in discussions I've had with colleagues and partners, and posts I've seen online here and there have increasingly referenced the use of mobiles. Maybe there's now a wider acceptance of their importance, and/or the service is more widely available/affordable, and/or an expansion of functions beyond managing price data, and/or maybe something else.

If anyone can point me to some good information about the value of mobile phones in ICT4D (in practice or theoretical) that would be great.