E-agriculture: Harnessing the Power of Technology to Empower Farming Communities and to trigger rural development

It is estimated that for the poorest people, GDP growth originating in the agriculture sector is about four times more effective in reducing poverty than GDP growth originating outside the sector-making the sector critical for over­all growth, poverty reduction, and food security in any nation.

Traditionally, the agriculture sector is seen devoid of advanced technology usage. The practitioners in this space correctly blame the lack of access to right information, in the right format, at the right time for constraining the development of agriculture sector and the economic actors linked to it. Enabling and integrating the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) services at the various stages of the agricultural value-chain can unleash a multiplier effect for the farming community, the other players in the value chains and the sector as a whole.

Leveraging the power of ICT to address information asymmetries and to unlock innovation potential, E-agriculture is seen as an emerging field focusing on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved information and communication processes.

What is E-Agriculture?

E-Agriculture involves the conceptualization, design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to use ICTs in the rural domain, with a primary focus on agriculture. E-agriculture offers a wide range of solutions to some agricultural challenge and holds great potential in promoting sustainable agriculture while protecting the environment and finding an effective way to feed the world’s population.

e-agriculture

Source: FAO and ITU

How does E-Agriculture offers ICT driven solutions to numerous agricultural challenges?

The Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO), classifies the use of ICT into three broad areas of development: production systems management, ICTs for market access, and ICTs for financial inclusion. The ICT in Agriculture Sourcebook classifies the use into enhancing productivity on the farm, accessing markets and value chains and improving public service provision.

ICT

 

Source: FAO and ITU

The E-Agriculture Strategy Guide as guiding framework for Nations to design and implement their E-Agriculture solutions

Setting in place a national e-agriculture strategy is an essential first step for any country planning on using ICTs for agriculture. The E-agriculture Strategy Guide, published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Telecommunication Union provides a framework for countries in developing their national e-agriculture strategies. This guide a presents a three-step methodology for developing a national e-agriculture strategy: the development of e-agricultural vision; the formulation of an Action Plan; followed by establishing a monitoring and evaluation framework of the E-Agriculture Policy.

From policy to execution

In Asia, Bhutan and Sri Lanka are the pilot countries to use this framework to develop their own national e-agriculture strategies.

Building the evidence base for the Social Impact Investment market

Emerging markets today, face the unenviable task of balancing the dual objectives of attaining and sustaining economic growth momentum and addressing rising social challenges at the same time. Efforts towards both must be simultaneous rather than linear. Progress on one of the fronts serves as a harbinger of progress on the other. In case of the latter of the two objectives however, governments are finding it increasingly difficult to walk the path alone. The realization that it is practically impossible to overcome the daunting social challenges through public spending alone is now pretty much absolute. As a corollary to this, governments are increasingly looking towards private sector participation and innovative models and approaches to augment their efforts.

Given this context, social impact Investment (SII) has been gaining in relevance over the past decade, as a viable alternative and complementing force to tackle the multifaceted social challenges the world, particularly the developing world, faces. Social impact investment is defined as “the provision of finance to organisations addressing social needs with the explicit expectation of a measurable social, as well as financial, return.”

Growing individual and institutional investor interest in addressing social challenges has been a major driver for rising popularity of SII. Although still in the early stages of development, the rising investor interest, coupled with the emergence of social businesses and market intermediaries and the increasing government willingness to directly and/or indirectly facilitate innovative interventions, has laid the foundation for an enabling SII market ecosystem. Yet, much greater participation from all the ecosystem stakeholders is necessary for the SII market to further develop and achieve its true potential. For this to happen however, a strong evidence base needs to be created.

A recent report by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) titled Social Impact Investment – Building the Evidence Base, provides a framework for assessing the social impact investment market. Acknowledging the limited availability of data as the biggest immediate bottleneck restricting the development of the SSI market, the report focuses on the need for building a strong data driven evidence base. It highlights the importance of heightened international collaboration in developing global standards relating to definitions, data collection approaches, impact measurement, policy evaluation and experience sharing amongst SII market stakeholders.

Tanzania reaches out to people without bank accounts

Tanzania’s Financial Inclusion Framework aims to
capture 50% of the unbanked population by 2016, through financial services
catered specially for the poor, the SMEs and MSMEs, and micro-enterprises. Read
more here.

Papua New Guinea launches national financial inclusion strategy

PNG is launching Financial Literacy Strategy 2014-2015, with the support of United Nations Development Fund, UNDP, AusAid and others. Read more here.

Mexico: Bank of Mexico takes steps to enable mobile money transfers

The Bank of Mexico is taking a number of measures to promote the adoption of mobile money for the purposes of money transfers within the country. Banks are now required to link existing accounts with the provided mobile devices of customers. Read more here.