30 years

The life-changing impact of social media

In 2013, CTA’s ‘Web 2.0 and Social Media Learning Opportunities’ was the winner of the World Summit on the Information Society prize in the ‘ICT applications: e-agriculture’ category. This was in recognition of the remarkable success of its Web 2.0 training programmes, which began in 2008. Over the years, CTA has received a continuous stream of positive feedback. “Many people have told us that the training sessions have not only changed their working behaviour, but their whole lives,” says Giacomo Rambaldi.

CTA Web2Since 2008, around 2000 people from ACP countries have benefited from CTA’s Web 2.0 training programmes. Ranging from one-day introductions to intensive five-day courses, their aim has been to familiarise participants with the use of advanced web tools, such as publishing blogs and tweets and calling for free over the Internet, as well as other collaborative and social media tools.

In 2012, CTA commissioned a study from Euforic Services Ltd. “We had plenty of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of our training sessions, but we wanted to get a clearer idea about their impact,” says Giacomo. The results were revealing. The majority of trainees who responded to the survey said the trainings had improved their ability to access and share information. Over half the survey participants said they had improved their information management; a third have used their newly acquired skills to run and facilitate Web 2.0 training sessions themselves.

“One of the most revealing findings was that the highest adopters, and the people who take greatest advantage of the trainings, are English-speaking women under the age of 35,” says Giacomo. Between 2008 and 2010, 32% of trainees were women and 40% were the under the age of 35. The corresponding ratios for 2012 were 40% and 64% respectively. “We made a specific effort to achieve this,” explains Giacomo. “This fits well with CTA’s new strategy, which places a strong emphasis on working with women and young people in general.”

During the first two years of the programme over half the participants were involved in research and education. By 2012, the figure had shrunk to 18%, with CTA putting a much greater emphasis on the groups and individuals who make the most of Web 2.0’s potential, such as those working for government, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and the media.

ACP mobileWhen CTA first began its Web 2.0 training, it covered most of the costs, which included flights and accommodation. Since 2010, it has adopted a cost-sharing approach. To give just one example, trainings in Uganda were held in Kampala, Entebbe and Gulu in 2010 and 2011, and participants were encouraged to make their own way to the workshops and stay with friends or family. This has reduced CTA’s per capita investment and as a result, it can now offer more training sessions to more people.

The testimonies below provide a brief – and highly selective – insight into the impact of the Web 2.0 trainings.

Promoting e-extension in Kenya

Web2 Learning Opportunity Burkina Faso 2013In Kenya, the Ministry of Agriculture is now using ICTs – mobile phones, text messages and social media – as a way of communicating with farmers. “We have approximately one extension staff for every thousand farming households, so that makes it very difficult for us to reach more than a fraction of farmers,” explains Richard Githaiga, head of extension management at the Ministry. “This, and the high costs involved in visiting farmers, encouraged us to establish an e-extension project.”

Richard and his colleagues have developed an e-extension curriculum and manual, incorporating the Web 2.0 concepts they become familiar with at CTA training sessions. In 2013, the manual was used in training workshops attended by 67 Ministry extension officers. “A key selling point of Web 2.0 is that it’s a technique that anyone can embrace,” says Steve Rono at the Ministry’s Agriculture Information Resource Centre (AIRC). “Within five days, you learn all you need to know about how to share information and use social media, and the skills you need to train others.”

Extension staff who benefited from the Web 2.0 training sessions are now sharing their skills with other field officers. In mid-2013, the Ministry issued over 600 of its 4700 extension staff with shock-proof Mecer laptops and smart phones, and these will be used as a way of communicating with farmers, using the skills provided through Web 2.0 training.

The majority of farmers in Kenya now have mobile phones, which means that the e-extension project can provide them with information using text messages and – for those with smart phones – information on the Internet. “This is going to make it much easier for us to reach large numbers of farmers,” says Richard. “It is also going to make it easier for farmers to communicate directly with our staff.”

And much more besides...

Web2 Learning Opportunity Fiji 2012Sean Rogers decided to go straight into business after he left school, eager to get a feel of the real world. In 2006, he set up a small IT company in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, convinced that small companies could give better personal service than large corporations. In 2012, he attended a CTA-supported Web 2.0 training session in Port-of-Spain. This provided him with a new set of skills, access to online libraries and new contacts. “Once you join these sort of e-forums, business opportunities become as wide as an ocean,” he says. He now intends to set up web-based programmes that will help small farmers in the Caribbean to become more business-oriented.

In Zambia, Rodney Katongo has been putting the skills he learned during a Web 2.0 training session to good use. Among other things, the training helped him to create the project ‘Participation in Zambia’s Constitution Making Process’, which is hosted by the Forum for Youth Organizations in Zambia (FYOZ). In September 2012, FYOZ launch an Internet blog to provide a platform for sharing information and submissions made by civil society to the technical committee drafting the Zambian constitution.

“Perhaps most excitingly it allows live blogging from events – so when the technical committee are visiting a district to secure feedback and input, it is possible for people at the event to link live to the FYOZ blog and input people’s comments and perspectives as they are made,” says Rodney. The Web 2.0 capacities acquired by FYOZ played an important part in attracting funding from the Zambia Governance Foundation.

Web20 Learning Opportunity Trinidad 2011

In June 2013, Anna Radavisa, the elected mayor of a small community in Madagascar, wrote a blog which reflected on the Web 2.0 training she had received in the capital, Antananarivo, the previous November. At first, she said she was confused by all the jargon about Facebook, YouTube, Google and so forth. However, she soon became an enthusiastic convert, and this has proved to be of enormous benefit in her non-mayoral work for two private companies. Furthermore, she has also been able to use LinkedIn and her WordPress blog to get back in touch with old friends, and meet people in her professional and social sphere. “My greatest wish is that the women and young people in my country obtain these tools quickly in order to have more possibilities to open up on the rest of the world,” she wrote in her blog. “My dream is that the 1549 communities in Madagascar become modernised with the help of these tools… This way, Madagascar would develop much faster.”

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