The CoP was created by CTA in 2006 in anticipation of the 2007 international conference on Web2forDev (see 'The Web2forDev story: towards a community of practice'). This conference, organised by the Centre in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Association for Progressive Communication (APC), the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) and other development organisations, was devoted to exploring the ways in which international development practitioners could take advantage of the opportunities offered by Web 2.0 methods, approaches and applications. Participants included ICT specialists, information and communication experts, researchers, trainers, application and system providers, software developers, policy-makers and enablers.
Much of the growth in the CoP is the result of 'Web 2.0 and Social Media Learning Opportunities' training courses regularly organised by CTA in partnership with a range of host institutions. So far, these courses have taken place in 37 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and resulted in the training of 3,582 people.
The courses have attracted numerous women (38% of participants) and young people (54% of participants). Participation of senior managers and decision makers - a challenging group for online technologies - has been relatively steady over the years ranging between 10% and 14%.
In 2013, the training programme earned the prestigious WSIS 2013 Project Prize in the e-Agriculture category.
Below are some recent statistics about the growth of the Web2forDev community on various social media platforms over 2014:
LinkedIn (account created in 2007)
- Number of members on 31/12/14: 1,939
- Growth over the year 2014: +20%
Facebook (account created in 2007)
- Number of "Likes" on 31/12/14: 4,060
- Growth over the year 2014: +49%
Twitter (account created in 2008)
- Number of followers on 31/12/14: 2,926
- Growth over the year 2014: +18%
Dgroups for English-speakers (online discussion group created in 2006)
- Number of members on 31/12/14: 3,874 in 110 countries
- Growth over the year 2014: +46%
The map below shows the geographic distribution of members of the English-speaking Dgroups.
Web 2.0 and social media have become part of everyday life for most people in the developed world, but they represent a life-changing encounter for many in the developing countries. Impact assessments studies CTA conducted in 2011 and 2013 on its Web 2.0 and social media capacity building activities show that participants continue to apply the knowledge and skills they gained from the course, improving their personal and work lives and helping them deliver benefits to the target audiences of their work.
A forthcoming book from CTA, 'Embracing Web 2.0 and Social Media: A Life-Changing Pathway' (March 2015), features stories about 18 people from across Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific who participated in these courses and are active members of the existing CoP, documenting the transformative power of these innovative technologies.
For example, Andrianjafy Rasoanindrainy, executive director of Farming & Technology for Africa in Madagascar, has this to say about the power of Web 2.0 and social media:
“The main problem in developing countries such as Madagascar is that [the actors involved in agricultural development] are very fragmented. Researchers do their research but they don’t consult farmers, and sometimes farmers have very interesting findings, but they keep these to themselves. With Web 2.0 and social media we found that researchers, extension agents and farmers’ organisations could start to be interactive with each other and between themselves.” The stories bring to life how Web 2.0 and social media have contributed to policy dialogue and advocacy, value chain development and provision of information services.
CTA is committed to building the capacities of its partners to make better and greater use of ICTs to advance food security and nutrition across the developing world. CTA-supported training events in the coming months are tentatively scheduled in the Comoros, Cook Islands, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guyana, Guinea, Haiti, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
And while the Centre still supports face-to-face training events on Web 2.0 and social media both financially and technically, it is increasingly looking to a franchise approach to make the course as widely available as possible.