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ICTs for agriculture – opportunities for youth, smart solutions for farmers

For immediate release - Wageningen, 22 April 2016

April 22, 2016

Information and communication technology (ICT) can play a critical role in improving incomes for small-scale producers and other players in the agrifood sector, while providing livelihood opportunities for young people able to develop high-tech solutions. As part of its continued efforts to promote youth entrepreneurs and ICTs, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is staging a number of events at the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland - the world's largest annual gathering of the ICT for development community.

In partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), CTA will be showcasing promising ICT innovations and hosting discussions on how to do more to foster creative youth involvement in addressing some of agriculture’s most pressing problems.

In many developing countries, young people are proving increasingly adept at creating ICT applications to strengthen agri-food systems. A Plug & Play event at the WSIS Forum 2016 will allow visitors to discover a range of ICT platforms and give visibility to the young entrepreneurs who developed them. The session is based on the highly successful Plug & Play model launched by CTA in 2013, and since used around the world to demonstrate the potential of a wide range of technologies designed to improve practices at various stages along the agricultural value chain.

Participants will be encouraged to test-drive the latest mobile and web-based applications, and discover how they could make these tools work for them in agricultural activities. There will be opportunities for them to engage with the innovators, who will each be given 15 minutes to pitch their application to the audience. Innovations presented at the session will include AgroCentral, a cloud-based platform that links agri-businesses to their suppliers, FarmDrive, which improves access to credit for smallholder farmers, MOBIS, which offers banking software for Savings and Credit Cooperatives, Musoni, a core-banking system, CropGuard and PEAT, two apps to help farmers recognise and treat plant pathogens and nutrient deficiencies. Some of these innovations where developed in the framework of the CTA's agricultural hackathon and incubation activities, known as AgriHack Talent.

"CTA's Mini Plug & Play event is an innovative approach to creating awareness of the potential of ICTs for agriculture," said CTA ICT4D Programme Coordinator Benjamin Addom, who is organising the hands-on session, to be held on May 5. "The idea is to show new ICT innovations in the agriculture sector and give opportunities to participants to play with them, get involved with the technologies and receive answers to specific and practical questions."

Later in the day, a workshop will explore how entrepreneurship based on developing ICTs for agriculture (ICT4Ag) can be supported, as a strategy for promoting youth employment opportunities and innovations in the agri-food sector and improving food security. The session, Accelerating ICT for agriculture entrepreneurship to promote youth livelihoods and sustainable development, will involve discussions between young ICT4Ag entrepreneurs from various countries, together with international business and government experts. Issues on the agenda will include examples of ICT for agriculture entrepreneurship from developing countries, strategies for strengthening business models, capacity building and investment, and roles for supporting institutions, such as government and the private sector.

"A growing number of dynamic innovations are using ICTs to offer valuable solutions to agricultural challenges, and many of them are being developed by young people in developing countries, " said Ken Lohento, ICT4D Programme Coordinator at CTA, who will be moderating the workshop. "However, young entrepreneurs still face several challenges, such as insufficient capacity in e-agriculture entrepreneurship, non-existent or weak linkages with investors and weak support from the national public and private sectors. This dialogue aims to generate debate on how to overcome these difficulties and unleash the full potential of young entrepreneurs in the agriculture and rural development sector."

The WSIS Forum will also see the launch of two new CTA publications. One of these, Innovate for Agriculture, presents about 30 ICT-based entrepreneurial ventures created by young innovators mainly from African and Caribbean countries. The innovations feature the use of mobile phones, social media, web platforms and a new generation of tractors, offering services that target various segments and facilities along the agricultural value chain. The second booklet, Failing to Scale, looks at the other side of the coin, examining case studies of nine ICT4Ag initiatives that showed early promise, but which failed to scale beyond the initial funding.

During the WSIS Forum, which runs from May 2–6, awards will be made to winners of WSIS Project Prizes, a contest that provides a platform to showcase success stories that can be easily replicated to empower local communities. CTA's Agriculture, Rural Development and Youth in the Information Society (ARDYIS) programme won the e-agriculture category in the 2015 WSIS Project Prizes. In 2013, CTA's project Web 2.0 and Social Media Learning Opportunities was awarded the top prize in the same category.

Further information on CTA/ITU events at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland:Thursday May 5, 09:00 to 12:00 – Plug and Play: Showcasing ICT innovations for sustainable agri-food systemsThursday May 5, 15:00 to 16:30 – Workshop: Accelerating ICT for agriculture entrepreneurship to promote youth livelihoods and sustainable development

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For more information, please contact:
Stéphane Gambier
gambier@cta.int
Tel.: +31 (0)317 46 71 79