ICT4Ag supports new methods in the monitoring and management of soils, plants and livestock (precision agriculture), access to online markets, and improved communication between value chain stakeholders. The services provided are vital in connecting farmers with the information they need to improve their agricultural productivity and reduce poverty.
With the ability to reach many farmers with timely and accessible content, the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for agriculture (ICT4Ag) has the potential to transform farming and food production, worldwide. ICT4Ag supports new methods in the monitoring and management of soils, plants and livestock (precision agriculture), access to online markets, and improved communication between value chain stakeholders, among others. The services provided are vital in connecting farmers with the information they need to improve their agricultural productivity and reduce poverty.
Through case studies and examples of ICT4Ag initiatives from across Asia, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa, the first chapter looks at how ICT4Ag actually works to drive economic development across developing economies. Further, the chapter reviews the ICT applications, infrastructure and resources built, as well as the policies and frameworks put in place by international bodies, governments and practitioners to ensure that ICT4Ag becomes viable for investment.
To ensure longevity of ICT4Ag services and initiatives, ongoing finance is required after any initial funding runs out. The second chapter outlines the need for viable business models – with profit as the end goal – to entice private sector players to become involved in the provision of ICT4Ag services, and to ensure sustainability of the sector. Suitable areas for potential investment, such as food traceability, reducing post-harvest losses, and remote sensing for precision agriculture are explored.
Universal access to ICT4Ag has not yet been achieved, especially in the rural areas of developing countries. By drawing on case studies and interviews with practitioners from the field, and by outlining the nature of the challenges facing ICT4Ag, the third chapter explains the constraints to widespread adoption. The chapter also explores how the challenges identified can inform investment opportunities, as well as policy recommendations, in order to unleash the full potential of ICTs in development programmes.
To accommodate future scaling of ICT4Ag applications and platforms, an integrated, cross-sectoral partnership (CSP) approach that includes, for example, farmers, agribusinesses, financial institutions, mobile network operators and donors, is necessary. The fourth chapter explains the theory behind CSPs as entities with the expertise and vision to successfully deliver ICT4Ag solutions, and provides examples of CSPs already in practice, along with lessons learned. The chapter also provides a three-step framework for ICT4Ag investment, which includes the implementation of ICTs into payment systems, marketing, agriculture extension and supply chain management by CSPs.
In this final chapter, the different types of CSP investors are also described, as well as their roles within the partnership, and their investment priorities within the three-step framework. According to the author, priority investments for donors and foundations include the design and delivery of training to raise awareness of ICT4Ag and market research to assess the demand for ICT services. Mobile network operators, on the other hand, should increase their investment in the training of personnel to better understand the challenges facing agribusinesses in order to increase subscriptions, and scale-out their services among agricultural stakeholders.