Using IT to Boost Agricultural Productivity

By Victoria Onoja

The World is in the midst of what could be called a ‘knowledge revolution’ that is being spearheaded by the rapid advancement in Information Technology. This has significantly changed the way people communicate, live, and conduct their business. The revolution in communication has provided efficient ways for developing countries to grow economically, socially as well as increase productivity.

Information empowers people and improves their wealth; it has great impact on the economic performance of a nation. The Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) has become an increasingly important feature for information. Significantly, it reduces the cost of many transactions, increases efficiency, convenience and satisfaction. Overall, increases in employment, technological diffusion, and increased foreign capital flows are seen as economy-wide benefits.

The past decade has witnessed a rapid expansion of the Internet, which has proven to be invaluable resources for obtaining information and providing new dimensions to existing areas of business and non-business activities.

There is an interactive nature to the Internet. It allows for dialogue based on question and answer mode. Online interaction between producers and users of knowledge enable diverse forms of complementary and localised information to be put together and integrated. Instead of knowledge produced by one particular group of professionals or experts, knowledge is generated from a variety of sources including the users themselves so that it can adapt to the needs of the users.

In sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural information and extension have been largely confined to public domain, only obtainable through the Ministries of Agriculture. These structures are greatly centralised. Moreover, technical messages communicated to farmers were often of an extremely general type, applicable to only a few.

The problem associated with these type of arrangements is that farmers are treated as ignorant recipients of information, rather than knowledgeable partners in technology transfer. Management systems are poor, so that there is little pressure on the staff or their managers to seek new knowledge or to serve farmers; the extension staff are poorly trained and know little more than the farmers know. In some cases, operating facilities, vehicles and bicycles are so rare that the few motivated and knowledgeable extension staff cannot systematically visit farmers even if they wanted to. The result is typically a large information and agricultural bureaucracy that has no impact in agriculture.

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