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“Information and communication technology (ICT) has always mattered in agriculture. Ever since people have grown crops, raised livestock, and caught fish, they have sought information from one another. Today, ICT represents a tremendous opportunity for rural populations to improve productivity, to enhance food and nutrition security, to access markets, and to find employment opportunities in a revitalized sector. ICT has unleashed incredible potential to improve agriculture, and it has found a foothold even in poor smallholder farms.”

This resource is designed to support practitioners, decision makers, and development partners who work at the intersection of ICT and agriculture. It seeks to be a practical guide to understanding current trends, implementing appropriate interventions, and evaluating the impact of ICT interventions in agricultural programmes. It is based on a combination of expert knowledge in ICT, as well as empirical knowledge on a wide range of agriculture topics, from governance to supply chain management.

The guide contains a set of 15 modules which are divided across four key areas. Each module covers the challenges, lessons learned, and enabling factors associated with using ICT to improve smallholder livelihoods based on case studies from around the world. The modules also include examples of innovative practice.

This is an updated version of the ICT in Agriculture e-Sourcebook first launched in 2011. The revised edition contains updated modules on ICT: in the work of producer organisations; in research, extension, and innovation; and in value chains and markets. The module on gender as a crosscutting theme has also been updated, and a new module on Big Data has been added.

The sections and modules are as follows:

Section 1 - Overview of ICT in Agriculture: Opportunities, Access, and Crosscutting Themes - includes innovations in telecommunications systems, making ICTs affordable in rural areas, delivering content for mobile agricultural services, and creating entry points for gender-equitable, ICT-enabled agricultural development. It contains the following modules:

  • Module 1 - Introduction: ICT in Agricultural Development
  • Module 2 - Making ICT Infrastructure, Appliances, and Services More Accessible and Affordable in Rural Areas
  • Module 3 - Anytime, Anywhere: Mobile Devices and Services and Their Impact on Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Module 4 - Extending the Benefits - Gender-Equitable, ICT-Enabled Agricultural Development

Section 2 - Enhancing Productivity on the Farm - looks at ways ICTs can be used to increase productivity, enable agricultural innovation, help farmer organisations, and broaden access to rural financial services. Examples among these topics include planning and early warning systems, e-learning programmes, radio-frequency identification (RFID) of livestock to secure insurance and credit, and skill sharing opportunities. It contains the following modules:

  • Module 5 - Increasing Crop, Livestock, and Fishery Productivity Through ICT
  • Module 6 - ICTs, Digital Tools, and Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems
  • Module 7 - Broadening Smallholders’ Access to Financial Services through ICT
  • Module 8 - Farmer Organizations Work Better With ICT

Section 3 - Assessing Markets and Value Chains - discusses ways in which the farmer can use ICTs for market research, cost reduction, marketing, and integration into previously hard-to-access commercial supply chains. Case studies examine the potential two-way benefits of traceability, which links small-scale producers to the global market, allowing empowerment of the smallholder as well as improving food safety standards. It contains the following modules:

  • Module 9 - Strengthening Agricultural Market Access with ICT
  • Module 10 - ICT Applications for Agricultural Risk Management
  • Module 11 - Global Markets, Global Challenges: Improving Food Safety and Traceability while Empowering Smallholders through ICT.

Section 4 - Improving Public Service Provision - focuses on governance, land administration and management, and citizen participation. Topics in this section include digital media forums and e-learning, the use of websites and social media to connect governments and institutions with their constituents, geographic information systems (GIS) solutions to land information infrastructures, participatory mapping programmes, and the use of ICT in solving conflicts between human development and the destruction of natural habitats. It contains the following modules:

  • Module 12 - Strengthening Rural Governance, Institutions, and Citizen Participation Using ICT
  • Module 13 - ICT for Land Administration and Management
  • Module 14 - Using ICT to Improve Forest Governance
  • Module 15 - Using ICT for Remote Sensing, Crowdsourcing, and Big Data to Unlock the Potential of Agricultural Data
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World Bank Open Knowledge Repository on July 27 2017. Image credit: © Ami Vitale / Panos Pictures