The Challenge of weak integration of ICT in agriculture
Technology plays a great role in enhancing advisory services, knowledge exchange, data acquisition and access to market and trade in the agricultural sector. As mobile communications technology widens and subscriptions increase at a high rate, the opportunity to leverage the role of ICTs in agriculture for improved and sustainable agricultural development becomes more possible/obvious.
However, despite the tremendous possibilities that exist, technological innovations and applications are still weakly harnessed for agricultural development.
Stakeholders at the national and international levels are calling for increased actions in these areas, as articulated during the 2013 ICT4Ag Conference organised by CTA and its partners.
Youth participation is critical for the development and dispersion of those innovations.
Exploring youth entrepreneurship opportunities through ICT4Ag
According to ITU (2014) in its report entitled “Digital opportunities: Innovative ICT solutions for youth employment”, agriculture is one of the areas in which ICT applications will be increasingly providing opportunities for youths. Youths are exploring and initiating promising ICT enterprises. However, in their efforts they encounter various challenges hindering their growth.
These challenges include better understanding of the needs and issues of agricultural stakeholders, better understanding of agricultural opportunities for ICT service providers, lack of support to develop proofs of concept or launch new applications, lack of support to test and upscale new applications, weak knowledge of viable ICT4Ag business models, among others. One challenge that cannot be overlooked is the absence of a favourable multi-stakeholder ecosystem in most countries and regions that would support the development of ICT4Ag services.
AgriHack initiative conceived to improve support to young entrepreneurs
In the efforts to provide alternative solutions to these challenges, the AgriHack initiative has been conceived. AgriHack is an initiative within the framework of the ICT4Ag activities and youth activities of CTA. Youth activities at CTA are implemented in the framework of the new CTA Youth Strategy. The strategy is facilitated by the ARDYIS project.
This initiative dates back from the AgriHack Championship, a pilot hackathon focused on the agricultural sector. The finals of the regional tournament took place parallel to the ICT4Ag Conference in Kigali, Rwanda in2013. The objectives of these activities were to showcase the potentials of ICT applications in agriculture at the ICT4Ag conference; and to support the development of ICT innovations and entrepreneurship in agriculture by young people. Since, the overwhelming response the AgriHack Championship has been receiving, CTA has upped their support and is exploring the replication of the AgriHack Championship activities to other regions in ACP countries.
AgriHack learning and follow up workshop at Fin4Ag
Another bold step CTA has taken is to host the AgriHack initiative workshop prior to the international conference Fin4Ag:Revolutionising finance for agricultural value chains, to discuss the results and follow up of previous activities on 11-12 July, 2014, in Nairobi.
It is also important to note that during the Fin4Ag Conference, best applications developed by the young entrepreneurs in previous AgriHack initiative activities will be showcased. The workshop will be attended by various key stakeholders from many ACP countries, such as representatives of ICT and agriculture ministries, representatives of the ICT hubs, teams of young entrepreneurs and mentors involved, as well as other development stakeholders, and those who contributed to the conception of the activity.
The next AgriHack will be held in the Caribbean this year, 2014, and a planning meeting is scheduled for Jamaica, in July 2014.
Consolidating efforts to increase and sustain impact
Following the success and lessons learned from the pilot AgriHack Championship, the AgriHack initiative seeks to replicate these activities. Once fully deployed, it is expected that the initiative will favour the expansion of a culture of entrepreneurship on ICT4Ag among ACP youths, give birth to new companies and innovative applications, consolidate the durability of existing businesses, contribute in portraying a better image of agriculture to young people, improve agricultural productivity and ultimately contribute to food security.
In this vein, youths, start-up incubators and investors, ICT hubs in various regions in ACP countries and various stakeholders are called to consolidate their efforts to support the AgriHack initiative in fulfilling this promising model!
Blogpost by Simon Wandila, Social Reporter for the Fin4Ag Conference
- ICT applications
- young entrepreneurs
- youth employment