In this section many good practices are introduced, which demonstrate the innovative ways of using ICTs, in the context of smart and connected agriculture, among others. Functional ICT solutions, including those presented during the Regional Workshop, which are available in the countries of the Regional Workshop participants, are listed by the order of the category and country. This kind of selection can never cover every initiative in a region in the rapidly changing and developing world of ICT, but could serve as the basis for the Regional ICT-Agri services and projects database as a positive argumentation for decision makers of policy development and useful lessons for all stakeholders involved the strategy development and implementation process.
Besides the success stories, several projects have stalled or failed, for various reasons, mentioned below. Stalled projects are marked in the list by indicating the closing year after the starting year. Main lessons learned from unsuccessful projects can be structured into three main areas; namely the organizational, technical and political dimensions. Most of the projects – which mainly provide open-access, public benefit services – have been developed with the technical and financial background of big donor organizations working in the Region. Even though such projects are usually requested by the recipient organizations or countries, the requests are often formal and not discussed thoroughly enough within the requesting organization itself. Consequently the exact need assessment and requirement definition, and later the sense of ownership is weak or missing, which leads to sustainability problems. In this respect, a functional e-Agriculture strategy could serve as a reference on how projects fit into the e-agriculture environment in a given country and what the critical factors of success are. Frequent changes in organizations, especially governmental ones, influenced by the elections and the rotation of political parties, bringing in new concepts, strategies and changing staff, make it extremely difficult to maintain the operation of such ICT projects in the long run. Therefore, in many cases it is more advisable to give the opportunity for the NGOs to host such services, but these may raise another type of problems such as resource, authority and responsibility. Another technical problem which often happens – resulting in a poor design and implementation plan – is underestimating the complexity of the agricultural content domain.
The presented examples are categorized according the following topics:
Agricultural advisory services
Knowledge dissemination and extension is an essential part of modern agriculture, because it provides professional information for improving the farming methods and living standard of farmers. As agriculture becomes more and more information and knowledge driven, ICTs can help advisory service providers assist farmers through new channels and services with more localized, more relevant and more timely information.
Agricultural value chains
ICTs play an important role in agriculture value chains as they foster exchange of information among farmers, experts, policy-makers, other stakeholders and consumers. They have the potential to improve efficiency throughout the value chain. Because of the complexity and diversity of agriculture value chains, the tools and services and also their impact differs widely.
Capacity development includes many activities (training, mentoring, analyzing information flows, providing support) aiming farmers, organizations or other stakeholders to formulate the objectives for implementing ICT solutions. Capacity to design, develop, implement and maintain ICT solutions requires guidance and support through the business transformation processes that take place when ICT tools are adopted for agricultural purposes.
e-Government is the integration of ICTs into public services provision in every level. It means the restructuring and digitization of public services and the back-office systems and procedures of public administration. The development of e-Government in agriculture is straightforward: from land administration to monitoring policies and subsidies, many governmental services are already been supported by different information systems.
As data collection, data processing and data sharing are developing rapidly, the amount of information available to farmers is continuously growing, alowing them to make better decisions. Using farm management information systems, farmers can organize, manipulate and use all the data and information they have regarding their farms, by electronic means.
Information management and knowledge exchange for agricultural innovations systems
The sharing of knowledge, experimental data, opinions, good practices and resources among the actors of agricultural innovation systems are essential for accelerating the transfer of verified, credible and up-to-date knowledge to wider audiences and members of the farming community. ICTs and networking can develop and strengthen institutional and human capacities in national agricultural research and extension systems.
Market and price information
Market and price information services gather the necessary marketing information and present them through different channels (e.g. e-mail, SMS, voice message, portal) to the users. ICTs make both the collection and the consumption of market information (prices, trends) easier and quicker. More sophisticated, localized and timely or “real time” services can be built on new ICT-innovations.
Risk and uncertainty are embedded in agriculture production: the changing weather and the biological processes makes perfect control of processes impossible. ICTs can help to manage emerging risks regarding to natural disasters, diseases outbreaks or severe weather and climate trends. Solutions mainly help farmers to prepare and react to unfavorable situations and circumstances with higher chances of risk.
The use of geographic information system (GIS), remote sensors and other informtion gathering tools make site-specific field-management possible. The ultimate purpose of method is optimization, from both an economic and an environmental standpoint. By using precision technology farmers can use the optimal amount of any inputs needed for efficient production of high crop yields.