Background report

CTA's ICT Observatory was set up in 1998 as an instrument to advise the institution and ACP partners on ICT strategies and applications relevant to ACP countries ARD and to identify ICT policy issues, experiences and projects. The Observatory has taken the form of a two to three day expert meeting, delivering recommendations shared within CTA and with the wider public. Since 1998, several themes have been discussed; among them are: Introduction of ICTs in agricultural information systems (1998); Gender and agriculture in the information society (2002); ICTs – transforming agricultural extension? (2003); "Giving Youth a Voice" – ICTs for Rural Youth Livelihoods (2004); and the potential of mobile applications to deliver rural information services (2010).

The full report is a working document accessible for the participants of the meeting.

This introductory section gives a brief background to the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), its role in supporting Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) and Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) in Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries, the background to the study, the goal and scope of the report, the method used to carry out the study, and the organisation of the remaining sections of the report.

1.1 The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)

CTA was established in 1983 under the Lomé Convention between the ACP countries and European Union (EU) member states. Since 2000 CTA has operated within the framework of the ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement with a mission to strengthen policy and institutional capacity development and information and communication management capacities of ACP agricultural and rural development organisations. It assists such organisations in formulating and implementing policies and programs to reduce poverty, promote sustainable food security and preserve the natural resource base, and thus contributes to building self-reliance in ACP rural and agricultural development. One of the three goals of CTA’s new Strategic Plan 2011–2015, adopted by CTA in 2011, is to support favorable agricultural policies in ACP regions.

1.2. Background to the study

In Geneva 2003 and Tunis 2005, the UN General Assembly endorsed the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which encouraged governments, as part of the implementation of the Tunis Agenda, to establish before 2010, “comprehensive, forward-looking and sustainable national e-strategies, including ICT strategies and sectoral e-strategies, as an integral part of national development plans and poverty reduction strategies” (Para. 85), in order to unleash the full potential of ICT for development. Seven years after WSIS, little is known about e-Agriculture policies or strategies. The WSIS Plan of Action (2005) called for measures to put in place strategic actions on e-Agriculture.

The next CTA ICT Observatory meeting, being planned for 2013, will therefore discuss the need and requirements for adopting and implementing adequate e-Agriculture policies or strategies in ACP countries, and analyse their level of implementation, lessons learned, best practices, as well as ways to strengthen these processes. It will also provide further orientations to CTA (and key partner organisations) for specific targeted actions, including the production of a reference publication.

1.3 The purpose and scope of the report

The purpose of this background report is to serve as an introductory resource for the 2013 ICT Observatory workshop as well as a background note for an e-discussion to be organised prior to the workshop. The report gives a general overview of e-Agriculture, the historical evolution, and the current state. It covers issues relating to experiences and perspectives from international institutions supporting agriculture, rural development and ICTs for development and the progress at national level from a number of ACP and non-ACP countries in visioning, formulating, developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating e-Agriculture policies or strategies. The report also outlines some of the key challenges either experienced or anticipated with e-Agriculture policies or strategies, some target areas for integrating ICTs within the national e-Agriculture policies, and some of the expected areas of support for the policy process by the countries. It concludes with a number of recommendations for CTA and its partner organisations for promoting e-Agriculture policies and strategies in both ACP countries.  

1.4 Methodology

The study gathered broad experiences from across a number of ACP and non-ACP countries, by comparing, analysing and identifying common and differing themes, concepts, issues and lessons in the context of e-Agriculture strategies and policies. This was done in collaboration with the CTA official in charge of this project as well as selected country representatives in ICT4D and ARD sectors. Given the timing and budget constraints, the study focused on gathering the experiences through three basic techniques: i) document review and analysis, ii) email consultations, and iii) Skype and phone calls. In all, twelve (12) stakeholders were consulted from the public sector, the private sector, and international organisations[i]. Respondents came from the Ministries of Agriculture, Information, Communication, ICTs, and other related sectors; and also geographically from ACP and non-ACP countries. Time constraints and the unavailability of stakeholders did not permit the gathering of full details on the achievements or future plans in the countries under discussion.

1.5 Organisation of the rest of the report

The remainder of the report is organised in three further sections. Section II gives an overview of the concept of e-Agriculture, the historical evolution of its international dynamics over the years, the progress made through the e-Agriculture Community of Expertise, and some examples of e-Agriculture applications across the world. The section concludes with comments on the need for policies to guide the implementation of the applications. Section III then looks at the issue of e-Agriculture policies and strategies through national, regional, and international lenses. It covers experiences and perspectives from regional and international institutions in supporting nations in formulating, implementing and evaluating sector policies, and the nature of support given to the national governments. The section also presents experiences, perspectives, key challenges in the policy process, key orientations in the policy documents, and expected areas of support for e-Agriculture policy development from eight countries (5 ACP and 3 non-ACP). The last section (Section IV) then gives a summary of the key findings from the study, recommendations for action, and a conclusion.

See the List of respondents in Table 3