This working group is for everyone dealing with digitalisation and information and communications technologies for agriculture in developing countries.
Digital native or not, the working group connects GIZ colleagues knowledgeable and experienced in the ICT4Ag field, looking for more expertise and best practices.
What are digitalisation and ICT4Ag all about?
Digitalisation promises a global transformation — more jobs, better services, more opportunities for all. Information and communication technologies in the agri-food sector can be game-changers, but is the digital revolution meeting expectations in rural development? Or in other words — how can this sector develop to truly leave no one behind?
The use of ICTs – meaning all devices, infrastructure and programs for digital processing, storage and transmission of information — for agricultural development covers a broad spectrum from low-tech to high-tech solutions. They have the potential to boost productivity and accelerate the inclusivity and sustainability of economic development.
Many solutions are available in the market, including in the upstream and downstream industries: Advisory and information services, blended learning and gamification, supply chain management and FinTech to name only a few relevant areas. Nowadays, more than 33 million African smallholder farmers and pastoralists already use a solution. Their number is projected to grow to over 200 million by 2030. Additionally, the available solutions adapted to African customers have grown immensely from 41 in 2012 to 390 in 2019.
To date, however, still only a fraction of the potential for ICT4Ag is realized and the use cases are often limited to supply chain management and advisory services. Policy frameworks, the tech ecosystem and digitalisation of rural areas often pose severe constraints for the development of the ICT4Ag sector such as: Limited connectivity and high costs, unreliable electricity supply, modest human capital due to low (digital) literacy and inaccessibility of financial services. While hundreds of players comprise this sector and offer promising solutions, the largest 20 solutions account for 80% of all user registrations. Numbers of downloads do not necessarily reflect regular and productive use, questioning the usability and real benefits of some solutions flooding the market. Start-ups and development partners often tend to drive innovations in this sector, filling the gap of larger private investments reluctant to risk capital in such a volatile sector.
The key questions for all ICT solutions are
- Are they relevant and beneficial to the target group and do they have a sustainable business and financing model that is embedded in the local ecosystem?
- Another important consideration lies in their gender sensibility. In general, the uptake of ICTs of female smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa is low. Only 25% of all users are female.
Welcome to the new working group
In 2020, the entire workplace made a digital leap – the conversion of team collaboration, communication and coordination from largely analog to largely digital took place within a few weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In line with BMZ 2030 and the digital strategy “digitalisation for development”, the former Community of Practice “ICT4Ag” was therefore rebranded the Working Group “Digitalisation and ICT4Ag”.
Our working group consists of digital enthusiasts and believers in the potential of the transformative power of ICT4Ag. At the same time, we recognize that “going digital” is not the jack of all trades for all challenges in agricultural and rural development.
Many ICT4Ag solutions are already being implemented in GIZ agricultural projects. At the same time, challenges such as building long-term business models and exit strategies are not yet sufficiently addressed. Often, project teams struggle to implement « digital by default » due to a lack of expertise and experience in this area. Digital solutions cannot replace on-farm extension and training courses, they are a medium to enhance the impact and reach on the ground. To do so they need to incorporate old human concepts such as trust and agency as well as new concerns such as the protection of personal data.
For this reason, the thematic focus of our new working group is on inclusive organizational learning on how to properly implement « digital by default ». This also includes our own digitization process as GIZ and the need for digitization among our partner organisations.
Our working group is open to all GIZ colleagues working in ICT4Ag as well as digital newbies. Whether digital native or not, the working group connects everyone looking for an introduction to this topic, advanced expertise and good practices.