16 June 2009


ICT Workshop at Science Forum 2009 Pushes the Envelope

The envelope of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is on it’s way to being pushed yet a little further via the ICT Workshop, coordinated by Ajit Maru, Agricultural Research Officer, GFAR, at the Science Forum 2009 from 16 to 17 June in Wageningen, the Netherlands.  Exploring the ways in which we can use today’s modern technologies to better advance, mobilize and apply global scientific knowledge is what this Workshop is all about.


How do we make the most of today’s milestones in innovation?  In order to ride this new wave of technology, we must strategically invest in capacities, bandwidth and infrastructure, skills, tools and applications and also adopt an ‘open innovation’ mindset that breaks barriers, links data and knowledge, and guarantees the public accessibility to information captured through science.



“This workshop is a great opportunity to scan across the worlds of agricultural science and ICTs, seeking out patterns and opportunities that are likely to be significant in 5 or 10 years from now” says Peter Ballantyne, President of the International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists (IAALD), who is also a judge of the Science Forum 2009 poster competition and the moderator for the ICT Workshop. It will also explore and discuss the trends and changes we can expect in the near future.

In this respect, speakers will implore participants to think of the possibilities of what we need to change, or to improve, in order to better research extension capabilities and connect agricultural science to society and those it is intended to benefit.  These topics for discussion include: improving communications infrastructure and bandwidth, supporting applications that integrate data and information or foster the inter-operability of applications and information systems, bettering formal education and training in information and communication sciences, extending the generation of information content as a ‘public good’ that is widely accessible and is licensed to be easily re-used and applied, etc.


As always, there are a few hurdles to overcome before we reap the benefits of technology innovation in AR4D, but we are beginning to make headway.  “Major changes lie in Internet-based computing, which will continue for years to come- from the spread of public wireless data networks, which enable gathering data from sensors and distributing information, to rural farmers, to the emergence of ‘cloud computing,’ which enables inexpensive processing of massive datasets by any Internet user, lowering the institutional capacity required to participate in research- the potentials for agriculture and agricultural research in developing countries are aplenty,” notes Enrica Porcari, Chief Information Officer (CIO) and ICT-KM Program Leader, CGIAR.


It’s a safe bet to say that no one underestimates the vital role that innovation and technology plays in knowledge-sharing and effect they can have on poverty alleviation, which is why this Workshop, through its exploration of new avenues and improvements, is essential in setting the framework for change. 


“ICTs are revolutionary for agriculture and rural development and this meeting will create many further opportunities to hasten and advance this progress,” emphasized Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary, GFAR. 


We look forward to prompting more discussion and action in this field through this Workshop and its outcomes. To read more about the ICT Workshop, its lead discussants and their think pieces (corresponding discussion items) and the top ten posters and abstracts selected for its poster competition, please click on the link below.

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