Science Forum 2009 – ICT Workshop

The Science Forum held in Wageningen, NLD on 16 – 17 June focused on innovative science and the arrangements that can help to mobilize it more effectively to address poverty alleviation and sustainable natural resource management.

The workshop focused on six domains, each considering promising areas of science within that domain. They include:
1. Resilient natural resource systems
2. The future of food: developing more nutritious diets and safer food
3. Changing the Emperor: ICTs transforming agricultural science, research and technology generation
4. Beyond the yield curve: exerting the power of genetics, genomics and synthetic biology
5. Eco-efficiencies in agro-ecosystems
6. Agriculture beyond food science for a biobased economy

ICTs transforming agricultural science, research and technology generation

Information and Communication Technologies – Ways to Mobilize and Transform Agricultural Science for Development was a paper presented by Ajit Maru (GFAR), Enrica Porcari CGIAR), and Peter Ballantyne. The paper argues that the processes by which knowledge, information and data are generated and shared are being transformed and reinvented – especially enabled by ongoing developments in the area of information and communication technologies (ICTs) – and that these transformations provide massive opportunities for the entire Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) community to truly mobilize and apply global scientific knowledge, in ways that are hardly yet appreciated.

Some of the trends and changes that we can expect in the coming years include;

  • Increasingly ‘ubiquitous’ connectivity along value chains
  • Increasingly ‘precise’ applications and tools
  • Increasingly ‘accessible’ data and information
  • Increasingly ‘diverse’ set of applications available across digital clouds
  • Increasingly ‘inter-connected’ tools and knowledge bases

The paper highlights that the most significant impact of ICTs on agricultural technology generation will be in connecting and engaging communities in participatory agricultural innovation. Science will be able to come out of its ‘silos.’ New agricultural processes and technologies to solve agricultural problems will emerge through continuous innovation with user communities, thus eliminating many of the constraints that agricultural science, research and technology generation now face. The need for conventional extension from research stations to farmers’ fields will diminish. Agricultural innovations will best fit the needs of user communities.

Some of the changes that are needed to move in these include:

  1. Improve communications infrastructure and bandwidth, investing in lower-cost hardware, software and applications that connect science right along the development chain.
  2. Increase and improve formal education and training in information and communication sciences that contributes to innovation in the use of new ICTs in agriculture.
  3. Extend the generation and dissemination of data and information content as a ‘public good’ that is widely accessible and is licensed to be easily re-used and applied.
  4. Support applications that integrate data and information or foster the interoperability of applications and information systems, allowing safe and ethical access while protecting necessary rights.
  5. Encourage the effective uptake and use of data, information and knowledge, particularly focusing on capacity building dimensions necessary for the outputs of science to have impacts.
  6. Support innovation in the workflows, processes and tools used to create, share, publish, visualize, and connect the outputs of agricultural science and the people engaged in it.

The paper briefly traces some advances in information and communications technologies and forecasts how it might in the future have an impact upon agricultural research, innovation, and agricultural development in general.
These include; Hardware and Connectivity, Ubiquitous Telecommunication Infrastructure, Utility or “Cloud” Computing, Software and Content Management, Interaction with Biology, Biotechnology, Nanotechnology, Materials Science and ICTs

Analytical Framework for ICTs in Agriculture and Agricultural Science were discussed under

  • ICTs and Agricultural Production
  • ICTs and Agricultural Science, Research and Technology Generation
  • ICTs and Agricultural Innovation

It will change the realm of agricultural science, where it will not be only the formally educated scientists who bring new technological innovations but whole communities who do so. All within an agricultural community will be producers and consumers of information and innovations.

The paper has a well defined framework indicates the interconnection between basic sciences, applied sciences, information and communications development and its linkages with agricultural science, research and technology generation.

ICT use in agriculture and agricultural development as a distinct area of research is not yet recognized in a majority of agricultural research institutes. This needs to be corrected and entailed with appropriate organizational structures that nurture application of ICTs for agricultural innovation and technology generation.

The new arrangements needed for the effective and efficient use of advances in information and communications sciences and ICTs require the following:

  1. Improve communications infrastructure and bandwidth, investing in lower-cost hardware, software and applications that connect science right along the development chain.
  2. Increase and improve formal education and training in information and communication sciences that contributes to innovation in the use of new ICTs in agriculture.
  3. Extend the generation and dissemination of data and information content as a ‘public good’ that is widely accessible and is licensed to be easily re-used and applied.
  4. Support applications that integrate data and information or foster the interoperability of applications and information systems, allowing safe and ethical access while protecting necessary rights
  5. Encourage the effective uptake and use of data, information and knowledge, particularly focusing on capacity building dimensions necessary for the outputs of science to have impacts.
  6. Support innovation in the workflows, processes and tools used to create, share, publish, visualize, and connect the outputs of agricultural science and the people engaged in it.

To cope with all the diversity, there is an emerging need for a set of institutions with agreed standards, norms, rules and regulations to govern and guide the flow of information related to agriculture and ensure its equitable access through the Internet.

The CGIAR has an important role to play as creator and curator of much of the essential data and information needed, also as connector between different science communities seeking development impact.

Click here to read the full paper


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  1. #1 by Hydrolyze on October 16, 2009 - 2:36 am

    Just wanted to say hello all. This is my first post.

    I would like to learn a lot here.

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