know that the information provided is valid. They should be inexpensive to acquire and use, though they need not be free, since free things often are not taken seriously. They should support long-term capacity to improve both agricultural productivity and social stability. And they should broaden access to information for all people in a community.
Once a technology and its associated infrastructure are available, the question becomes what problems to address. For example, what is the information needed to solve a particular problem, whether it involves land tenure, water rights, credit, or technical information? Participants cited several examples of how ICT is being used for both agricultural extension and peacebuilding. In many places, farmers call on cell phones for prices of agricultural commodities in different regions, thereby maximizing their income. They can also call a voicemail number and record a question; an expert then records an answer that is available and accessible to all farmers. Cell phones are also used to take pictures of documents and upload them in a secure location so that records will always be available. And blogs on agricultural subjects are an example of the many applications of social media to extension.
In these and other ways, ICT provides access to legal and other kinds of information that are useful for farmers. Technology can thus supplement or augment the advice of an extension agent, providing information that a producer can use to increase outputs.
The subgroup discussed what participants alternately labeled “Gandhian innovation” or “frugal engineering,” in which a community is encouraged and supported to determine how best to use ICT to solve its problems and meet its needs. As the Arab Spring demonstrated, technologies often are used in ways that were not envisioned when they were created. In such cases, the provision of bandwidth and low-cost technologies can lead to innovation that applies creative solutions to local problems.
The use of cell phones in particular has become prevalent and adapted for both agricultural and peacebuilding applications. For example, if a farmer engaged in a land dispute draws a map in the sand and an extension officer takes a picture of it with a cell phone, the picture becomes a piece of evidence that can contribute to settlement of the dispute. As another example, a displaced person can call friends or family members to check on the status of a home region. Members of opposing sides could even talk with each other on cell phones about differences or possible points of reconciliation.