It is important that a technology platform be neutral in its application. It should not force users into making certain decisions or otherwise be prescriptive. Because literacy cannot be assumed, quality-assured video presentations are a valuable feature. ICT also enables extension personnel to report back on things they see, such as violence or particular agricultural factors, thus creating a positive information feedback loop. And agents can use technology to exchange information with each other, enabling the rapid dissemination of best practices and innovations.

To operate as peacebuilders, extension agents must demonstrate inclusivity, locality, and neutrality in their use and support of technology. They can do this by making information available to all potential stakeholders, customizing information services to reflect local conditions, and remaining neutral to maintain the trust of local community members. The power of ICT is its potential to create change while meeting these criteria. For example, an extension agent who learns of an impending food crisis can take steps to institute a local coping strategy. Or, during time of conflict, an agent can serve as an archivist for records that may be destroyed in war.

Notwithstanding the variety of advantageous uses of ICT, there are some important factors to consider. Technologies need to be upgraded periodically because they change rapidly. People, however, often require more time, especially if they do not have much technical experience or background. A further complication is the reliability of access to technology, as some areas may lack consistent electricity service.

But overall, subgroup participants pointed to the potential of even simple technologies to make a difference in agricultural production and conflict reduction, especially in areas where the basic elements of a technology infrastructure, such as a power grid, are unreliable. For example, radio or simple computers using low-cost video can be both sustainable and scalable. In this way, even very simple and inexpensive ICT can enable a more equitable distribution of information in a postconflict situation.

INVOLVEMENT OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR

The private sector is inevitably involved in the provision of technologies for extension activities, and this involvement can take different forms. For example, a company may provide a technology, perhaps with support from a government or NGO, as a free public service that the private sector can use to sell additional services. Such cross-subsidization has been used in many contexts and is particularly powerful given rapidly increasing ICT capabilities.



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