Friday, October 2, 2015

Philippines: ICT industry leaders target inclusive development

“The involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) plays a crucial role in inclusive development,” was the key message of Secretary General Houlin Zhao of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) at the recently concluded 2015 Digital Strategies for Development Summit. He emphasized the need to include SMEs in global discussions concerning development, saying that they are vital in driving innovation forward.

“We look to stir our respective journeys in information and communication technology (ICT) together,” said Philippine Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo who reinforced the ITU secretary general’s call for partnership.

The event provided a platform for organizations and individuals involved in ICT to forge partnerships to ensure sustainability in development. Participants of the conference discussed how current ICT innovations are being used in industries such as agriculture.

Building partnerships in agriculture through ICT

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was one of the partners at the summit that attracted 60 high-level ICT industry leaders and experts as well as some 300 delegates from the public sector, civil society, multilateral agencies, academia, and youth advocacy groups.

Arnel Rala, senior associate scientist at IRRI’s Social Sciences Division (SSD) discussed some of the institute’s innovative work involving remote-sensing technologies. His presentation focused on PRiSM, which aims to develop a monitoring and information system for rice production in the Philippines; and RIICE, a public-private partnership that uses remote-sensing technologies to map and observe rice growth in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Delegates who attended the plenary on ICT Innovation and Partnerships for Sustainable Agricultural Development—many of whom come from various local government units (LGUs)—showed keen interest in IRRI’s programs. One particular project that garnered interest was the Rice Crop Manager, a decision-making tool designed to provide small-scale rice farmers with crop and nutrient management advice through the use of web browsers and smartphones.

Another panelist, Dilek Altin, director of Grameen-Intel’s International Business Development, lauded IRRI’s ICT solutions to rice farming challenges. “It’s natural to think of ICT as one of the key elements that can leverage and improve agriculture,” he said.

“Notwithstanding the technology—partnership is critical to capacity development, emphasized Ana Herrera, senior program lead for Grameen Foundation’s Mobile Agriculture division. The Grameen Foundation helps the world’s poorest people reach their full potential by connecting their determination and skills with the resources they need. “Human interaction enables an effective feedback mechanism with farmers,” she said.

Kamolrat Intaratat, chair of the Asia Pacific Telecontre Network, echoed this sentiment. “It is important to have an integrated approach to these kinds of endeavor. It’s not just a matter of focusing on one tool. It is understanding what partners can do to leverage all available tools,” she said.

She also stressed that, while access to mobile devices and other ICT solutions has become easier, organizations must focus on how to make these solutions more beneficial to farmers, who are the end-users. “The use of ICT can make agriculture—and farmers in particular—smarter,” Ms. Intaratat added.

Aside from agriculture, the conference also covered other areas such as advancement, unemployment, youth, and community building. The Digital Strategies for Development Summit was held in Cebu City on 22 to 24 September.

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