Information and Communication Technology for Development in the Pacific Agriculture
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 14:15

The ‘Framework for Action on ICT for Development in the Pacific’ (FAIDP) was formulated in response to the call from Forum in Cairns (August 2009) for the Pacific Plan Digital Strategy to be reviewed and updated. This direction reaffirmed the continuing importance of ICT as a tool for development in the region and further supports the ICT Ministers’ Wellington Declaration: ‘We recognise that information and communication technologies (ICTs), while not an end in themselves, have a key role as a basis for economic development, while also promoting and enhancing social cohesion, cultural enrichment and environmental conservation’.

The ICT Ministers recognised that ‘While the Pacific region faces a number of obstacles to the effective deployment of communications and other infrastructure, we acknowledge that the region also stands to benefit enormously from the effective use of ICTs’. FAIDP outlined a new approach to developing and improving ICT services to support development and governance and improve the livelihoods of communities in the Pacific region. It acknowledges that national ICT policies and plans and an integrated coordinated approach are the principle means for ICT to contribute meaningfully to sustainable development. FAIDP was endorsed by Pacific Regional ICT Ministers in Tonga, in June 2010 and further acknowledged by the Pacific Forum Leaders in their 2010 Vanuatu Communiqué.

e-Agriculture is the use of ICT to deliver products and services to stakeholders of the Agriculture and Forestry sector. One of the key initiatives of FAIDP is e-Agriculture (as well as e-Government, e-Health and e-Education). And a number of FAIDP priorities are relevant to the Agriculture and Forestry sector including: developing access to rural areas and remote islands, websites, telecentre/community knowledge learning centres, financial inclusion programme, and linkages to the Energy sector. Financial inclusion (for example, via mobile phone fund transfer) would also help revitalise rural development. SPC approaches focused on 2 key areas: the use of ICT and collaborative approaches to implement activities focusing on good practices and success stories, and policies that have an impact on agriculture/ forestry activities. Mobile phones and Knowledge and Learning Community Centres can improve agricultural information sharing and increase the quantity and quality of agricultural information available, improving food production, enhancing food security and eventually enhancing market participation.

These efforts could also contribute to more informed policy decisions in PICTs. PNG commented on communications being difficult due to terrain, and the use of expensive HF radio had changed to cheaper mobile phones. The ever changing nature of ICTs meant that PICTs had to keep up despite limited resources. SPC said 80% of telecentres fail due to financial constraints, thus necessitating a monitoring and evaluation phase in the ICT Framework to address the issue of sustainability.

The HOAFS meeting agreed to:

(i) Acknowledge that ICT is an important tool that contributes to the development of the agriculture sector and rural areas;

(ii) Note the potential of the Framework for Action on ICT for Development in the Pacific in assisting the agriculture sector; and

(iii) Note the LRD ICT initiatives in agriculture and rural development.