Saturday, May 1, 2010

Agricultural Information Managers in Africa and Web 2.0

An online discussion on the Learning Needs of Agricultural Information Managers organized by IAALD Africa Chapter in collaboration with FARA, from 29th to 31st March 2010, revealed some interesting results. Below is a summary of key points raised during the discussion:

  1. Most Agricultural Information Managers in Africa need to learn about Web 2.0 technologies. They need both basic and advanced hands-on (practical) training on Web 2.0 technologies. They also need to be sensitized on the importance and potential applications of Web 2.0 and technologies in the agricultural information and knowledge environment.
  2. Agricultural information managers should be aware that Web 2.0 offers several opportunities to individual professionals, organizations and communities. Web 2.0 [is relevant and even more efficient in cases of low bandwidth connectivity] can require less bandwidth than before; makes it easier to create a web presence and host web pages; requires less programming skills; and provides a forum for communicating all types of information in different formats, i.e. audio, video, text, at very low costs. They need to know what they can do better when using Web 2.0 technologies. There is a need to understand ones context and the type of Web 2.0 technologies that could be used in that context.
  3. Training on Web 2.0 technologies should be both in formal settings (i.e. training workshops and seminars) and informal settings (knowledge sharing – peer interactions, at conferences, etc). E-Learning mode of delivery also has great potential to reach a large number of managers.
  4. Some agricultural information managers in Africa have taken the plunge and are using various Web 2.0 technologies. Some have attended training workshops and are now applying the knowledge they had acquired while others have taught themselves in the use of Web 2.0 technologies. Learning by one-self requires self-drive, motivation, dedication and time.
Some Key Challenges in the use of Web 2.0

Key challenges to learning and using Web 2.0 technologies include:

  1. Location of Internet access points: most professionals have access to the Internet at their work place. This limits the time when they can use the facilities to mainly during office hours. Admittedly, Internet access is now widely available on mobile phones and from other ISPs providing broadband access. However, in sometimes associated costs, i.e. ISP costs, digital camera to capture photos, mobile phone to access the Net, can be prohibitive. Accessing and using the Internet at work places also means that Web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter and sometimes blogs are not readily available.
  2. Unstable and slow internet access: sometimes the connection breaks down so often that it is difficult to do any meaningful work, and most institutions have low bandwidth, which makes it difficult to upload or download large documents, images, video and audio files.