Research brief: Harnessing ICT to scale-up agricultural solutions

This work is being carried out with the aid of a grant from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), www.idrc.ca.

Research problem
Scaling-up agricultural innovations that can contribute to food and nutrition security is one of the key challenges facing development organizations, research institutions, governments and the civil society. This research initiative will examine the role and contribution of information and communication technology (ICT) in enabling the scaling-up of agricultural solutions. The project aims at developing, testing and sharing a conceptual framework for implementing and assessing gender-responsive ICT-for-scale (ICT4scale) initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.

Although the issue of achieving impact at scale has always been a preoccupation of the international development community, recent years have seen an increased effort by development organizations, donors, research institutions and governments to more explicitly study and address the challenges of scaling-up innovations in complex social-ecological environments. As a result, many research and development initiatives are currently being implemented to identify, develop and test strategies to scale-up agricultural innovations – technological, social, institutional, policy.

Within that context, there is a recognition that information and communication technologies (ICTs) could play an important role in enhancing scaling-up processes by facilitating interactions, linkages and networking among key stakeholders and making information about innovations, markets, and weather available, accessible and affordable to farmers. There remain important gaps, however, in our understanding of the developmental impact of ICTs, their impact on gender dynamics, and their potential contribution to scaling agricultural innovations.

Research approach
The main research outcome of this project will be a conceptual framework and tested working models for the implementation of gender-responsive ICT4Scale that could be shared with key stakeholders involved in scaling agricultural innovations. The project will use a variety of research methods:

Literature review: Academic and grey literature on scaling concepts, business models and practices, gender dynamics, and recent advances on scaling solutions using ICT, will be reviewed and synthesized.

Meta-research: Impact assessments and findings from a set of existing ICT-enhanced scaling-up initiatives implemented worldwide will be synthesized using content analysis of documents, surveys, and interviews.

Case studies: Case studies will be conducted in sub-Saharan Africa to examine in more detail the functioning and impact of concrete scaling-up initiatives.

Intervention research: This component will involve the implementation and testing of elements of our ICT4Scale models within existing initiatives, and the assessment of their impact on beneficiaries.

Learning Platform
To broaden the use of ICT4Scale, the project will initiate the establishment of a collaborative learning platform to share the project’s lessons and research findings across a diverse set of stakeholders – donors, NGOs, policy makers, researchers, and private businesses both in Canada and internationally, but also to facilitate knowledge sharing among them.

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Contact: Mark Leclair at mleclair@farmradio.org

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