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AgroInnova Heads to Zambia for ICT4D

Sylvana Lewin, Monday May 21st 2018

ICT has  the potential to make a massive impact when applied to the development, humanitarian, and conservation challenges we currently face. For the past ten years, the ICT4D conference has brought stakeholders together to discuss that potential and how progress can be made.

This year, AgroInnova CPO Kelvin Kotey Ashie attended the conference thanks to a new partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. We spoke to Kelvin to learn more about the experience!

Let’s start with a little background on the ICT4D Conference. What is it all about?

This was the tenth edition of the ICT4D Conference. This year it was held in Zambia. Previously it has been held in India and other countries. It’s a conference where people in the development sector - governments, public organizations, private organizations, NGOs, regulatory bodies, and more - that are using technology for development purposes come together to discuss the issues that are arising, developments that have been made, and how to tackle problems that are occurring. They also look at measuring impact and how to keep progressing.

A lot of companies joined from around the world for this event. Sponsors included John Deere, SAP, Catholic Relief Services, Barclays, and more. There were more than 700 participants there for the event. There was a lot of networking and breakout sessions!

[caption id="attachment_6840" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Kelvin Ashie at ICT4D Kelvin Ashie at ICT4D[/caption]

What was your favorite session?

My favorite session wascalled a “big discussion”. Every day after the main talk, there would be a panel of thought leaders who would talk about a specific industry. My favorite session was the big discussion on agriculture where they spoke about how information and a bundle of services are being used to help smallholder farmers in emerging economies.

My highlight of that session was celebrating failure. The panel agreed that for all sectors there are certain challenges, and normally there is a lot of failure before there is success, but sometimes people don’t like to share failures. If we are able to be open about failures and learn from them, we can then build on top of them to succeed.

Why did GIZ chose to bring a member of the AgroInnova team with them to Zambia?

GIZ runs a farmer business school, where they train farmers on how to run their farms as a business and move beyond subsistence farming. They are helping their farms track inventory, track expenses, track revenue per farming cycle, and more so that they can make informed decisions. GIZ has run this program for the past 6 years manually and they now want to digitize it.

After an application process and pitching, AgroInnova was selected to partner with GIZ on this. They are looking at how this can run beyond the project phase and will support the idea through the first phase of implementation and then through scaling. They’ve trained more than one million farmers across 25 agricultural chains in 18 countries and now want to move beyond that to the next level. They brought us to ICT4D because it was the right kind of atmosphere to see how ICT is being used as an enabling tool to support farmers.

What kinds of insights were you able to gain while at the conference with GIZ?

In terms of looking at the different kinds of people from different sub sectors that came, there was a common thread where everyone agreed that the problems faced in their industries were not isolated, but that they cut across when you got to the root cause. Maybe in some instances it’s regulation, in others it’s education or lack of an ecosystem. When these various industries are trying to solve problems, they should not try to solve them in isolation, but through collaborative efforts.

[caption id="attachment_6841" align="aligncenter" width="665"]Kelvin Ashie with Talia Dweck, ICT Specialist with DAI Global, at the ICT4D Conference. Kelvin Ashie with Talia Dweck, ICT Specialist with DAI Global, at the ICT4D Conference.[/caption]

How did the tech ecosystem in Zambia compare to that of Ghana?

Ghana is a little more advanced than Zambia, but one thing Zambia has working for them is government backing. Last year, the government started running a data center, which is forming a more collaborative emergence between the public and private sectors. They’ve also done a lot of testing. They’ve failed, they’ve learned, and they are really moving. Ghana is moving at an accelerated rate, but we have to be able to learn more. Fail quickly and succeed quickly!

Interested in learning more about AgroInnova and their work with GIZ? Check out this article!