Agriculture is the largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for the majority of the world’s poorest people. As the backbone of many developing country economies, agricultural development becomes synonymous with global development. Research and development efforts to improve agriculture have been ongoing for nearly a century, but with new and ever-changing global challenges, agriculturists need to be equipped with the right information to tackle those challenges. Through advances in information and communication technologies (ICTs), most of the information needed is available on the internet. But the sheer volume and uncertainty about accuracy makes getting correct and credible information very difficult. Web portals aim to resolve this situation. They are specially designed single access points to information collected from diverse sources.
Social media refers to the web-based tools and media that allow users to personally and informally interact, create, share, retrieve, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. Social media includes social networking sites, blogs and microblogs, online forums, discussion boards and groups, wikis, socially integrated text messaging services, videos and podcasts, and many more. Rural advisory services (RAS) have seen enormous changes in the 21st Century that require interaction among multiple stakeholders ‒ public, private, and non-profit – and learning to take collective action. These services have been called upon to be less ‘top-down’ and more interactive, and social media can be a potentially powerful tool in this regard. With increasing reach among rural people, especially the youth, through increasing mobile phone subscriptions and decreasing data tariffs, social media can help RAS to reach farmers more efficiently.
Improved availability of, and access to, information and communication technologies (ICTs) – especially mobile phones, computers, radio, internet, and social media – has provided many more opportunities for collection, processing, storage, retrieval, managing, and sharing of information in multiple formats. Some of these applications, such as tele-centres, web-portals, call centres, mobile apps, community radio, digital videos, audio and video conferencing, and e-learning platforms, have the potential to provide a wide range of services (information, awareness, promotional, advisory, knowledge, technology transfer, training, education, and much more) to farmers and other agricultural innovation system (AIS) actors in a timely, comprehensive, cost-effective, and interactive manner. However, the high number and rapidly changing availability of ICTs may leave extension managers confused as to which methods are available and when to use them. This note explains how to navigate the many types and gives tips on when to use them.
For agricultural development practitioners, social media tools can expand the reach of your ommunity, strengthen partner relationships, support programmatic initiatives, and provide a vital eans to increase the visibility of your public profile and engagement.
A handbook by USAID
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