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Call for BSc Students: Use of ICT in agricultural extension

Today, the use of ICT agricultural extension services in the global south attracts a lot of interest and funding. However, we know very little about its effectiveness in extension services and we know even less about its effectiveness compared to traditional, face-to-face extension services. Yet, knowing and understanding the factors determining impact of ICT innovations on crop pests and diseases is essential to develop tools that that can make a real and lasting change. A great deal of faith has been placed in the use of ICT in international social and economic development. That said, there are strong critiques of the use of ICT and there are good reasons to question the evidence that is used to support continued investment.

We believe that this is the right time determine what is actually known about digital and non-digital extension services for pest and disease management. The aim of this project is to determine what the literature says about digital interventions in agronomy and what we know about the effectiveness of interventions.

We are looking for highly motivated BSc students to help us with our project.

Content

The project will conduct a systematic review of peer-reviewed and grey literature with the objective to answer the following main research question: What is known about the effectiveness of information and communication technologies (ICT) in supporting pest and disease management interventions and agricultural extension in roots, tubers, bananas, rice, grains and cereal crops in Africa?

BSc students can support our review work while doing their BSc thesis research. There are quite a number of independent but mutually reinforcing projects that might be undertaken in this area by single or teams of BSc students.

Examples of research topics around which BSc students can formulate their research questions:

  • What known about the effectiveness of the use of ICT in (insert area of developmental concern) in (insert location in the aid chain) in (insert region)
    We are interested to learn about reported effectiveness of ICT in various geographies and for diverse purposes, e.g. documenting pest and disease problems, sharing extension information.
  • What are the characteristics of reportedly very successful/failed ICT interventions? We want to learn about the different interventions that today’s literature reports about: Which interventions were reported as successful or failed, and how was this evaluated? Are there interesting patterns (un)successful interventions: e.g. location, objective, implementing organization
  • What are the reported unintended/unwanted/unexpected outcomes of interventions?We know that new technologies can have outcomes or impact that was not anticipated, but we don’t know if the literature is sensitive for unanticipated effects and considering responsible innovation.
  • What is known about the geographical spread and adoption of digital agronomy interventions and tools? Wouldn’t it be great if we could map the geographical spread of all the different ICT interventions implemented in the past 10 years together with the reported type and number of users that have adopted the technologies.
  • What are the trends in interventions, their objectives and software and hardware used over time? Ten years ago telecentres were a hype while these days everybody wants to make a mobile app. Can the literature tells us more about these trends in the use of ICT in agriculture? Who used which software and hardware technologies when and with which objectives?

Student benefits

The student will:

  • Learn how interventions are framed and justified
  • Learn how primary research is and should be done in the real world
  • Learn how primary research methods work and fail
  • Learn how to do and publish a literature review
  • Provide input for one or more publications (with potential co-authorship)
  • Build a professional network with experts in the field
  • Contribute to a project that matters
  • Have supervisors who are, themselves, very interested in and working with them on the study.

Expected outputs

  1. Students will be expected to prepare an independent report consistent with the expectations of a BSc thesis. This thesis will be accompanied by a technical report that fully details the research process. Preparation of the technical report will habituate students to good academic practice.
  2. Those students who are engaged in collaborative projects will also prepare technical reports that are mutually compatible so as to facilitate rapid integration of results across a number of studies. These technical reports may be taken up by MScs, PhDs or staff in the preparation of reports that synthesize results across a number of individual BSc projects.