What, if anything, does Information and Communication Technology (ICT) do for agricultural extension?

ICT attracts a lot of funding and it is being used in agricultural extension services. However, we know very little about its effectiveness in extension services and we know even less about its effectiveness compared to face-to-face extension. The aim of this project is to determine what we actually know about the effectiveness of ICT in agricultural extension services.

This study is part of the project Citizen Science and ICT for advancing the prevention and control of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) in East and Central Africa. ICT4BXW is a new and exciting collaboration between the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Bioversity International, the Rwanda Agricultural and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) and the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO) from Germany. The project falls under the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB)

The ICT4BXW project set itself the goal to combat Xanthomonas Wilt of Banana (BXW) in Rwanda, a bacterial disease that affects millions of farmers throughout East and Central Africa. By using digital information and communication technologies (ICT), the project engages and builds on the expertise of farmer promotors in Rwanda to (1) provide advise on how to best control BXW in a cost-effective way, and (2) collect data on disease severity and spread for more effective prevention of BXW. All this with the aim to reduce BXW incidence and severity and improve farmer livelihoods.

However, big goals come together with big questions. For example, we know very little about the effectiveness of digital extension services and, we know even less about their effectiveness in comparison with conventional face-to-face extension. 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. 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. We are looking for highly motivated students to help us with on our roject.

The student can take part in this project either as a thesis student or as an intern. The scope of this project is big enough to support two students. While the questions will be shaped according to student interest, the project needs answers to the following:

Project one (what is out there?)

• What theories of change are used to support the integration of ICT into agricultural extension services?
• What results are claimed?
• What is claimed to cause these results?
• How do reports on interventions that do use ICT compare to those that do not?
• How sensitive is research to unanticipated effects?

Project two (does it hold water?)

• To what extent are the theories of change used validated?
• To what extent are the results claimed valid?
• To what extent are causal claims valid?
• What is actually known about unanticipated effects?
• What predicts differences between what is claimed and what is valid?

Student benefits

The student will…

  • 1. be first author on a real publication (if nothing bad happens along the way)
  • 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 review
  • build a network with experts in the field
  • contribute to a project that matters
  • work in the CGIAR system
  • have supervisors who are, themselves, very interested in and working with them on the study.