Tumwebaze Roots for Universal Connectivity to Stimulate e-agriculture
Agriculture Minister Frank Tumwebaze has called for universal connectivity to strengthen e-agriculture, Chimp Corps report.
“All of us in the e-agriculture innovation ecosystem (Innovators start-ups, policy makers and farmers) must discuss and agree on what broadband policies can work for all to ensure universal connectivity,” said Tumwebaze at the World Bank-Africa-Korea Agtech Innovation summit in Nairobi.
“You can’t achieve digital inclusion and adoption without affordability and access to reliable broadband,” said the Minister who previously headed the ICT docket in Uganda.
“Correct policies on broadband penetration need to be discussed with special emphasis on making data/internet a public good the way water and electricity are. Data/internet must be accessible, affordable and reliable.”
The Summit in Nairobi is showcasing innovators’ works to key government officials from Kenya, Uganda and South Korea, World Bank stakeholders, prominent accelerators and venture capital firms (VCs).
e-Agriculture is a global community of practice that facilitates dialogue, information exchange and sharing of ideas related to the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for sustainable agriculture and rural development.
Crop yields and livestock productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa are not rising fast enough to meet growing food demand due to increased climate events, reliance on rainfed agriculture, low uptake of advisory and extension services, lack of access to better inputs (seeds, fertilizer, pesticides) and low rates of mechanization.
However, innovations in agriculture enable smallholder farmers to leapfrog their current constraints and improve their yields, incomes, nutritional status, and climate resilience.
These technologies range from mobile apps to digital identities for farmers, solar applications for agriculture, portable agriculture devices, and bio-fortified foods.
The systems also empower farmers by either accelerating agri-food outcomes by multiple folds and/or by circumventing the conventions of the value chain to achieve the same/better results — but with a more efficient agri-food outcome.
Tumwebaze said deliberate policy incentives that promote affordability of Digital devices (smart phones and not feature phones) with Wi-Fi enabled applications must be written and implemented by the ministries responsible for ICT.
He said internet service providers (ISPs) need to be strictly regulated on issues of quality of service.
The Minister added: “The e-agriculture solutions and start- ups must be highly effective yet simple to learn so as to easily facilitate uptake among the targeted clientele (farmers) which has the majority without much IT skills.”
Tumwebaze called for the facilitation of linkages between farmers and e-agriculture start-ups such that the former can appreciate that the latter have a solution for them.
“Facilitate linkages between agricultural research institutions and e-agriculture Innovators so as to create an integrated agri-research and tech ecosystem. If every Agricultural research product to be released is to have an integrated IT (e-agriculture) solution/component, farmers will easily get along,’ he added.
Tumwebaze said ministries of agriculture need to appreciate and understand the role of technology in disease control, climate change mitigation, instant farmer advisory to compensate for gaps in extension systems, traceability and thus design policies and strategic plans that prioritize use of digital technologies in the entire Agriculture value chains.
The Minister said with the support of the World Bank, Uganda is currently implementing the e-voucher system to link farmers to inputs with the objective of ensuring quality of inputs and traceability issues since you can see who has supplied and who has bought.
“You also know how crucial traceability is in building confidence among the large market players. The above issues of lack of universal connectivity however, continue to affect the system’s efficiency,” he added.
“This two-day summit, therefore, presents us an opportunity to discuss and agree together on how to tackle these bottlenecks. We need positive and not negative technology disruption. So when we talk about disruption, let’s emphasize the positive change side that comes with it. That is how we shall enable our not-so-good ICT literate/skilled populations to see advantages of tech.”
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