Making ICT Initiatives More Relevant: Creating Spaces for Farmers’ Participation in ICT Policies in the Philippines
17 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2011
Date Written: December 22, 2011
There is a tendency for participation to be sidetracked in the highly infrastructure-centric discourse on information and communication technology for development (ICT4D). For some time, views anchored on technological determinism have dominated the discourse. Technology has been viewed as a “magic wand” that will serve as the answer to most development concerns. The discourse, however, has evolved as many ICT4D scholars have pushed for the social dimension of ICTs. It has been argued that if ICTs were to create significant impacts on the lives of the poor and the marginalised, ICT applications must stem from the identified needs of the community, and not just on the “global need” to modernize (Mansell, 2006). Heeks and Molla (2009) argue the interest on ICT4D studies has already shifted from readiness to impact. Readiness refers to the availability of the necessary ICT infrastructure to support ICT initiatives, while impacts focus on the value-added or the development contributions of ICTs (Heeks and Molla, 2009). All this is rooted from the growing discussion on the need to capture the development impact of multi-million dollar investments on ICT projects.
We will argue in this paper that participation especially of the primary stakeholders in ICT projects is imperative if ICTs are to create significant impacts in their lives. Genuine participation, not tokenistic, will allow spaces for participation of the members of the community, which will result in more relevant ICT initiatives. It is hoped that by meticulously executing participatory mechanisms, pseudo-participation, which is unwittingly entrenched in many development projects worldwide, can be avoided. Pseudo-participatory mechanisms are rampant such that scholars have called for investigation of projects that purport to be participatory (Thomas, 2006).
In this paper, we will proceed by first presenting the findings of the two research studies on ICT4D in Philippine agriculture commissioned by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). We will use these studies as take off points for the justification of the participatory mechanisms that we will forward in this paper. The studies, both national in scope, could lend methodological recommendations to assessing ICT for agriculture initiatives.
To further strengthen our proposal, we will likewise present some ICT4D experiences from other countries that tried to employ the participatory approach. We attribute to a significant extent our appreciation of participatory communication to the works of Bessette (2004), Mefalopulos (2008) and Tufte (2009). We will also present some ways on how to make ICTs inclusive.
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