350 | IAASTD Global Report The barriers associated with ICTs

Among the major barriers associated with ICT, we include un­even access, human resource development and local content (Torero and von Braun, 2006). Uneven access is most dramatic between urban and rural areas, and unfortunately most ICT indicators—when available—are nation-wide and therefore mask these fundamental differences. Other barriers include:

•     The macroeconomic models referred to above work best for middle and high income countries; and for lower in­come countries the economic development impact from ICTs is expected to be modest (Torero and von Braun, 2006).

•     The investments required are not simply about infra­structure. The valuation of the benefits of ICTs goes beyond the essential "access perspective", to one of "effective use". Effective use brings together several prerequisites: reliable access to infrastructure and user equipment, relevant content, cost-saving or meaning-making services, capacity development and financial sustainability (Gurstein, 2003).

•     The human and organizational development aspects of ICTs have in the past been eclipsed by a fascination with the technological dimension. Capacity development re­fers to the training of individuals across the wide range of technologies, services, applications and content ar­eas, and to the capacities by small and medium size en­terprises to make use of ICTs.

•     There is evidence that, while those with higher income and levels of education derive most benefits from ICTs, the poor spend roughly 3.7% of their monthly income on telecommunications services (Kayani and Dymond, 1997; Song and Bertolini, 2002). To date, the poverty alleviation impact of ICTs has been confirmed for radio and telephony, whereas the evidence for the Internet is less consistent (Kenny, 2002). In other words, the poor benefit from communication services significantly more than from information services. ICTs and traditional and local knowledge

The development and spread of traditional and local knowl­edge can benefit directly from ICTs when holders of this knowledge have access to it and control over its utilization (Srinivasan, 2006). The integration of traditional and lo­cal knowledge and western scientific knowledge will need an interface that allows each to express its wisdom and forms, without sacrificing its cultural relevance. However, increased globalization and integration of markets presents both an opportunity and a threat to traditional and local knowledge. While knowledge will be transferred more easi­ly across regions and countries, traditional and local knowl­edge might well disappear if adequate support systems are not put in place.

     Challenges in terms of power and control will increase under the baseline: the consortia that own and operate ICT infrastructure work under a market logic that has little cur­rency for respecting local and traditional knowledge. The im­portance of mediating organizations thus becomes evident if we are to minimize the potential abuse that such power dif­ferentials create. Moreover, mediating organizations would be necessary to coordinate the coming together of all inter-


ested parties involved. The challenge turns to the unresolved barriers of providing access to connectivity across rural and remote areas with weak demand, uneven market access and competing public investment requirements. Policy implications

At present, Universal Access policies have failed to reach the most marginal; they have in fact given the elite groups a renewed relative advantage. This skewed impact is reminis­cent of the initially uneven benefits from the Green Revolu­tion. Under the reference conditions a divide continues to grow regarding access to ICTs between very poor and richer farmers. Hence, a more strategic targeting of policies, invest­ment and incentive plans, and methodological innovation is necessary; the following are possible policy scenarios:

•     There is an emerging understanding in ICT circles that no single approach to service delivery will satisfy the needs of all users (Ramírez and Lee, 2005). Increasing access to ICTs cannot be carried out by market forces alone. The liberalization and privatization of telecom­munications created effective competition only in high density markets (in industrialized and in developing economies). Government participation in subsidizing capital infrastructure—often though competitive grants to the private sector—remains a central policy instru­ment, yet it needs to be adapted to the conditions of each country.

•     Access is not enough. The notion of effective use calls for attention in tandem to a wide range of readiness requirements; training requirements, service develop­ment, local content development, to name but three.

•     Local or "mediating" organizations that work as me­diators between community needs, technology, markets and government programs can be strategic in this as­pect. Mediating organizations can aggregate demand from health, education, and the business community to help attract infrastructure and service investments.

•     For local content and traditional knowledge to be re­spected and harnessed, attention is first needed on issues of power and control over the infrastructure. The impor­tance of policies that nurture local organizations is once again of paramount importance in the content area.


The era of seeing ICTs as magic bullets is past. ICTs are not a panacea for the poor in terms of the agriculture or natural resource management options; in contrast they do give an edge to the better off who already link with markets. Indeed for the poor the short term promise of ICTs is more evident in enhancing health and education services and especially in reducing their transaction costs (communication). On the other hand its information potential is only achievable if it is integrated with a comprehensive rural community devel­opment strategy.

5.5.3 Food safety and food security The reference case Trust in agricultural product quality has become one of the most important issues for consumers, since food rep­resents security, comfort and the ability to provide basic