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The Last-Mile Problem in the Information HighwayŠImproving the Reach of Farmers in Developing Countries

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Pp. 779-785 in Proceedings of the World Congress of Computers in Agriculture and Natural Resources (13-15, March 2002, Iguacu Falls, Brazil)  701P0301.(doi:10.13031/2013.8411)
Authors:   Thomas George and Stephen Morin
Keywords:   agriculture, ICT, last mile, information highway, decision aids

There is no dearth of knowledge and new technologies in agriculture, but these rarely reach farmers, especially those in developing countries. Traditionally, knowledge and technologies are expected to flow from knowledge centers to farmers; from the international agricultural research centers (IARCs) and advanced research institutes (ARIs) to national agricultural research systems (NARS) and from there to the national agricultural extension systems (NAES) and the nongovernment organizations (NGOs). It is then assumed that the new knowledge flows from the NAES and NGOs to the farmers. In practice, however, very little of this has happened, in part because NARS and NAES are traditionally decoupled in many developing countries and information channels between them are weak. With the explosion in information and communication technologies (ICT), there is an expectation that knowledge producers would now be substantially empowered to rapidly channel information to the farmer. However, there exists a last mile problem, the information highway ends long before it can reach the farmerthere is very little attention given to connectivity to the lowest tiers. Despite the promise, therefore, much information still remains inaccessible to farmers. But todays ICT actually can solve this last mile problem; farmers can now be empowered by linking them directly to knowledge centers and making knowledge and decision aids accessible locally. We make the case that no effort should be spared in deploying ICT to cover the last mile.

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