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Innovative uses of low cost ICTs for knowledge mobilization in agricultural communities of practice

This project is a Partnership development to explore innovative uses of low cost communication technology for knowledge mobilization in agricultural communities of practice (AgriCoP). It is a “digital economy” priority area with a partnership approach of cross-sector co-creation of knowledge and understanding, disciplinary and interdisciplinary research partnerships, and a partnered knowledge mobilization initiative. It covers: Communication Development, Communication Technology, Informatics, Social Processes, Other Sociology (Environmental Sociology). This exploratory research capacity building project is made possible through a grant received from the Social Science and Humanitarian Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.

The aim of the emerging partnership proposed herein is to develop a collaborative capacity to conduct in-depth social science research that considers all segments of the agricultural value chain. The partnership seeks to engage agricultural communities of practice in social practices related to knowledge mobilization that might be enhanced through innovative use of low cost, widely accessible ICTs such as mobile phones and community radio broadcasting.A principal focus for the partnership will be the enhancement of knowledge mobilization between agricultural extension services and communities of practice organized around sustainable farming. In particular, we are interested in how to link traditional agricultural extension services with those communities of practice that are taking innovative approaches to sustainable farming. We are also interested in those communities of practice that involve farm women and young farmers, with evidence suggesting that these groups may be influential adopters off new ICTs.

The project will establish and support the activities of an emerging international and multi-organizational partnership among the Canadian partners: University of Alberta, the University of Guelph, the Sri Lankan partners LIRNEasia, University of Peradeniya, and the Department of Agriculture.The partnership will use Sri Lankan case studies to examine how academic institutions, government agencies and international organizations can work with local communities to enhance knowledge mobilization for sustainable farming practices using low cost, widely accessible ICTs.

The ICT components for the partnership are based on free, open source software platforms that integrate mobile phones, radio broadcasting, and Web 2.0 services. These platforms include FrontlineSMS, FreedomFone, and Ushahidi which are being used around the world in both developing and developed countries and are well suited to rapid prototyping of a diverse range of communication services including those in the agricultural sector.

The partnership arrangement will explore the best practices in enabling local communities to work with agricultural extension services to develop innovative knowledge mobilization techniques using these low cost platform Examples might include the provision of location-specific crop or weather information (FrontlineSMS/FreedomFone), mapping and visual analytics for pest management (Ushahidi as well as services for organizing local meetings or managing a database of frequently asked question (FrontlineSMS or FreeddomFone).

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