Yesterday, I was in an FAO panel at the Global South-South Development Expo 2011, speaking on the role of mobiles in rural development using case studies from Sri Lanka and India. When I mentioned that one should have some concerns about the quality of information and the lack of accountability in the plethora of mobile based agriculture crop advisory services, I was asked a pertinent question by an official from the Ministry of Agriculture in China: Does this mean a greater role for government? What we think is that the basic information collection (for example market prices) should be collected by government or an agent of government and made available as a public good. The private sector can then be free to process it, add value and disseminate, potentially for a few to ensure sustainability. But the heart of the problem that we are concerned with is whether a one way transmission of generic crop “advice” to Farmer X will solve his problems or aggravate them.
Today I spoke at the Future Gov, Sri Lanka conference. After a long time, I had a technical glitch (I raely do, because I work with simple slides and I go early and test; I did all that but the test was not done on the conference machine, fully. Not for the lack of asking). Anyway, here are the slides and the video that was not shown. I made a case for governments freeing up basic data on a non-discriminatory basis.