|Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Justification|
|ICT and Rural Development Justification|
Launching a successful agricultural sector in Africa is a complex challenge that requires a coordinated, systemic response (Sachs, et al., 2004). In explaining progress toward poverty reduction, Sachs (2005, p. 41) comments, “I believe that the single most important reason why prosperity spread, and why it continues to spread is the transmission of technologies and the ideas underlying them.”
The potential for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to support poverty reduction has been demonstrated in a variety of pilot projects in developing countries (Gerster & Zimmerman, 2005; Slater & Tacchi, 2004). However, for a variety of reasons (e.g technological costs, unreliable power and internet etc), ICT have not yet been a significant force for poverty reduction in rural Africa. But there are reasons to believe that ICTs can do better in the agricultural sector information flow as Kozma (2006) relies farmers' stories he captured from telecentre users in East Africa when investigating: how information contributes directly to their economic and social improvement: “In a rural market in northern Tanzania, a buyer offered a maize farmer TSh 2,800 per 100 kg sack. Because he knew the going market price, the farmer refused the offer and was able to get TSh 3,200 per sack. With the difference he was able to purchase sheet metal for a roof on his house. Another Tanzanian farmer was offered TSh 2,500 per 20 kg basket of her chick peas. Because she knew the market price she was able to negotiate TSh 4,000 per basket. With the difference, she was able to pay her daughters’ high school fees.” These examples and many more stimulate our vision of a world where farmers and their lives are better than what it’s today due to technologies that address gaps in rural market information flow.
Furthermore, most telecentres have computers, books, cell phones, video tapes, the Internet and for a few community radios, providing villagers with access to needed information and the means to communicate it. However, most information is quiet static and intended for more informed communities than the current telecentre users. For example information on markets is still limited although it is the most highly needed and it being a rapidly changing 'product', it makes the telecentres alone or un-intervened mobile phone usage alone unable to keep to the pace of addressing its usefulness to community users.
It is evident in most farming communities that the farmers lack linkage to the marketplaces of farm inputs and outputs. They also have limited coordination among each other so as to correlate production efforts with market information to avoid saturating the market. The coordination on the other hand could mean bulking produce to access a better mass market using similar group quality standardize and transportation. Merging mobile solutions and telecentre interventions will increase community economic transaction through the telecentres that would lead to increased community usage and appropriation, money flow and impact and sustainability of the telecentres. It is on these bases that this project is designed and sought as part of a comprehensive information system for addressing rural development and telecentre challenges in Africa.