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ICT Enabling University Engagement with Smallholder Farmers

Many African countries especially those in sub-Sahara Africa are endowed with abundant natural resources, ideal for the development of sustainable agriculture.  It is worth noting that nearly 80% of populations in sub-Sahara Africa depends on agriculture as the main source of livelihood of which, over 70% of these farmers are smallholder farmers. On top of abundant natural resources, African higher education sector is rapidly expanding providing platforms for creating new knowledge and technologies which are vital in enhancing smallholder agriculture. Despite the abundance of natural resources, favorable climatic conditions, and a vibrant higher education sector many of these countries continue to suffer from food and nutrition insecurity.

Smallholder agriculture continues to suffer from adverse effects of climate change, pests and diseases outbreaks, and limited access to quality farming knowledge, limited access to market information, unreliable wealth information, and poor extension services, among others.  African higher education institutions continue to boast about cutting edge research on challenges facing farmers. However most of the research outputs from these institutions has had little impact on lives of smallholder farmers due to constrains in the current models of engagement between higher education institutions and smallholder farmers.

Majority of the African Higher Education Institution (HEI) especially those engaged in agriculture are part of their National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS). These institutions run active community outreach programs aimed at disseminating agricultural technologies, information and knowledge to farmers. The programs are mainly implemented through student internships, publications, engagement with extension officers and on-farm demonstration. Studies indicate that over 50% of knowledge dissemination done by HEI is through publications, yet majority of the farmers are illiterate, rendering the knowledge inaccessible to farmers who need it most. While other approaches of knowledge and information dissemination like on- farm demonstrations, student internships and extension officers provide an enriched engagement with the farmers, they are too expensive to conduct by the university in a sustainable way in terms of staff time and associated logistical costs. Besides, these approaches do not provide farmers with opportunities to raise specific information needs on demand, as activities are preprogrammed based on the university research agenda. Current HEI outreach models are characterized by weak stakeholder linkages, inappropriate knowledge packaging, intricate technical language and limited interaction with end-users of information among other constraints. Seeking for more relevance and impact, HEI including universities across the global are exploring innovative ways of enhancing engagement between researchers and farmers.

A number of studies across the globe continue to demonstrate that appropriate application of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) can enhance engagement of HEI with smallholder farmers, resulting into increased uptake of agricultural knowledge. The enhancement in engagement is in terms of improved knowledge packaging and visualization, timely availability of information, interactive collaboration, mutual learning, and impact assessment of knowledge shared, reduced costs of engagement, among others.

How Can HEI integrate ICT into their Community Engagement Programme?

Successful integration of ICT’s into any business process requires systematic planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. It is common in many African enterprises and organizations to hear of stories about failed ICT initiatives and most blames are placed on the technology. Yet, ICT integration requires realignment of business processes, orientation of staff to work in the new operating context, updating of management and governance framework to reflect the new institutional operating context, and availability of appropriate ICT infrastructure and associated utilities. Therefore, any HEI which intends to establish an ICT mediated engagement with smallholder farmers should consider the following;

A Community engagement Policy: The policy should clearly describe how community engagement is undertaken through the use of ICT. The policy should prescribe the intended services to be delivered to stakeholder such as farmers, the technology platforms upon which engagement is to be conducted, models of staff performance monitoring and reward, profile of stakeholders to be engaged, and measure of successful engagement, among others.

Appropriate ICT Infrastructure: HEI should invest in appropriate ICT infrastructure to support community engagement ubiquitously. The focus should be on platforms which provide self-service on the concept of anywhere, anytime and at the wish of the stakeholder. Opportunities to exploit open source systems and applications should be considered as these generally have lower total cost of technology ownership and have a wider user support base.

Monitoring and evaluation Mechanism:  HEI should establish systems that can easily monitor and evaluate community engagement action implementation among stakeholders in real or near real-time. Technologies such as mobile applications which provide location services and GIS can be tapped into.

Establishment of Innovation Hubs with HEI:  Most HEI especially those running engineering and ICT programmes can tap into the potential of their students to develop the relevant applications and technologies to support the community engagement. HEI should consider options of establishing internal innovation and incubation hubs to address their internal ICT needs in general.

Establishment of Collaboration and Partnerships: Successful implementation of ICT mediated community engagement largely depends on existence of effective collaboration between HEI and other stakeholders. Therefore, HEI should invest efforts to establish viable collaborations with stakeholders like government agencies focus is on agriculture, community leaders, telecom operators, and civil society organizations, among others.

Information Communication Technologies have the potential of transforming community engagement function of HEI in Africa if a systematic integration process is done as briefly highlighted in the forgoing text. The focus should be to exploit open source technologies and harnessing the expertise within HEI.

 

From Ruforum Blog – https://blog.ruforum.org/2017/10/31/ict-enabling-university-engagement-with-smallholder-farmers/

Internship opportunities for Kenyan, Rwandan and Uganda students in Indian IT companies

The International Trade Centre (ITC), a technical agency of the United Nations, is launching an Indo-East African Internship Programme in 2017, targeting female graduates and students from Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The Indo-East African Internship programme is one of the initiatives under a project called Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA). The five-year project aims to facilitate trade, investment and technology transfer between India and East Africa.

The IT service sector is one of the key sectors for SITA in three countries: Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.  Each of the governments in these countries has prioritized the development of a vibrant IT service sector, and is investing in infrastructure, skills and capacity in order to build competitiveness and increase socio-economic development.

Young graduates and students often lack the opportunity of relevant hands-on experience, making it challenging for them to enter the job market. On the other hand, future employers find it difficult to identify young talents with employable skills. Furthermore, women working in the IT sector are still a minority – calling for initiatives to unlock this untapped potential across East Africa.

To help creating East African IT talent, SITA is launching a new Indo-East African Internship Programme, enabling high-potential female graduates and students from East Africa to gain skills, knowledge and experience in Indian IT companies.

The Indian IT sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy and a global market leader. Gaining practical skills and experiences in this environment will help young talent to enhance their employability at home as well internationally. It will also expose young East African women to latest technologies and technological developments, enabling them in bringing back knowledge of best practices from India to East Africa.

 

SITA partners with Indian IT companies to provide outstanding female graduates and students from Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda with a 3-6 months internship opportunity. Candidates will go through a rigid selection process, based on the companies’ requirements. SITA will support travel costs (international flight tickets) and costs for medical insurances. Companies will pay a small stipend to the interns.

Requirements:

 Kenyan, Rwandan, Ugandan nationals below 30 years

  • Only female candidates
  • Ideal candidates have a completed Master’s Degree. As a minimum requirement, candidates must have completed their Bachelor’s degree, with 60% and above throughout. Students in their final year of Bachelor’s degree will not be accepted
  • Eligible study programmes include: Computer Sciences; Computer Engineering, Information Technology; Applied Computing, Information Systems; Information Technology Enabled Services; and very similar.
  • There are also few non-technical internship positions. Here, minimum requirement is a completed Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Ideally, candidates have completed a Master’s Degree of Business Administration.
  • Technical profiles: Students must have practical experience in at least 1 programming language. They must be able to prove this practical experience (e.g. gained through a university project)-
  • Students must have outstanding written and oral communication skills

If you are interested to participate, please submit your application by Friday, 3 February 2017. Please complete the two following steps:

  1. Submit your application at http://www.intracen.org/sita/Indo-Africa-Internship/
  2. Send your CV to sita@intracen.org copy naturinda@intracen.org . Please put ‘Indo-East African Internship Programme’ in the subject line of the email. The name of your CV should be first lastname.firstname

Do note: Incomplete applications (missing information; missing CVs) will not be considered. Applications received later than 3 February 2017 will not be considered. Applications and CVs full of spelling errors, with incomplete information on names, titles, dates, degrees etc. will not be considered. Applications without contact details of at least two different individual referees will not be considered.

Please find more information here: www.intracen.org/sita/Indo-Africa-Internship/

The science and art of goal setting – How to define realistic goals. By Dr. Drake Patrick Mirembe, PhD.

It is that season of the year, when every conversation is punctuated by the phrase “my new year’s resolutions” for individuals and corporations. Brian Tracy reminds us that, the definition of clear goals in life is the starting point of all success. Goals are important as they; improve one’s self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration on tasks, instill self-confidence, improve productivity and make the individual happier.

As a tradition at Eight Tech Consults, every member of the 8Tech family by 14th of January every year MUST share their professional and personal development goals for the New Year, in an informal staff meeting.  As I sat down and listened to a number of dreams and aspirations from my colleagues especially those who are in their formative years of their careers, I started to reflect on my own experience of setting goals during my young days when I had just started working. In that moment, I pulled out my phone and started checking resolutions shared by colleagues on various WhatsApp groups. As I read with greater curiosity the goals people are setting for 2017, I came to realize the need to share my experience in setting goals.

At our staff meeting  I was not expected to speak on goal setting, but like any other senior member of the organization, my role was to share the company goals and strategies for 2017. However, the quality of presentation by some colleagues coupled with what I read on WhatsApp groups inspired me to share tips on the science and art of goal setting.  For the greater benefit of others, I reproduce those tips here.

It is important to note that, dreams become goals when action is taken toward achieving them. Merriam-Webster defines a goal as the end towards which effort is directed. From my experience, learning how to set goals is as important as knowing what the goal should contain. What’s important to remember when setting goals, you must be in the correct “F.R.A.M.E” of mind. What is meant by “frame of mind?” one can say you must be in a sober state of mind.  Each letter in the word “frame” illustrates status of your mind when setting your goals. F.R.A.M.E refers to;

  1. Fantasize – Dream your wildest dreams and make sure that your goals match your core values, abilities and personality. Ask yourself: what do you want to be doing in first, second, third and four quarter? What kind of person do you want to be by the end of the year? Remember by declaring positive activity, your mental model generates positive energy to help you produce the desired results. Remember our success largely depends on the triple “A” formula, i.e. Ambition, Ability and Attitude. These three must be aligned for you to succeed.
  2. Reality – Fantasies can become reality, depending on how hard you are willing to work for them. Remember the 80:20 percent rule, you should invest your time and effort into activities which guarantee you a good return on your investment. While challenging yourself is an important part of goal setting, you need to be realistic to avoid frustrations.
  3. Aim – Define your goals/ year 2017 resolution by striking a balance between Fantasy and Reality; set a high but realistic goal. Your goals should be SPECIFIC enough so that you know exactly what you are striving to achieve.
  4. Method – Be truthful to yourself by narrowing your choices to goals you really intend to accomplish. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. For each goal, write a strategy of achieving the goal, and define alternative routes to the goal, each with your estimated degree of complexity and efficiency. Remember success depends on your abilities and right strategy not dreams and wishes.
  5. Evaluation – Process the results, but don’t make it the last step; evaluation should be on going. A good goal must be MEASURABLE. It should have concrete and tangible facts. You should be able to answer very specifically, when and how you will know you attained your goal. Define hanging fruits and prepare yourself to celebrate small victories.

One key action in goal setting is, writing your goals down. Tom Hopkins reminds us that, the unwritten want is a wish, a dream, which never happens. The day you put your goal in writing is the day it becomes a commitment that will change your life. Are you ready to change your life? Then write down your goals and display them in location you frequently visit, to remind you of your commitment. Remember to increase your motivation to achieve the goals through the crafting of a personal statement which creates a high level of emotion and energy that guarantees achievement.  Why do some people fail to achieve their goals?  Below are the reasons.

  1. They do not write their goals down.
  2. They do not define clear rewards for achieving the goals, I recommend that you learn to celebrate small successes.
  3. They set unrealistic goals which lack any specifics. The goals are not really believable or little commitment exists to achieve them.
  4. They keep changing or switching goals with the emotions.
  5. They do not share their goals with anyone, hence they lack accountability, help and support.
  6. They have no realistic strategy that includes measurements, timelines and resources to achieve the goal.

Avoid the above pitfalls and you will for sure be on your way to success in 2017.

The author is a Senior Consultant at Eight Tech Consults (www.8technologies.net) and a Lecturer at Makerere University (www.cis.mak.ac.ug) & Uganda Technology and Management University (www.utamu.ac.ug).

My 2016 Lessons. By Dr. Drake Patrick Mirembe, PhD.

It is a tradition in my family to take stock of our successes and failures at the end of every year. To be precise we conduct this exercise on 31st December of each year, at a quiet moment of the day we reflect on the performance of our resolutions. While we take note of lessons for our success and failures to form our New Year resolutions, hardly do we share these experiences beyond our family circles. After reading numerous books and listening to hundreds of inspirational and motivational speeches, I have learned that it is an injustice to the human race, if one does not document the wealth of knowledge gained overtime. Accordingly, as a family we have made one of our 2017 resolutions to write as much as we read in order to contribute to a wealth of knowledge to the human race. For the start, I decided to share a summary of the things I have learned in 2016. In subsequent blogs, I will expound more on each of statement, enjoy the reading.

  1. Always begin your day with a prayer, because you do not control your destiny. But God almighty does.
  2. When youFAIL, do not despair, because FAIL= First Attempt In Learning. In simple, never give up on your dreams.
  3. It is important to define your personal identity. If you don’t define yourself, the world will define you according to its standards.
  4. Success is not an accident about to happen to you on your life journey, but attained through; hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing.
  5. When sourcing for a business opportunity, a NO is common response to many proposals you will write. If you get NO for your business proposal, do not despair, NO= Next Opportunity.
  6. Life is a collection of memories, good ones and bad one too. To enjoy life try to collect many good memories and they will do you good for your health as well.
  7. God gave us free will, with a responsibility to make decisions. Remember we succeed not by chances we take but rather by the choices we make. I have learned to never discount any idea, no matter how crazy it sounds.
  8. I grew up in a culture which promotes the respect of men and women who have witnessed many Christmases, with an assumption that they have more wisdom. I have come to learn that, the true age of a man is not defined by his calendar days, but by his wisdom.
  9. In 2016, I learned that every man or woman is born with a seed of greatness, give him the right bearings to his call and you will be amazed of what they can achieve. This taught me to stop judging the fish by its ability to climb a tree, but rather by its ability to swim.
  10. In 2016 I learned that, to win or succeed in life you have to standup for what you believe in no matter the size of your obstacles. The FEAR of failure is the greatest inhibitor to your success. Defeat fear and you’re on way up.
  11. You cannot be successful in too many things, just build a personal brand and be consistent in your output, before you know it. You will have become a household name, see MUKWANO and MOVIT.
  12. Being humble does not mean you’re STUPID or WEAK, but rather it means you’re SMART and WISE. Always choose your opportunities and battles wisely, if not careful they could be your last.
  13. If you’re running a business or a career do not just follow a trend, and if you must join the trend, remember to set the pace, otherwise set a new trend.
  14. Human beings will always remain human beings, if they could betray God the creator and Jesus the savior what about you? Therefore don’t work to please people, trust me they are hard to please. Just work fairly and justly to achieve your goals. Inherently some people will be pleased and others displeased.
  15. Make seeking knowledge your third need from oxygen and food. Accordingly, make it a habit to read a book a month, there hidden treasures in books.

 

The author is a Senior Consultant at Eight Tech Consults (www.8technologies.net) and a Lecturer at Makerere University (www.cis.mak.ac.ug)  & Uganda Technology and Management University (www.utamu.ac.ug)

 

 

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