018 sembhoo

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018 sembhoo

  1. 1. Use of an ‘Information Needs Assessment Matrix’ as a Participatory Method to Determine Information Needs of Stakeholders of a System Chandrabose Sembhoo Extension Officer, Agricultural Information Unit Agricultural Research and Extension Unit Food and Agricultural Research Council Reduit, Mauritius Krishan J Bheenick Programme Manager (Production Systems incl. IT Systems) Food and Agricultural Research Council Reduit, Mauritius Email: kjbheenick@yahoo.comAbstractThe process of designing and developing an information system always starts with ananalysis of the information needs of stakeholders. This may apply in the context of aninstitution, a network of individuals such as a thematic research network, a network ofinstitution such as the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), or a commodity valuechain. In addition to the information needs, the relationship among the stakeholders andhow the information influences their decision making processes, are essential informationelements that guide the establishment of mechanisms for decision support systems for thesestakeholders.In the context of a project aiming at enhancing the capacity of the Southern AfricanDevelopment Community (SADC) region to coordinate agricultural research anddevelopment (ARD) in the region, a regional network of ARD Information Managerscomprising researchers, extension officers, documentalists, librarians and planning officersfrom the National Agricultural Research System was established. The project, together withthe network, developed methods for information needs assessment, organised workshops toplan and later carry out such assessments which then enabled the start of the process of 1
  2. 2. developing information, communication and knowledge management strategies at nationaland regional level. Nevertheless, the ‘Information Needs Assessment Matrix’ methoddeveloped by the network provides a sound basis for any kind of information needsassessment.The Matrix approach starts off with the identification of stakeholders that influenceinformation flow at the level of each stakeholder category or value-chain operator. Eachstakeholder identified is then brought to a workshop environment to respond to a series ofquestions around (a) the current status of knowledge of the stakeholder and their currentpractices in obtaining information, (b) information requirements and preferred modes ofcommunication, and (c) challenges faced in making the information available and accessibleto the stakeholder and proposed actions to overcome the challenges. The workshopenvironment enables all stakeholders to critique, individually and collectively, the contents ofthe matrix filled in by the stakeholders themselves. It also enables cross checking ofexpectations of information with those being produced. The involvement of all stakeholdersin determining information needs brings about more ownership of the process.Interactions among the participants generally causes a change in their mindset fromthinking from their institutional compartmentalised perspectives, to better appreciate therole of each and every stakeholder, both as a producer and user of information along thechain of information flow, and eventually to ‘contributing to the pool of knowledge’ for useby the ‘community’ or ‘value chain’. The completed matrix is captured and stored in aspreadsheet for use by the group for other purposes, such as development of communicationand information management strategies. Furthermore, participants have also continued toimprove on the spreadsheet-based matrix after the workshop and see the matrix as arepresentation of the information needs of the sector. The approach has been applied inseveral countries in the SADC region, including Mauritius, where a local team has beenestablished to continue the process of developing a national strategy document. Thus themethod using the information needs assessment matrix has been tested and found to be aneffective tool for several purposes related to ARD information management.Introduction:The process of designing and developing an information system always starts with ananalysis of the information needs of stakeholders. This may apply in the context of aninstitution, a network of individuals such as a thematic research network, a network ofinstitution such as the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), or a commodity valuechain. In addition to the information needs, the relationship among the stakeholders andhow the information influences their decision making processes, are essential information 2
  3. 3. elements that guide the establishment of mechanisms for decision support systems forthese stakeholders.The issue of stakeholder information needs assessment at a sub-regional level in theSouthern African Development Community (SADC) region was discussed at an assembly ofstakeholders of Agricultural Research and Development (ARD) in the 15 countries of theregion in September 2008. The stakeholders were brought together in the context of the‘Implementation and Coordination of Agricultural Research and Training (ICART) projectimplemented between 2006 and 2010. Group discussions among representatives fromresearch, extension, university, farmer organizations, agricultural trade and private sectorconcluded that it was essential that strategies for communication and informationmanagement in ARD be developed both at national and regional level. From that pointonwards, the ICART project facilitated a process of establishing a regional network of ARDInformation Managers comprising researchers, extension officers, documentalists, librariansand planning officers from the NARS, and together with the network, establish methods forinformation needs assessment, organise workshops to plan and later carry out suchassessments and finally develop strategies at national and regional level. The method usingthe information needs assessment matrix has been tested and found to be an effective toolfor several purposes related to ARD information management.Purpose:This paper describes the development of the method of the ‘Information Needs AssessmentMatrix’, its testing, validation and applications in the context of national and regionalworkshops in the SADC region. This method would also be applicable to Value Chainanalysis.Methods:Following recommendations by the regional stakeholders of ARD in the SADC region toestablish Communication and Information Management Strategies, the ICART project calledfor a workshop with representatives of research, extension and information anddocumentation services of the 15 Member States to consult on the process that could befacilitated by a regional network of ARD information specialists (like themselves). Anapproach used by the Soil and Water Management Network of Eastern and Southern Africato develop its communication strategy was used as a starting point and the networkelaborated on the questions to determine the information needs. The initial steps, asworked out in a workshop in 2008, involved the development of guidelines for theidentification of the stakeholders that influence information flow at the level of eachcategory of stakeholders, the latter ranging from farmers and their associations to policymakers and finally to consumers and their associations. The guidelines thus enable a 3
  4. 4. systematic identification of stakeholders (by name) of information at any level –institutional, national, value-chain, and regional. The stakeholders identified were groupedas summarized in Table 1 below.Table 1: Stakeholders of agricultural information exchange Stakeholder Stakeholders Category Farmers and -Traditional leaders -Government institutions their -Community leaders -Private sector institutions Associations -Farmer Unions/Assoc. -Financial institutions -Associations/Cooperatives. -Regional & International institutions -Faith-based orgs -Donors and Cooperating Partners -Labour unions -Commodity-based orgs Extension/ -Traditional leaders -Government institutions Technical -NGOs -Private sector institutions Advisory -Faith based orgs -Financial institutions Services -Media organizations -Regional & International institutions -Training providers -Donors and Cooperating Partners -Tertiary education institutions -Commodity-based orgs Market -Input Suppliers -Government institutions intermediaries -Marketing orgs -Private sector institutions -Traders & Assoc. -Financial institutions -Transport providers -Regional & International institutions -Commodity-based orgs -Donors and Cooperating Partners Processors -Small & Medium Enterprises -Government institutions - Associations/Coops -Private sector institutions -Commodity-based orgs -Financial institutions -Regional & International institutions -Donors and Cooperating Partners Consumers Consumers -Government institutions and their Consumer groups/assoc. -Private sector institutions Associations Media organisations -Financial institutions 4
  5. 5. -Regional & International institutions -Donors and Cooperating Partners Researchers -Scientific/Disciplinary -Government institutions networks/institutions -Private sector institutions -Tertiary education -Financial institutions institutions -Regional & International institutions -Donors and Cooperating Partners Policy makers -Traditional leaders -Government institutions -Politicians -Private sector institutions - Administrators -Financial institutions -Consumer associations -Regional & International institutions -Commodity-based orgs -Donors and Cooperating PartnersIn 2009, the group of ARD Information Managers consolidated the work done by producinga set of 13 questions for each of the stakeholders identified leading to the creation of anInformation, communication and knowledge management matrix for stakeholders’information needs assessment. These questions were laid in a matrix (see Table 2) and weregrouped into three sub-sets, addressing different aspects of information needs assessment,namely (a) the current status of knowledge of the stakeholder and their current practices inobtaining information, (b) information requirements and preferred modes ofcommunication, and (c) challenges faced in making the information available and accessibleto the stakeholder and proposed actions to overcome the challenges. Most countries likeMauritius and Zambia favoured group interaction to complete the matrix. On the otherhand, a questionnaire-based approach had been tested to administer these questions inSeychelles, with the responses subsequently filled into the matrix of questions v/sstakeholders. However, there were advantages to the matrix being filled in simultaneouslyand in a participatory manner by the stakeholder representatives, in a workshopenvironment. The matrix approach also enabled cross checking of expectations ofinformation with those being produced. The completed matrix was available to all tocritique, individually and collectively. It was captured and stored in a spreadsheet for use bythe group for other purposes, such as the development of communication and informationmanagement strategies. The workshops held to identify the information, communicationand knowledge management information needs assessment of stakeholders exceededexpectations in several cases. From the basic need of such information at national andregional level to become available arose the interest of developing a national AgriculturalInformation, Communication and Knowledge Management Strategy (AICKMS). Thus,countries like Mauritius, Seychelles and Zambia took initiatives to continue the processindependently. In the case of Mauritius, a team of 10 persons; representing stakeholdersfrom the public sector, private sector and farmer organization, was constituted under the 5
  6. 6. chairmanship of the National ICART Focal Point. Meetings were held on a regular basis and adraft document prepared.The ownership of the process by countries like Mauritius triggered another step towardsregional collaboration. The SADC Secretariat through the ICART project held a regionalworkshop with aim to prepare a regional AICKMS. A draft document was prepared based onthe workshop findings and submitted to the SADC Secretariat. However, with the windingup of the ICART Project in 2011, the ARD Information Managers are expecting thatCCARDESA will continue with the work carried out and produce a finalized document for thebenefit of region. In the mean time, the ARD Information Managers have taken ownershipof all the communication platforms created through the ICART Project for networking andinformation sharing. 6
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  8. 8. Results and Conclusions:The matrix approach has been used in the context of four national and one regionalworkshops subsequently leading to the drafting of communication strategies. In addition,the group interaction enabled participants to better appreciate the role of each and everystakeholder; both as a producer and user of information along the chain of information flowand to have a more holistic approach to their information needs as opposed to their initialinstitutional compartmentalised perspectives. The involvement of all stakeholders indetermining information needs also brought more ownership of the process. In general, themindset changed from ‘generating any information’ to ‘contributing to the pool ofknowledge’ for use by the ‘community’ or ‘value chain’.The participants also continued to improve on the spreadsheet-based matrix experienceafter the workshop. Thus, from a sectorial needs analysis arose a common vision to developnational Agricultural Information, Communication and Knowledge Management Strategies.By taking ownership of the process and bonding with similar aims, the region has initiated abottom to top approach in developing AICKM strategies similar to top to bottom approachesbeing worked out or implemented by major international agricultural organisations.Recommendation:The Information Needs Assessment Matrix method has been developed and validated bythe SADC Network of ARD Information Managers for use in any activity that involvesinformation needs assessment. It can therefore be used by the NARS to better serve theirstakeholders. In particular, it is recommended that the Information Needs AssessmentMatrix be exploited to: Review the current situation with respect to information, communication and knowledge management. Identify areas that can be implemented in the short term, medium term or long term. For instance, the ARD Information Managers have been of view that Communication Strategies could be implemented immediately as most stakeholders are disseminating or requesting information. Start implementation of a coherent AICKMS at institutional, national and regional levels. CCARDESA to continue the process left by ICART Project. International organizations to promote such strategies via ownership of processes. 8
  9. 9. References: SADC-ICART Project (2008) Proceedings of the SADC FANR workshop on the establishment of an Agricultural R&D Information Exchange Platform, Sept 2008. Gaborone, Botswana [http://www.sadc.int/fanr/agricresearch/icart/meetings/ReportICART-ARDPlatformDev-Sept08.pdf] SADC-ICART Project (2009) Proceedings of the SADC FANR workshop on Agricultural Information, Communication and Knowledge Management Strategy on Agricultural R&D, May 2009, Gaborone, Botswana [http://www.sadc.int/fanr/agricresearch/icart/meetings/ICARTREGIONALWORKSHOPONAICKM.pdf] SADC-ICART Project (2010a) - Proceedings of the regional workshop on development of the Regional AICKM Strategy and Meeting of the SADC Network of ARD Information Managers, 30Aug-3Sep 2010, Pretoria [http://www.sadc.int/fanr/agricresearch/icart/meetings/RegAICKMStrategySADCNetARD.pdf] SADC-ICART Project (2010b)- Presentations of the SADC Network of ARD Information Managers at the ICART Scientific Symposium, September2010. Pretoria. [http://www.sadc.int/fanr/agricresearch/icart/inforesources/SADCNetARDInfoManagersAtSymposium.pdf] 9

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