Page 1 of 18
ICT Initiatives of the Philippines towards
Sustained Agricultural Development
The e-Extension Program for
Agr...
Page 2 of 18
ICT Initiatives of the Philippines towards Sustained Agricultural Development
The e-Extension Program for Agr...
Page 3 of 18
ICT Initiatives of the Philippines towards Sustained Agricultural Development
The e-Extension Program for Agr...
Page 4 of 18
Thus, the evolution of the e-Extension Program for Agriculture and Fisheries by
the Department of Agriculture...
Page 5 of 18
o Harmonized and well coordinated extension services.
o Improved linkage among extension service providers.
o...
Page 6 of 18
Notes
• existing databases – available from various agencies of the Department of Agriculture on the partial ...
Page 7 of 18
IV. The e-Extension Milestones
The e-Extension Program has been introduced to the public since 2007, with e-
...
Page 8 of 18
There are different distance education modes being offered through the e-
Learning portal, to wit:
 e-Learni...
Page 9 of 18
As a strategy, courseware development undergoes various stages to
ensure its quality and effectiveness as an ...
Page 10 of 18
supplemental references for the registered users. These resources can
also be accessed or downloaded by anyo...
Page 11 of 18
At present, it caters to all queries through text messages that are related to
agriculture and fisheries, as...
Page 12 of 18
The concept is in adherence to the agreements and recommendations by the
experts of the UN-Food and Agricult...
Page 13 of 18
To address the location-specific queries, a system of referrals is being
developed in coordination with the ...
Page 14 of 18
C. e-Trading
One of the main features of the e-Extension Program is the provision of e-
commerce for entrepr...
Page 15 of 18
 Provide a collective strategy in the adoption, dissemination and
commercialization of technology-based, ma...
Page 16 of 18
1. provide connectivity to all municipalities of the country
2. identify, develop and provide access to cont...
Page 17 of 18
VI. Challenges and Opportunities
Like any other initiatives, implementing a new and a bold program such as e...
Page 18 of 18
VII. Conclusion
Considering the previous efforts of other agencies that focused on ICT-related
services, the...
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ICT Initiatives of the Philippines Towards Sustained Agricultural Development: The Philippine e-Extension Program

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This paper, presented during the World Information Technology Forum 2009 in Hanoi, Vietnam, discusses how the Philippine Government maximized the benefits of the information communication technology (ICT) to provide alternative modes of agricultural extension services. The Philippine e-Extension Program aims to integrate and harmonize all ICT-based programs and services for a more focused, effective and efficient service to the agriculture and fisheries sector.

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ICT Initiatives of the Philippines Towards Sustained Agricultural Development: The Philippine e-Extension Program

  1. 1. Page 1 of 18 ICT Initiatives of the Philippines towards Sustained Agricultural Development The e-Extension Program for Agriculture and Fisheries By Pamela Mariquita G. Mappala OIC-Assistant Chief, Knowledge Products Management Division Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Training Institute Philippines Antonieta J. Arceo Chief, Knowledge Products Management Division Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Training Institute Philippines and Joserey Y. Alo e-Learning Process Advisor Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Training Institute Philippines  paper presented during the World Information Technology Forum 2009, held from August 26-28, 2009 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
  2. 2. Page 2 of 18 ICT Initiatives of the Philippines towards Sustained Agricultural Development The e-Extension Program for Agriculture and Fisheries ABSTRACT The advent of information and communication technology (ICT) brought several opportunities for the Philippine Government to enhance its programs and services. Several initiatives have been implemented through the efforts of various institutions based on their mandates and specializations. This however led to fragmented ICT-based programs and services of the Government, including those for agriculture and fisheries. To integrate and harmonize all these efforts for a more focused, effective and efficient service to the public, the Philippine Department of Agriculture formulated one strategy that encourages more Filipinos to venture back into farming and agribusiness. The e- Extension Program for Agriculture and Fisheries has thus evolved from the results of the previous attempts of other organizations with similar goals and aspirations. The e-Extension Program for Agriculture and Fisheries involves a network of institutions to provide a more efficient alternative to a traditional extension system for agriculture, fisheries and natural resources sectors. It maximizes the latest technologies available to provide alternative modes not just of education and learning opportunities for the farmers and fishers but also of farm and business advisory services. Like any other initiatives, implementing a new and a bold program especially which entails so much resources may mean problems and challenges along the way and this includes how it will be institutionalized and adopted not only by the clientele, but by the stakeholders as well. However, rather than allow the problems and challenges to forestall the acceleration of development in the agricultural sector, the diverse lessons from previous efforts should be looked upon as opportunities to carry on with greater fervor the search for more innovative ICT solutions for sustainable development. Hence, this paper discusses how the Philippine Government maximizes the benefits of ICT to provide alternative modes of agricultural extension services.  paper presented during the World Information Technology Forum 2009, held from August 26-28, 2009 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
  3. 3. Page 3 of 18 ICT Initiatives of the Philippines towards Sustained Agricultural Development The e-Extension Program for Agriculture and Fisheries I. Rationale With the advent of information and communication technology (ICT), the Philippines together with the rest of the world have been transforming itself into an electronically enabled society. As early as 1997, the Philippines laid down a policy framework that heralded the growth of the ICT industry and its permeation into the life of the Filipino. The Information Technology Action Agenda for the 21st Century of 1997 reflected the desire to modernize systems and operations in the public sector. The Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (2001-2004) stipulated the maximum use of ICTs for the country‟s development. This was further reinforced by the ICT Strategic Roadmap 2003-2006 which outlined strategic directions and specific projects to push information infrastructure development, electronic governance, e-business development and a complementary human capital development in the country. Several initiatives have been implemented through the efforts of various institutions, with the goal of maximizing the benefits of the latest technologies to enhance their corporate services. This includes the Philippine Government‟s initiatives to modernize its facilities to provide better service to the public. One of the laws enacted in this pursuit was the Republic Act 8435 or the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 (AFMA), which mandated the optimal use of ICT in bridging research, extension, the farmer and the market. As an immediate response, the agencies under the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) initiated their own ICT-related services based on their mandates and specializations. This however led to fragmented services under one department of the Government. Hence, to enhance the extension delivery services, tapping the appropriate ICT approaches, the DA mandated one of its bureaus, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), to integrate and harmonize the electronic extension services on agriculture and fisheries which are being implemented by the various agencies of the Department. In view of this, the ATI organized a network of institutions to collectively provide an efficient and effective electronic extension system for agriculture, fisheries and natural resources sectors. This is to attain a modernized agriculture and fisheries sector where farmers and other stakeholders have enhanced productivity, profitability and have become competitive in the global market.
  4. 4. Page 4 of 18 Thus, the evolution of the e-Extension Program for Agriculture and Fisheries by the Department of Agriculture. II. The Electronic Extension Services The e-Extension Program is envisioned towards a revolutionized agriculture and fishery electronic extension services for self-reliant and globally competitive communities. It aims to enhance and institutionalize the e-Extension system in agriculture, fisheries and natural resources for optimal application, utilization and exchange among clientele and partner agencies. With this, the implementation of the e-Extension Program involves a network of institutions to provide a more efficient alternative to a traditional extension system for agriculture, fisheries and natural resources sectors. It focuses on creating an electronic and interactive bridge where farmers, fishers and other stakeholders meet and transact to enhance productivity, profitability and global competitiveness. As the extension and training arm of the Department of Agriculture, the ATI has been further mandated through the Department Order No. 03, series of 2007, as lead agency for the provision of e-Extension services in collaboration with the various agencies, bureaus and organizational units. With this, the e-Extension Program has become one of the major programs to supplement the current initiatives of the Philippine Government in providing agricultural extension services. Hence, the creation of the www.e-extension.gov.ph portal. The Program specifically aims to: 1. Institutionalize the e-Extension system of the agriculture, fisheries and natural resources sectors. 2. Integrate and harmonize e-Extension initiatives of various institutions. 3. Empower the stakeholders in agriculture, fisheries and natural resources on the value of e-Extension services. Expected Benefits A. Empowered Stakeholders – Through the Program, the stakeholders engaged in agriculture and fisheries have alternative means to acquire new knowledge and skills on agriculture and fisheries. Because of ICT, there is reduced cost in terms of education and training if they avail of online services. B. Optimized Resources – Through this initiative, the Philippine Government, particularly the Department of Agriculture will be able to enhance its programs and services leading to the following: o Accessible information to extension workers, farmers, agri-entrepreneurs, investors, traders, suppliers and producers.
  5. 5. Page 5 of 18 o Harmonized and well coordinated extension services. o Improved linkage among extension service providers. o Encouraging more young farmers to venture into agri-business enterprises since ICT attracts mainly the youth. Moreover, this is where various initiatives are pooled together, optimizing the available resources such as the existing ICT infrastructure which is already in place through the network backbones established by various Government institutions. Likewise, through this Program, the Philippine Government can have an organized repository of information through the knowledge banks and other management information systems that will be developed. The Program Beneficiaries With these technological innovations, the Program is expected to benefit the whole agriculture and fisheries sector, primarily the following:  Farmers / fishers including the young farmers  Agriculture Extension Workers  Local Government Units  Agricultural Market Players (producers and suppliers) and business organizations  Private extension service providers  Other stakeholders who would like to venture into agriculture and fisheries III. The Major Components and Process Framework The e-Extension Program is in conjunction with the other programs and services of the Department of Agriculture, as an alternative mode for extension delivery systems. It mainly considers the needs of the farmers and fishers in terms of education and training, sources of information and technical assistance and an avenue for agri-business. Likewise, the Program considers the existing efforts of the Department on ICT- related services. The general conceptual framework is illustrated below:
  6. 6. Page 6 of 18 Notes • existing databases – available from various agencies of the Department of Agriculture on the partial lists of agricultural extension workers, irrigators‟ associations, farmers‟ associations, among others. • social subsystem – informal and unstructured/free form data existing within individual or collective personnel of the Department of Agriculture including the regional offices and the state universities and colleges • evolving FAQ/helpdesk knowledgebase – reference volume of Level 1 experts; repository of information contributed by Level 1 experts • evolving farmers‟ database – repository of farmers‟ personal and farm data with exclusive access level. • Public Access – refers to clientele of the Department of Agriculture Data component e-Learning e-Farming e-TradingExisting databases Evolving FAQ/ helpdesk knowledgebase Social subsystem Evolving Farmers’ Database e-Services component Contact center Delivery component e-Extension portal (web) DA Intranet (web) Public access
  7. 7. Page 7 of 18 IV. The e-Extension Milestones The e-Extension Program has been introduced to the public since 2007, with e- Learning as its first service to be offered. The ATI mobilized its initial set of Training Centers to be its cohort in the field and the activities were in collaboration with some partner agencies. From then on, despite the challenges, the e-Extension Program paved the way to more collaborations and opportunities for the stakeholders. Since its conceptualization in 2007, its components were thoroughly reviewed to meet the requirements of the target clientele, as shown in the simplified framework below: A. e-Learning The ATI, in partnership with the various agencies under the Department of Agriculture and Department of Science and Technology, offer certificate courses on agricultural technologies of various commodities. Through the designated e-Learning Offices among the ATI Network of Training Centers, of which the Program is being coordinated across the country, encouraging and facilitating how the public can avail of the online courses at their own pace and time. Below is the geographical location of the ATI Network of Training Centers in the country – 1 international training center on pig husbandry, 16 regional training centers, and their satellite centers:
  8. 8. Page 8 of 18 There are different distance education modes being offered through the e- Learning portal, to wit:  e-Learning courses  Online courses are open to the public 24 hours, 7 days a week that can be accessed through the internet any time and at their own pace of learning.  Offline closed group sessions are organized for selected groups of learners through the eLearning Offices in the regions. This is especially handled if the area is not yet interconnected.  Blended courses combine an online course with face to face interactions, e.g., where courses are accessed online and the complementary activities are being facilitated and assessed by the designated e-Learning coordinators in the area of coverage of the 17 ATI Training Centers.  At present, there are about 11 online courses being offered on agricultural production technologies for various commodities and more courses are being developed and will be uploaded soon, with the following categories:  Agricultural production technologies – crops, livestock, marine and fisheries  Social technologies – agricultural marketing, training management, extension concepts, extension strategies and approaches, among others
  9. 9. Page 9 of 18 As a strategy, courseware development undergoes various stages to ensure its quality and effectiveness as an online course. Subject Matter Specialists on specific commodities are consulted during the development stage, then it undergoes the screening of the Quality Circle for e-Learning, whose members come from the academe, experts on information communication and education materials, among others. Likewise, the e-learning courses are designed to be highly interactive in nature since they incorporate lots of photos, videos, games, puzzles in the lessons within the modules to sustain the interest of the learners.  A pool of courseware developers has been organized among the different agencies under the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Science and Technology, complementing the initiatives of the various institutions involved in research and extension services. Specifically, these are subject matter specialists from the various institutions including the ATI Training Centers, Bureau of Agricultural Research, Bureau of Plant Industry, Philippine Coconut Authority, Philippine Carabao Center, National Dairy Authority and the Philippine Council on Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Research and Development. This will be expanded soon to include other research institutions on agriculture and fisheries, particularly from the Department of Agriculture‟s Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Network as part of the Program‟s expansion plan.  About 17 eLearning offices have been established at the ATI Training Centers, and at the Palawan Agricultural Experiment Stations and the Bureau of Fisheries Aquatic Resources – Regional Fisheries Training Center in Palawan. Some 37 eLearning coordinators have been likewise identified among these eLearning Offices to conduct related activities in their area of coverage. These eLearning Offices are manned by eLearning Coordinators who are actively promoting the Program in the provinces and municipalities. Likewise, they facilitate the registration, enrollment, monitoring of the eLearners as well as conduct briefings and ICT Literacy Trainings to agricultural extension workers.  To date, about 2,400 registered users have accessed the e-Learning site and 60% of which actually enrolled in the available courses and 35% have finished their courses, while the rest were still completing their courses. One unique method which has been applied is the mechanism devised by the ATI to accept all interested individuals with or without email address and there is no exclusive email domain accepted. This means all interested individuals may register to the e-learning portal with or without email address, or using any email domain for this purpose.  Online tutorials, online fora, live chats, shoutbox and short messaging system (text) are likewise available to the e-Learners to enable them to interact with the courseware developers, administrators and the subject matter specialists.  Digital learning resources on various commodities produced by the ATI are available in both web-based and downloadable printable format as
  10. 10. Page 10 of 18 supplemental references for the registered users. These resources can also be accessed or downloaded by anyone who would like to have a copy of various production guides. Other related agriculture and fisheries resources developed by the partner agencies are linked as part of the digital learning resources offered through the e-Learning portal.  AgriVideos or the video clips on various technology-based videos produced by the ATI are also available through the e-learning portal. The full version of these videos are available upon request at the Institute. Another ICT-related service offered by the Department of Agriculture, through the Agricultural Training Institute, is the School-on-the-Air (SOA) or University-on-the-Air (UOA) which uses radio as a medium for training and sharing knowledge on the various technologies on agriculture and fisheries. This is an effective tool for distance education and in reaching out to a large number of farmers and fishers especially those in the areas which do not have internet connection. This likewise incorporates other services under the e-Extension Program such as e-learning and the e-farming where farmer-enrollees are encouraged to send their queries, comments and recommendations through the short messaging system of their cellular phones. Through this system of incorporating the SOA and the use of cellular or mobile phones, there is more interaction between the farmer-enrollees and the trainers or coordinators of the SOA. For 2008-2009, around eight SOA programs were implemented across the country with 4,309 graduates who are mostly farmers. B. e-Farming This is the delivery of farm and business advisory services through the use of ICT that provides technical assistance to farmers and agricultural extension workers in terms of making farming a profitable enterprise. This also facilitates information exchange among the producers, suppliers and investors in the agriculture and fisheries sector. Clients can access this service through the Text Support Center and soon through the Farmers‟ Contact Center. Likewise, registered users of ATIiNteractive and e-Learning portals may participate in the interactive forums where they can post their queries and messages related to agriculture and fisheries. Text Support Center -- This is a service recently launched that offers information on agriculture and fisheries via short messaging system to the Filipino farmers and fishers through SMS hotline number 391-DA (or 391-32). The Text Support Center has been launched only in January 2009, and has generated an average of 300 SMS queries per month since it has been promoted through trainings and events of the Institute.
  11. 11. Page 11 of 18 At present, it caters to all queries through text messages that are related to agriculture and fisheries, as well as the programs and services that can be availed of through the agencies under the Department of Agriculture. This service is operated 10 hours a day, five days a week. Queries and messages received were mainly on how to enroll to the e- learning courses as well as on various commodities for market prices of certain commodities and pests and diseases management of different crops. The chart shows the percentage of queries received through this service: *Note: HVCC – High Value Commercial Crops Administered by the ATI, the Text Support Center is in collaboration with the other agencies of the Department of Agriculture. A pool of subject matter specialists have been organized at the national level to serve as focal persons to provide information and data for the frequently asked questions on agricultural technologies, as well as the Department‟s programs and services. Soon, the Text Support Center will be expanded to include other electronic means of communication and will later on be called the Farmers‟ Contact Center. The Farmers’ Contact Center This will serve as support center for the clients‟ concerns particularly on the services offered by the Philippine Department of Agriculture as one of the strategies of the e-Extension Program. Keeping in view of the present situation in the country in terms of mobile telephony and the adaptability of a common farmer to the latest mode of communication, the main features of the Farmers‟ Contact Center shall provide voice (call) and short messaging system (SMS) communication modes through pre-defined numbers specified across the country, as well as fax, emails and other online communication such as instant messaging. This is to include all possible means to bridge the communication gap between the farmers and the experts at a lesser cost. Rice 128 Corn 20 HVCC* 99 Livestock 28 Fisheries 18 FertilizerMgt 15 ATI programs & services 40 Scholarships 63 e-Learning 1021 Others 138
  12. 12. Page 12 of 18 The concept is in adherence to the agreements and recommendations by the experts of the UN-Food and Agriculture Organization and the ATI‟s meetings with the private sector and other stakeholders. There will be three levels of support that will be made available to respond to the farmers‟ queries: Level 1: Call Center Agents (with agriculture background) Level 2: Experts from the Department of Agriculture agencies/institutions Level 3: Agricultural Scientists / Experts from other institutions / organizations In view of this, a pool of subject matter specialists will be tapped accordingly to respond on the queries at hand that must be responded within 24 hours. Queries and answers shall be stored in a database so that it could be generated when the same query will arise and form part of the Knowledge Management System. For text-based queries, an internet-based workflow system will be deployed and the same procedure set for the voice queries shall be followed. Generally, the chart below shows the conceptual framework of the Farmers‟ Contact Center: The chart below shows how the queries are being processed once received through the Contact Center.
  13. 13. Page 13 of 18 To address the location-specific queries, a system of referrals is being developed in coordination with the ATI Network of Training Centers. Ongoing is the conduct of the regional consultations with the subject matter specialists who can be tapped to extend their expertise not only through the Text Support Center but through the Farmers Contact Center as well. To serve as reference for the Text Support Agent (as Level 1) who directly responds to the queries received through this service, currently ongoing is the development of Knowledgebase for Agriculture and Fisheries. This will serve as a tool for the Contact Center to provide information that are being asked for by the clientele. Initial queries that were generated through the forum in the e-Learning site (www.e-extension.gov.ph) are being developed into the initial knowledgebase. Information exchanges shall likewise include agri-tips including weather, market trends, among others which will form part of the text broadcast among the subscribers of the Farmers‟ Contact Center. Interactive Forums and Blogs The ATI has likewise developed the interactive forums and blogs through the ATIiNteractive site (www.ati.da.gov.ph) and through the e-Learning portal (www.e-extension.gov.ph/elearning) open to the public. Registered users post their queries through the forums which are being replied by the e- learning offices and courseware developers.
  14. 14. Page 14 of 18 C. e-Trading One of the main features of the e-Extension Program is the provision of e- commerce for entrepreneurs engaged in agriculture and fisheries. Still at the development stage, this is being spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture through its DA-Agricultural Marketing Assistance Service (DA- AMAS), in collaboration with the DA-Information Technology Center for Agriculture and Fisheries (DA-ITCAF). Ongoing is the development of the Agriculture and Fisheries Market Information System (AFMIS), which is being consulted and validated with the various stakeholders nationwide. AFMIS is envisioned primarily for the users of market information such as consumers, traders and institutional buyers, private investors, policy- makers/planners, agricultural extension workers, farmers/fishers, processors, industry associations, and market researchers. It is designed to basically deliver the following tasks:  improve the production, investment and marketing decisions of the target clients of the Department of Agriculture;  develop an effective collaboration and partnership between the public and private sectors to ensure that the latter‟s needs would be met; and  promote marketing efficiency. The information and data that will be derived from the AFMIS will form part of the knowledge that will be shared in the eTrading component of the e- Extension portal. V. Other Initiatives towards e-Extension A. Aurora e-Village Project Providing Greater Access to the Rural Families of Aurora Province: Connecting Villages Amidst Mountains through ICT This is a project which is being piloted in the province of Aurora, located in the Northern part of the Philippines. This project is a collaboration among the the three government agencies – the ATI, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and the Development Academy of the Philippines -- which has been funded through the Philippines‟ e-Government Fund. The Project endeavors to integrate ICT as part of a rural community‟s life to improve access to information, enhance productivity, increase family income, and improve quality of life in the community, which will initially focus on rice as a priority commodity. It specifically aims to:  Create a transaction-based, self-sustaining agricultural information system among the municipalities and selected barangays of Aurora Province;
  15. 15. Page 15 of 18  Provide a collective strategy in the adoption, dissemination and commercialization of technology-based, market-driven production system for agricultural productivity and competitiveness;  Build the capacities of project implementers and the target beneficiaries in accessing, retrieving and utilizing information primarily relevant to farm operations and management; and  Generate participation and support of the community to the project. To date, social mobilization activities are currently being conducted to ensure the participation of the beneficiaries as partners for the project. B. Education, Extension and Training for Palawan Agricultural Experiment Station (PAES) The project is an initiative of Congressman Abraham „Kahlil‟ B. Mitra of the 2nd district of Palawan, funded under the GMA-High Value Commercial Crops Program and implemented by ATI and DA-Regional Field Unit 4-B through the PAES. The Project generally aims to establish e-Extension Offices in Puerto Princesa City and Aboabo, Sofronio Espanola, Palawan. C. Strengthening Technology Sharing through the e-Extension Program This Project is a collaboration between ATI and BAR, which aims to strengthen the technology sharing initiatives through the e-Extension Program. Specifically it will:  Improve the facilities of ATI specifically those that are related to the development of e-Learning Courses and other modes of technology sharing geared towards the implementation of the e-Extension Program;  Facilitate information exchange within the Research and Development and Extension agencies and institutions to develop the content for the online courses and other digital online resources;  Facilitate data and information exchange with RDE agencies / institutions as well as with other agencies such as AMAS, BAS, GMA Programs, the SUCs and the private sector to develop a system for knowledge sharing through the farm and business advisory program through the e-Farming and e-Trading components of the e-Extension Program; and  Develop a system for monitoring and evaluation of the e-Extension Program components. D. Philippine Community e-Center Program With the goal of “engaging communities in knowledge-based development”, the program aims to:
  16. 16. Page 16 of 18 1. provide connectivity to all municipalities of the country 2. identify, develop and provide access to content responsive to knowledge needs of the target customers 3. institutionalize systems support for the development, scaling and sustainable management and operation of CeCs, and 4. ensure availability of competent CeC knowledge workers. The program mainly established public access points through the Community e-Centers for the delivery of e-government and other services to provide universal access to information and communication services in unserved areas, link communities, facilitate trade and commerce and empower rural communities socially, economically and politically. Previous efforts were likewise considered to establish the acceptability and/or adaptability of the agriculture and fisheries sector in the use of ICT in their work. E. Knowledge Networking for Enterprising Agricultural Communities (K-AGRINET) Program This program was initiated by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform and the Department of Science and Technology with the goal of modernizing the agriculture sector through ICT. Specifically, it aims to build the digital divide between research and extension, while converging the efforts of the three Departments together with the Development Academy of the Philippines. Its priority activities were to: 1. Strengthen and maximize the use of extension materials 2. Accelerate the establishment and use of web-based courseware for other crops, livestock and fisheries 3. Promote distance learning 4. Interconnect government network infrastructure and facilities 5. Establish last mile connections To achieve these objectives, the Program employed the following components:  e-Agrikultura, which aimed to mobilize the social capital toward developing enterprising agricultural communities through the agrarian reform communities  e-Consortia, which aimed to intensify the technology and knowledge generation and exchange among the research and development (R & D) institutions through ICT  e-Farm, which was to promote the knowledge-based e-commerce by initiating electronic-based farm-to-market opportunities through the Farmers‟ Information Technology Services (FITS) Centers and their respective farmer-scientists  Open Academy for Philippine Agriculture, which promoted e-extension through knowledge banks, distance learning opportunities and an open environment for the various stakeholders.
  17. 17. Page 17 of 18 VI. Challenges and Opportunities Like any other initiatives, implementing a new and a bold program such as e- Extension which entails hardware and infrastructure as well as funds means there are problems and challenges especially on how it will be institutionalized and adopted not only by the clientele, but by the stakeholders in agricultural extension. Though the Program is now being implemented, several factors remain as challenges to the Philippine Government, to wit:  Technological limitations of the ICT industry to meet all the requirements of the Program;  Acceptability and adoptability of the clientele to the new modes being offered to them;  Mobilization of some organizations to get involved in the implementation;  High expectations from the clientele, with the assumptions that everything is in place. Rather than allow the problems mentioned above to forestall the acceleration of the development in the agricultural sector, the diverse lessons from tried out innovations should instead be looked upon as opportunities to carry on with greater fervor the search for more innovative ICT solutions for the extension sector. Hence, despite of the challenges identified during the implementation of the Program, some opportunities can be observed such as:  ICT in general does not only mean the use of computers and the internet but it also includes other media mixes. This is being done through the use of radio in the School-on-the-air mixed with interactive chats, online forum and SMS messages through mobile phones.  State universities and colleges could make use of the e-Learning courses as a requirement for their students to take. These students will soon become extension workers in the provinces and municipalities, hence they could have first hand information on what is available in the world wide web particularly for agriculture and fisheries that would suit to their local condition.  The e-Extension Program has likewise became a new tool for knowledge sharing, where information derived from the various institutions can be consolidated to give focused and clear advice to the farming and fishing communities. More stakeholders are being involved, realizing that they can give significant contribution to enhance the Program and their services as well. The readiness and commitment of the local government units and other key players such as state schools are essential in ensuring that convergence efforts are carried out effectively. Their maximum involvement must therefore be the focus of social mobilization.  ICT infrastructure is managed by other organizations in the public and private sector that allowed the implementers to focus on their specializations particularly on content development.  Rapid technological changes may soon meet the specific requirements of the e-Extension Program leading to its effectivity and efficiency.
  18. 18. Page 18 of 18 VII. Conclusion Considering the previous efforts of other agencies that focused on ICT-related services, the e-Extension Program for Agriculture and Fisheries has evolved and is continuously evolving based on the trends that are being established along the way. With the services it offers, the agriculture and fisheries sector may consider alternative modes of extension services which are readily accessible. ICT based initiatives are not easy to repeat elsewhere. There is much optimism about their potential despite the constraints. ICT can be applied to address several problems in the agriculture sector. It is, indeed, fast becoming a vital engine of growth for the world today. However, in the context of this ICT-driven development, people are still the center of all development. As each government or private entity cooks up its own innovation to deliver the farmer and his family from the hardships of life in the rural area, it is still primarily his needs, his priorities in life, and his dreams that will dictate the substance and manner by which these interventions must reach him. References: Esquejo, Evelyn A. "Innovative ICT Approaches for Rural Development: A Case in the Philippines." Paper presented during the APEC Workshop on Innovative Agricultural Technology Transfer and Extension System for Enhancing Productivity and Competitiveness in APEC Member Economies (ATC 06/2008A), held at the Seoul Education Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea, on July 1-3, 2008. Mappala, PMG. Information Networking for the Farmers and Farmers‟ Groups: The Philippine Strategy. Paper presented during the Seminar on Networking of Agricultural Technology Transfer and Training held in Bogor, Indonesia on November 28 – December 1, 2005. The Strategic Road Map of the Philippine Community e-Center Program 2008-2010. Commission on Information and Communications Technology, Philippines. The e-Extension Program for Agriculture and Fisheries Program Document. 2008. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Training Institute.

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