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015 nawsheen

  1. 1. The use of ICTs to Facilitate Collaboration in a Multi-stakeholder Partnership: a Case Study of the Mauritius Breadfruit Sector Consortium Nawsheen Hosenally Consultant and Facilitator on Agriculture and Youth Related Projects Reduit, Mauritius Email: nawsheen.hosenally@gmail.com Krishan J Bheenick Programme Manager (Production Systems incl. IT Systems) Food and Agricultural Research Council Reduit, Mauritius Email: kjbheenick@yahoo.com1. ABSTRACTMauritius can pride itself of a high rate of telephony and internet connectivity, among oneof the highest in Africa. The small size of the country is now enabling the disseminationof broadband technology across the island, and the country has even recently launched itsNational Broadband Policy. ICT is also considered as the fifth pillar of the economy ofMauritius. Nevertheless, agriculture still plays an important role on the island ofMauritius. The food crisis of 2008 has prompted the government to establish a FoodSecurity Fund to support agricultural research and development projects that help tostrengthen food security. Among the crops that have been earmarked as having thepotential to contribute to food security in times of crisis, while enjoying a good potentialfor export as fresh product to the European market, is the breadfruit.The Food and Agricultural Research Council of Mauritius has established a BreadfruitSector Consortium of public and private agricultural institutions to collaborate on thedevelopment of breadfruit production in Mauritius. The initiative has been able to attractsupport from funding organizations to develop project proposals that can submitted todonors. The value chain approach and analysis is being applied in the process ofelaborating the plan of action for the consortium. As part of the set of coordination andcollaboration tools, the consortium the consortium has chosen to implement a wiki as an 1
  2. 2. online collaboration tool to enable collaborators to access and handle the information being shared. This paper presents the conceptualization of the wiki, the stages of its development since December 2011 and the prospects and challenges for the use of the wiki as a tool to facilitate a multi-stakeholder partnership in Mauritius. The consortium has so far carried out a series of meetings and a workshop where the stakeholders have been able to get to know each other, and they have also been exposed to the wiki as the online collaboration tool. Adoption of the wiki has been slow to pick up, and the consortium leaders have even tried to involve members of the public in some its activities as a ‘crowd-sourcing’ experiment. Lessons are already being learnt about planning and implementation of such web 2.0 tools among agricultural research and development stakeholders. The process is also being compared to the process of adoption of innovations. The lessons learnt on the implementation of ICT-based tools in Agriculture, within a context such as Mauritius, can be useful in the planning and design of similar projects in other countries in Africa.2. INTRODUCTIONICTs in MauritiusMauritius is a small tropical volcanic island of about 2040 km2 situated in the Indian Ocean,with a population of 1.28 million (CSO, 2010). Having successfully shifted from a middle-income mono-crop economy relying mainly on the sugar industry at the time of itsindependence to a middle-income country with a more diverse structure, the country’seconomy is currently relying on 5 main pillars, which are tourism, manufacturing, sugar,financial services and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Over the pastdecade, the government of Mauritius has recognized the importance of the ICT sector for thedevelopment of the country and acted on its vision to make ICT the 5th pillar of the economyand transform Mauritius into a regional ICT hub.A National ICT Strategic Plan (NICTSP) prepared by the Ministry of Information andCommunication Technology has guided areas of interventions for achieving thegovernment’s vision (MICT, 2007), and a new plan has been released in 2011 (MICT, 2011).Development of the ICT sector is expected to contribute to the Gross Domestic Product(GDP) of the country, employ more Mauritians, make available skilled manpower, and bringabout an increased usage and adoption of ICTs among Mauritian citizens, which can beapplied in different sectors. Investment in infrastructure is expected to enable Mauritius toemerge as a leader in ICT, hence a Regional ICT Hub having both the required infrastructureand manpower that is not available in the region. The small size of the country is nowenabling rapid dissemination of broadband technology across the island, and a NationalBroadband Policy has recently been launched (2012). 2
  3. 3. ICTs in Agriculture: e-AgricultureOver the years, Agriculture has been and is still playing an important role in Mauritius. Theuse of ICT in agriculture has been encouraged in Mauritius through policies developed by thegovernment, namely documented in the Blueprint for a sustainable diversified Agri-foodstrategy for Mauritius (2008-2015) and the National ICT Strategic plans of 2007-2011 and2011-2014 (Bheenick, 2011). While the agricultural policy focuses on the establishment of anAgricultural Information System (AIS) that will benefit stakeholders in the agricultural sector(including farmers and Policy makers) in their decision making process, the National ICTStrategic plan (2007-2011) stresses on promoting an integrated adoption of ICTs inAgriculture through collaborative working for which a comprehensive e-Agriculture ActionPlan has been designed. However, despite the existence of these policies and strategic plansto encourage the use of ICTs in Agriculture in Mauritius, their implementation has takenmore time than expected and many of the strategic objectives have not yet been met.Meanwhile, as the technologies are becoming more accessible and popular, institutions andstakeholder groups are already experimenting with some of these tools, in preparation for thelarge-scale projects to materialize.Establishment of a multi-stakeholder partnership in the breadfruit sectorFollowing the global food crisis in 2008, The Government of Mauritius decided to increaseinvestment in agriculture through the Food Security Fund to promote Agricultural Researchfor Development to improve food security. The Agri-food strategy developed around thesame time, identified breadfruit as a potential alternative source of carbohydrate which can beused as staple food in times of crisis.In 2011, the Food and Agricultural Research Council (FARC) established a Breadfruit SectorConsortium of public and private agricultural institutions to collaborate on the developmentof breadfruit production in Mauritius. The initiative has been able to attract support fromdevelopment projects (PAEPARD, 2011) for the consortium to develop project proposals thatcan be submitted to donors. The value chain approach and analysis is being applied in theprocess of elaborating the plan of action for the development of the breadfruit sector andinterventions of the consortium. Soon after the first meeting of the consortium, it was realizedthat a platform for communication and information sharing among stakeholders was requiredsince a lot of information were being exchanged during each consortium meeting, whichneeded to be documented and shared for further discussion. In addition to this, weeklyphysical meetings were not possible since not all partners were available. Thus, it wassuggested that a Web 2.0 tool such as a wiki could be useful as an online, accessible platformfor information sharing and collaboration. This paper highlights the experience of using awiki for collaboration in a multi-stakeholder partnership, its benefits, challenges and thelessons learnt. 3
  4. 4. 3. METHODSChoice of platformAmong the different Web 2.0 tools that were available, one that would meet the needs of theconsortium had to be chosen. The suggestion of using a “wiki” was investigated through areview of its functions and practical experiences, including of members who had used such atool before. Indeed, a review of literature on the fundamentals of a wiki and through analysisof the features offered on websites that enable wikis to be set up, it was found that a wikioffered several useful features which correspond with the requirements of the consortium.A “wiki” is a website on which its users can add, modify or delete its content via a webbrowser, using a simplified markup language or a rich-text editor. In general, wikis arepowered by wiki software and are usually created collaboratively by multiple users. Differenttypes of wikis include community websites, corporate intranets, knowledge managementsystems and note taking. The first wiki was created in 1995 by Ward Cunningham and wasknown to be the “simplest online database that could possibly work”. Over the years, wikishave been increasingly adopted in enterprises as collaborative software and the common usesinclude project communication, intranets, and documentation. Presently, some companies usewikis to enhance group learning (Wikipedia, 2012).The main arguments for selecting a wiki was that it would allow the consortium to interact,share and store knowledge/ information, participate in discussions and be an improvementover the more traditional approach of sending e-mails to the whole group and copyingeveryone. The latter approach was considered as one that did not promote inclusiveness ortransparency, especially to new members of the consortium or its stakeholder group.Moreover, other reasons why a wiki was a suitable tool for collaboration in the multi-stakeholder partnership were that: a) It would enable the consortium activities to be transparent to all partners involved b) It would allow the user to edit any page, add content including files (from Microsoft office) or other multimedia (pictures, videos and other embedded links) c) Tracking of activities could simpler when compared to e-mails/blogs/websites/Google Documents and other web 2.0 tools d) It supports other web 2.0 tools which could be used for various purposesOnce it was clear about how a wiki may be useful for collaboration in a multi-stakeholderpartnership, a wiki for the Mauritius Breadfruit sector consortium was created.Adoption of a new technologySince a wiki was a new to most of the consortium partners, it was expected that differentpartners would adopt the technology in different phases. According to Van den Ban andHawkins (1996), the adoption of innovations or new technologies by users takes place inphases, such that they can be grouped into 5 categories: innovators, early adopters, earlymajority, late majority and laggards. 4
  5. 5. Throughout its implementation, the wiki was closely monitored by the administrators, whoassisted the users in collaborating on the platform and intervened as and when required tofacilitate the process. 4. FINDINGSThe wiki (accessible at http://paepardmauritius.pbworks.com) created for the MauritiusBreadfruit Sector Consortium contains links to several pages, each having specific objectivesand functions. The contents of the wiki are visible to all internet users, but only partners ofthe consortium and approved users have access rights to edit and share content on any page.The Front Page of the wiki, which is the point of entry and also the “core part” of the wiki,contains information and guidelines about how to use the wiki, and all the links to the otherpages of the wiki, as summarized in table 4.1. Table 4.1: Description of different pages of the wikiNo Name of page Objective(s) of page1. About PAEPARD To provide information about the PAEPARD Project, its objectives, activities and how the Mauritius Consortium is involved in the project2. Consortium Partners and roles To know who are the partners in the consortium and what is the expected contribution and role of each partner in the consortium3. Consortium meetings To have a page where all consortium meetings are documented and can be accessed by anyone at any point in time4. Documents or links on breadfruit To add and share links or upload files related to breadfruit for information sharing5. Discussion Forum To have a page where partners in the consortium can discuss on different discussion topics that may be initiated by any partner of the consortium6. Editable map of breadfruit trees in To have a map where breadfruit trees are Mauritius located over the island, which can be useful to the partners in the consortium, as well as anyone from the web who is accessing the wiki7. Individual partner pages To enable each partner in the consortium to share the work presently being done by their organization on breadfruit and it also allows other partners to ask questions or clarifications on their work. By being transparent, duplication of work can be avoided 5
  6. 6. Wiki interface and useSoon after the creation of the wiki, the consortium leaders and facilitators started to uploadfiles and share links on breadfruit. This information was very useful in producing materialsfor the Partnership Inception Workshop of the consortium, which had as aim to create aknowledge-base on breadfruit. However, despite the fact that the administrators andconsortium leaders found no major difficulty in adapting to the interface of the wiki, it wasnot the case for other consortium partners. A few had difficulties with basic aspects like howto log in on the wiki or how to add content and needed assistance. A visual tutorial (slides)was developed on each stage of the process of accessing the wiki and managing contents. Theslides were also posted on the wiki for all users to consult. While it was clear for somepartners about how to use the wiki after being assisted, it still remained a challenge for a few.Content management and interactions of the wikiAs described in Table 4.1, different pages of the wiki contained specific information. Thepartners involved in the consortium shared information about the work that their organizationis doing on breadfruit in a phased manner, similar to the adoption process. Once the earlyadopters started adding information on the wiki and were recognized for their efforts duringmeetings, others were more motivated to develop contents for the wiki. This enabled allstakeholders to know who is working on which aspect and hence duplication of work isavoided. In addition, all activities of the consortium were transparent through the wiki sinceall the meetings and workshop proceedings were documented. Interactions and discussions onthe wiki were mainly initiated and maintained by the wiki administrators, the consortiumleader and facilitators. It was observed that although some partners visited the wiki regularly,but they were not sharing information or engaging in discussions through the wiki. Thecontents of the wiki that were shared by partners were mainly about general work that isbeing done by their organization, without getting too much in depth into the subject to revealconfidential issues. Findings and results of their work that was not yet in the public domainwas not shared on the wiki, however these were discussed during the face to face meeting.Editable map of breadfruit trees in MauritiusSince the wiki supported other Web 2.0 applications, a Google Map was added to one of thepages of the wiki. The function of this Google Map was to enable users to add breadfruit treesin Mauritius onto the map, and additional information on the tree could also be shared. Tofacilitate collaboration from stakeholders, a tutorial was made and shared by email toconsortium partners and on other social media networks like D-groups, Facebook andTwitter. Thus, the concept of ‘crowd sourcing’ through voluntary contribution from themembers of the public and web enthusiasts worked to a certain extent but not to the leveldesired. The initial response to the Google Map was low because it was a new collaborationtool for them, and it took time to understand its importance and how to use it. Eventually, thisinitiative has proven to be working quite well since stakeholders within and outside theconsortium have been collaborating to add breadfruit trees in Mauritius on the map. 6
  7. 7. 5. DISCUSSIONThe wiki of the Mauritius Breadfruit Sector Consortium has been useful to the variousstakeholders in terms of transparency, coordination and tracking of the consortium activitiesand meetings, as well as information and knowledge management. However, when it came tocollaboration and interaction of consortium partners on the wiki, a few challenges were faced,which are partly related to the adoption process of new technologies but also to other factorssuch as skills and ease using the computer as a means of communication.With the use of a wiki has demonstrated that such a platform can be effective in facilitatingcollaboration among partners involved in a team to coordinate projects, and organize events,the Mauritius breadfruit sector consortium has not been able to achieve the same level ofsuccess. It has been observed that the effectiveness of a wiki is very much dependent on theextent of collaboration by partners. In a team where a bonding already exists, team memberscollaborate more easily since they trust each other, and more collaboration implies morediscussions and interactions, which keep the platform active. It is hoped that continuousinteractions among members of the consortium, through face to face meetings can enhancethe team-building process, which will further facilitate online collaboration through the wiki.The experience from the Mauritius breadfruit sector consortium also showed that differentinstitution and staff in different ways and the wiki administrator/facilitator has to adapt to thelevel of the consortium partner in terms of his/her education or ICT skills. In this case, atutorial was developed and complementary information had to be given through ademonstration on how to use the tool. The administrator needs to be active and constantlyencourage participation from stakeholders in order to foster collaboration.Existing perception on the use of ICTs among stakeholders can also influence the extent andform of collaboration: some partners considered ICT tools as being something meant foryouth and preferred to collaborate via emails. This category of users was sending theircontribution to the wiki administrator by email, who was then uploading it to the wiki. Thus,the facilitation process of collaboration using web 2.0 tools requires a very flexible andaccommodating approach, especially among the initiators of the technology implementation.6. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONSFrom the case study of the Mauritius Breadfruit Sector Consortium, it can be concluded thatthe use of a wiki can certainly be beneficial in facilitating collaboration in a multi-stakeholderpartnership, but its success is very dependent on the level of interaction on the platform. Oneof the ways to encourage participation from different partners to collaborate is for the wikiadministrator to intervene and assist them as soon as they are having difficulties tocollaborate on the wiki and also adapt to the different situations that may arise. It can also besaid that the concept of e-Agriculture has not yet been adopted by professionals andorganizations in the agricultural sector in Mauritius and there are several factors behind it. 7
  8. 8. Nevertheless, these challenges can be overcome through encouragement of the use of Web2.0 tools and other ICT applications by professionals in agriculture. After training, propertracking and monitoring should be carried out to ensure that they are applying what they havelearned in their work or in other activities. It should also be ensured that there areopportunities for them to apply these tools. The latter emphasizes the role agriculturalinstitutions to encourage their staffs to adopt these tools in their work, and if this has beensuccessful to recognize their achievements, such collaboration among stakeholders usingICTs may be improved. Further exposure to these tools would certainly enhance theirappreciation of the benefits that Web 2.0 tools can bring them, especially where their owncontributions are made more visible and contribute to a participatory process.REFERENCESAnon. (2012). Wiki Definition. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki [Accessed on 22nd February 2012]Anon. (2011). Mauritius Breadfruit Sector Consortium Wiki. URL: th http://paepardmauritius.pbworks.com/ [Accessed on 14 February 2012]Bheenick, K. (2011). Building the CIARD framework for Data and Information Sharing – Summary paper from Mauritius. Food and Agricultural Research Council (Mauritius).Boodhram, I. (2011). Micro-propagation and cultivation of in-vitro breadfruit plants and development of novel products from Breadfruit as an alternative source of carbohydrates in Mauritius. Food and Agricultural Research Council (Mauritius).Central Statistical Office. (2010). Mauritius in Figures. Ministry of Finance & Economic Development. URL: http://goo.gl/KRQGY [Accessed on 14th February 2012]Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security. (2008). Blueprint for a sustainable diversified Agri-food Strategy for Mauritius – 2008-2015. URL: http://goo.gl/uznPk [Accessed on 14th February 2012]Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. (2012). National Broadband Policy 2012-2020. URL: http://goo.gl/mWDGH [Accessed on 14th February 2012]Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. (2007). National ICT Strategic Plan 2007-2011. URL: http://goo.gl/Kng23 [Accessed on 14th February 2012]Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. (2011). National ICT Strategic Plan 2011-2014: Towards i-Mauritius. URL: http://goo.gl/ItpW3 [Accessed on 14th February 2012] 8
  9. 9. Van den Ban, A.W and Hawkins, H.S. (1996). Agricultural Extension – Second Edition. Blackwell Science. 9