Targeted information products and services: Balancing stakeholder needs, learning, and strategy


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Keynote communication of Ibrahim KHADAR (CTA) to IAALD2010 Congress, Montpellier, France, 26-29 April 2010

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Targeted information products and services: Balancing stakeholder needs, learning, and strategy

  1. 1. XIII th IAALD World Congress (26-29 April 2010, Montpellier , France) Targeted information products and services: Balancing stakeholder needs, learning, and strategy Dr. Ibrahim Khadar Manager, Planning and Strategic Services Dept. CTA :
  2. 2. What is meant by targeted services? <ul><li>The term “targeted services” is commonly used in the health and education sectors to denote services that are made available to selected individuals or groups with special needs. </li></ul><ul><li>This is in contrast with “universal services” which are available to the whole population. </li></ul><ul><li>Commercial firms also tend to employ this term, essentially to describe “tailor-made” services, i.e. designed to meet a specific need expressed by a given client with the requisite purchasing power. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Why develop targeted information products and services? <ul><li>The decision to provide and maintain “targeted information products and services” in the private sector can be justified by sales levels and the profitability of the business. </li></ul><ul><li>In the development community, where information products and services are either free of charge or heavily subsidized, the justification must be “to enhance relevance, usefulness and impact”. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Focus on CTA’s role and experience <ul><li>The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is an ACP-EU institution working in the field of information for development. Established in 1984, with its headquarters in Wageningen, The Netherlands, CTA’s work focuses on three key areas: </li></ul><ul><li>providing information products and services (e.g., publications, question-and answer services and database services) </li></ul><ul><li>promoting the integrated use of communication channels, old and new, to improve the flow of information (e.g., e-communities, web portals, seminars and study visits); </li></ul><ul><li>building ACP capacity in information and communication management (ICM) and knowledge management (KM) mainly through support for the formulation of strategies, skills development and partnerships with ACP bodies. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Why CTA’s intended beneficiaries require “targeted information products and services” <ul><li>Geographic spread : CTA has a mandate to assist 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in a collaborative framework, known as the Cotonou Agreement between these countries and the 25 EU states. </li></ul><ul><li>Stakeholder diversity : CTA directly supports a broad spectrum of ACP organisations at local, national and regional levels, including civil society organisations, information service providers, research and training institutions, and government ministries. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Why CTA’s intended beneficiaries require “targeted information products and services” <ul><li>Resource limitations : </li></ul><ul><li>Given that, in general, public and private investment in agriculture and support services including information is extremely low in ACP countries, CTA’s beneficiary organisations have weak ICM and ICT capacities. </li></ul><ul><li>Over 500 million people, who constitute CTA’s ultimate beneficiaries, live in rural areas that are characterized by inappropriate and/or inadequate infrastructure (roads, water, electricity, ICTs, markets, schools, hospitals, etc.). </li></ul>
  7. 7. Four principles followed by CTA for developing (user-focused) targeted information products and services <ul><ul><li>Overriding principle : </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1. Always put the stakeholders (i.e. intended users or user groups) before the product or service </li></ul></ul><ul><li>This is easier said than done! Organisations providing free or heavily subsidised products or services in resource scarce environments easily become production oriented, since users may be prepared to accept whatever is available. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Four principles followed by CTA for developing (user-focused) targeted information products and services <ul><li>2. Understand the priority needs of the intended users or user groups and ensure the products and services are designed to meet their needs </li></ul><ul><li>CTA systematically carries out country-level needs assessment studies, followed by priority-setting exercises. Over 60 such studies have been done since 2004. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Four principles followed by CTA for developing (user-focused) targeted information products and services <ul><ul><li>Benchmarking & Experimentation: </li></ul></ul><ul><li>3. Learn from other actors/ operators who are providing a similar service, and keep investment in new ventures initially at a low level by starting on a pilot/ experimental basis </li></ul><ul><li>Recently, CTA has used this principle in developing its project on supporting Telecentres, by: (i) carrying out case studies in Africa, (ii) organising a study visit in India, and (iii) deciding to only support existing initiatives. </li></ul>
  10. 10. CTA’s Telecentre Experience: An example of the 3 rd principle CTA has been actively involved in promoting the development of telecentres through learning, capacity building and the provision of publications and other resources to develop local content for telecentres in the ACP countries
  11. 11. Four principles followed by CTA for developing (user-focused) targeted information products and services <ul><ul><li>Information, Knowledge and Learning: </li></ul></ul><ul><li>4. Keep track of those receiving the product or service, and obtain regular feedback from them, and continue to improve and adapt the service using lessons learnt. </li></ul><ul><li>CTA carries out systematic evaluations and since 2008 has embarked on a series of “Information outreach and impact reviews” (INFOIR) in 13 countries, with two more missions planned for 2010. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Adaptation of CTA’s information products and services: An example of the 4 th principle <ul><li>CTA products and services that have been adapted because of these recent evaluations include Spore , the Practical Guide series, QAS and the Publications </li></ul><ul><li>Distribution Service </li></ul><ul><li>(PDS). </li></ul>
  13. 13. Implications of these principles for information service providers <ul><li>Since practically all the organisations supporting development (at international, regional, national and local levels) are involved in information and knowledge production and sharing, the four principles drawn from CTA’s experience are relevant to the development community as a whole, and information service providers in particular. </li></ul><ul><li>The application of these principles on a regular basis requires an enabling environment within the organisation , especially a culture where people are continually learning how to learn together . </li></ul><ul><li>Obstacles to organisational learning: </li></ul><ul><li>Resistance to change </li></ul><ul><li>Insufficient skills of personnel on how to introduce and manage change </li></ul><ul><li>Weak leadership </li></ul><ul><li>Resource requirements including methodological tools that encourage self development of staff </li></ul>
  14. 14. The new role of Information Specialists – as organisational change agents <ul><ul><li>Empowerment through information and knowledge </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Charity begins at home!) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Information specialists can play a key role in overcoming the obstacles to organisational learning, by: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>acquiring the skills that would allow them to be actively involved in planning, monitoring and evaluation, and subsequently grow into leaders in the development community. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>combining information and knowledge about their stakeholders with their technical skills to emerge as managers and strategists. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Emergence of the Information Specialist as an organisational change agent <ul><li>Written in 2003 by a team at Sheffield University, UK, this statement hints at the prospect of information specialists turning into “change managers”. </li></ul><ul><li>Information professionals have evolved from simply acting as “evidence locators” and “resource providers” to being quality literature filterers, critical appraisers, educators, disseminators, and even change managers”. </li></ul><ul><li>(Source: Health Information and Libraries Journal, 20 (2). pp. 65-74. ISSN 1471-1834,) </li></ul>
  16. 16. The new role of the Information Specialist: Some resources that can help . <ul><li>Smart Toolkit for Evaluating Information Products and Services – a comprehensive step-by-step guide to support self-evaluation exercises (published by CTA/KIT/IICD) </li></ul><ul><li>to support self-evaluation exercises (CTA/KIT/IICD) </li></ul><ul><li>CTA Executive training in formulation of ICM strategies and policies </li></ul><ul><li>IMARK module on Investing in information for development (FAO, CTA and partners) </li></ul>
  17. 17. Conclusion <ul><li>Providing targeted services is a balancing act involving two main sets of actors: stakeholders and service providers ( organisations & information specialists) whereby: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stakeholders must have their say </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Organisations must nurture a learning culture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Information specialists must embrace and initiate change </li></ul></ul>