Recent information and communication technology (ICT) innovations are creating seismic shifts in the ways that ACDI/VOCA responds to economic development challenges. At unparalleled scale, ICT provides market information, resources and services to the poor, empowering them in ways that are immediate and game-changing.
"ICT offers new solutions to many old problems, and we continually look for ways to use these technologies to advance our goal of expanding opportunities worldwide."
—Carl Leonard, ACDI/VOCA president and CEO
ICT: Using Both Cutting-Edge and Proven Solutions
ACDI/VOCA’s programs incorporate appropriate ICT innovations—from cutting-edge mobile technology to traditional media solutions—to help program participants leapfrog development challenges and promote long-lasting economic growth.
Our overriding goal is always to use the best tools to solve the challenges at hand and promote sustainable positive impact. ICT offers myriad uses from disseminating public health information, to connecting women and marginalized groups to educational resources, to providing farmers, entrepreneurs and community organizations with market information and services.
In many cases our programs utilize multiple ICT channels, employing a “full spectrum” development approach.
Mobile Solutions for Farmers and Entrepreneurs
A lack of timely and accurate information is a significant hurdle for farmers and entrepreneurs. Mobile solutions can provide people in developing countries with a powerful “first computer,” enabling them to access previously unreachable information as well as banking and business services and tools.
Mobile money has proved to be a cost-effective and scalable tool to allow the poor to receive and send payments without spending undue time and resources or incurring risks traveling long distances with cash. In Indonesia, ACDI/VOCA facilitated a mobile banking system that provides an efficient, safe and transparent channel for the distribution and repayment of agricultural loans to smallholder farmers.
"Mobile finance will do for the base of the pyramid what commercial banking did for the industrial revolution."
—Lee Babcock, ACDI/VOCA technical managing director
Dec 6, 2011 Technology Salon
E-Marketplaces Create Business Opportunities
Online platforms like e-marketplaces connect smallholder farmers to global buyers, yielding stronger bargaining positions and increased profit margins. In Ethiopia ACDI/VOCA assisted the ECafe Foundation and local stakeholders to organize the first-ever internet auction of African coffees. It generated more than $187,000 for the farmers, at an average price of $3.22 per pound compared to the market price of $1.30. All proceeds were distributed to the cooperatives. The second such auction generated even higher sales—more than $250,000.
In Vietnam ACDI/VOCA developed an e-business site for the Vietnamese Association of Rural Industrial Small and Medium Enterprises (VARISME), which allows the association to sell space to its members on an internet-enabled searchable product database, significantly extending the members’ market reach.
‘Tried and True’ ICT for Information Dissemination and Behavior Change
An acknowledged leader in modern mobile solutions, ACDI/VOCA also applies “tried and true” solutions where appropriate. Traditional ICT such as TV and radio broadcasting are remarkably effective in reaching audiences with information and encouraging behavior change. Such interventions have even won local awards.
In the Philippines a TV “cocoa school” series provides farmers with information on crop management and prices in an interactive question-and-answer format. The show incorporates SMS interaction, allowing viewers to sign up for additional information and resources.
In Colombia we support interethnic exchanges over radio best practices. Indigenous councils travel to other indigenous councils to learn how to use radio and its benefits for maintaining social cohesion and increasing communications within and among their communities. This supports larger goals of increasing indigenous pride and strengthening the social fabric of ethnic minority communities.
"Our organization does not have its own radio channel, but after seeing its effect on community life here in Cauca, I am going to go back and let the leaders know how important this is for our community."
—Yesid Banuvi Charampia, Fedeorewa indigenous council in Colombia
In Egypt ACDI/VOCA developed a series of television and radio spots to promote the safe handling of milk, better animal husbandry and the nutritional benefits of milk products to lower rates of infant and child malnutrition. ACDI/VOCA also developed the popular and long-running Serr Al Ard television series, which uses a lively soap opera format to communicate agricultural extension messages. Another project connected fruit and vegetable farmers to wholesale market price information via TV, radio and newspapers.
In Iraq ACDI/VOCA launched a women-run radio station to promote public discourse. The station airs live interviews and forums with local and foreign guests such as artists and politicians. Discussions are encouraged, and members of the community frequently call in to ask questions and share opinions.
In Indonesia’s cocoa-growing areas of Sulawesi, the SUCCESS Alliance, an ACDI/VOCA-led public, private and nonprofit alliance, reached 270,000 cocoa farmers through mass media including radio broadcasts developed by program partner Overseas Strategic Consulting. Topics ranged from pest control to cocoa quality control.
ICT Provides Learning Opportunities
Technology also can provide new learning opportunities that transcend geographic distances and physical boundaries.
In the Philippines, to make health educational programs available to all residents of Tawi-Tawi’s 300 islands and some regions of Maguindanao, ACDI/VOCA implemented the innovative Distance Education Program through a local radio station. The program targeted eight municipalities, educating health workers on family planning and maternal and child health issues.
Access to computers also promotes educational opportunities and skill building. In Iraq computer labs provide youth a safe place to build skills and practice. In addition, specialized computer equipment provided by an ACDI/VOCA program has helped deaf and blind students in Iraq to become literate. Gaining access to these skills leads to more connected and engaged communities.
For more information please check out our World Report on Building Connections through Technology.
- Bangladesh – Program for Strengthening Household Access to Resources (PROSHAR)
- Global – Fostering Agriculture Competitiveness Employing Information Communication Technologies (FACET)
- Indonesia – Agribusiness Marketing and Support Activity (AMARTA) II
- Mali – Mopti Coordinated Area Development Program
- Philippines – CoCoPal Program
A Selection of Past Projects
- Armenia – Water-to-Market Activity
- East Africa – Market Linkages Initiative (MLI)
- Egypt – Dairy Directive Project (DDP)
- Egypt – Marketing Information Project
- Ethiopia – Agricultural Cooperatives in Ethiopia (ACE) Program
- Georgia – AgVANTAGE
- Haiti – USAID PL 480 Title II Multi-Year Assistance Program
- India – Growth-Oriented Microenterprise Development Program (GMED)
- India – Implementation Grant Proposal (IGP)
- Indonesia – USDA 416(b) Program
- Iraq – Community Action Program II (CAP II)
- Kenya – Kenya Maize Development Program (KMDP)
- Lebanon – Lebanon Business Linkages Initiative
- Malawi – Market Linkages Initiative (MLI) Bridging Activity
- Malawi – National Association of Smallholder Farmers (NASFAM)
- Philippines – Enhanced and Rapid Improvement of Community Health (EnRICH)
- Philippines – Innovative Approaches to Cooperative Management, Finance and Trade (IAP)
- Philippines – Sustainable Health Improvements through Empowerment and Local Development (SHIELD)
- Serbia – Community Revitalization through Democratic Action (CRDA)
- Uganda – USAID PL 480 Title II Development Assistance Program
- Vietnam – SUCCESS Alliance