Determined to speed up economic development, the government of Côte d’Ivoire – through the Ministry of Post and ICT – has launched an ambitious ICT development campaign.
The new initiative aims to improve the country’s IT infrastructure, introduce electronic banking services at post office-level and set up a birth registration system using mobile technology. Other components include boosting people’s internet access, stimulating e-commerce, establishing ICT as a formal subject at schools, and developing a far-reaching e-Agriculture programme.
“Farming is our country’s foremost important asset. Côte d’Ivoire benefits from mineral resources, but our economy remains largely based on agriculture,” says Minister of Post and ICT Bruno Nabagné Koné.
The new Ivoirian e-Agriculture programme, first and foremost, aims to connect all structures that directly and indirectly touch onto the farming sector, including research bodies, marketing, administration, the private sector and government. “The idea is to ensure that all players can communicate directly with one another, and have access to the same reliable information,” says Mr Koné.
Secondly, the farming initiative has the objective to educate farmers about modern agricultural techniques, whilst improving their access to reliable and relevant data. It has always been challenging to train and inform farmers in Côte d’Ivoire because it required the government to go from village to village. “This was too difficult,” Mr Koné notes.
The new policy by-passes this, says the minister. “Teaching farmers about how they can improve their production through the adoption of better farming techniques, while providing them with reliable data, is much easier when using electronic and digital solutions. It only requires the click of a button,” he says.
The third priority of the e-agriculture programme is to obtain a better overview of Côte d’Ivoire’s agricultural landscape. “Currently we don’t know which regions have a surplus, and of what products, and which regions are struggling with a shortage and growing demand. We want to centralise that inventory,” Mr Koné comments.
Lastly, tapping into the potential of the digital world is expected to improve farmers’ access to market price information. “Many farmers in Côte d’Ivoire are lost. They often don’t know at what price a certain product is purchased, and what the international exchange rates are,” Mr Koné says. “By using IT solutions, farmers can find out what price they should ask for their products and what the best time is to sell.”
Apart from helping farmers, boosting agricultural production and increasing economic growth, the government of Côte d’Ivoire hopes that its e-Agriculture programme will help rural areas remain attractive. “Everyone moves to town these days, because towns have amenities villages do not have. If young villagers have access to the internet and are connected to the rest of the world, they perhaps won’t want to leave. Human resources are vital to our rural areas and agricultural sector. We need to retain them there,” concludes the minister.