The School of Continuing and Distance Education (SCDE) of the College of Education, University of Ghana announces the 68th Annual New Year School and Conference which is on the theme “Promoting National Development through Agricultural Modernization: The Role of ICT”.
The Annual New Year School and Conference has become an important event on the University of Ghana’s calendar, where every year people of all walks of life meet to deliberate on important topics of national and international concerns. Having discussed various topics that have covered virtually every aspect of the Ghanaian life, the School in 2014 decided to focus on Ghana’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for Accelerated Development (ICT4AD) Policy and how ICT could be deployed and utilized to transform Ghana into an information-rich knowledge-based society. Although the policy has been in existence since 2004, the organizers of the Annual New Year School and Conference think that the ICT4AD policy has been relegated to the background and its mission and objectives have been neglected in national development approaches.
In order to raise awareness about this policy, the Annual New Year School’s themes have in the last three years focused on ICT and Education (2014), ICT and Governance (2015) and ICT and Health (2016). As we launch the 68th Annual New Year School and Conference, the organizers have identified agriculture as one of the critical sectors that can spur Ghana’s accelerated development because of its links with industry, as the focus of this year’s theme. The agricultural sector is one of the important sectors in which ICTs could be deployed and utilized to support activities including production, processing, marketing and distribution of agricultural products and services.
In spite of Government’s effort to improve the agricultural sector, it continues to decline steadily in terms of its contribution to Gross Domestic Product. The decline, which has been attributed to perennial problems facing the sector, is a source of worry since the agricultural sector employs about 44% of the Ghanaian population. There is no doubt that the challenges facing agriculture could be addressed significantly by using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), as ICT has been recognized as a key development enabler.
Recently, much attention has been paid to the ICT in agriculture under the rubric, e-agriculture by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and other international organizations. ICT in agriculture is about design, development and deployment of innovative ways of using ICT tools with the primary focus on agriculture in the rural development domain. The ICTs used in e-agriculture include, mobile phones, internet, geographical information systems (GIS), social media tools, global positioning system (GPS), radio and television. Today, some efforts by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture with support from the World Bank and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have shown that farmers in Ghana can use ICT tools such as mobile phone and SMS messages to improve their livelihoods. ICT solutions in agriculture are helping small scale farmers and fishermen to become more efficient and effective in their vocation.
Effectively harnessing ICTs has the huge potential of modernizing Ghana’s agricultural sector and transforming the livelihoods of the men and women who work tirelessly in the sector. So, the major question which the 68th Annual New Year School and Conference seeks to address is: ‘How can we integrate ICT effectively within the agriculture sector to overcome the perennial challenges and to increase productivity in the sector?’
The objectives of the School among others are to provide the platform for sharing of best practices among Political Leaders, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives, Farmers, Civil Society Organizations, NGOs and Religious Groups on how to create a Community of Practice (CoP) among various institutions and individuals who have a role to play in integrating ICT in agriculture.
It is also to raise public awareness of the provisions in the ICT4AD Policy on the strategies to be adopted to modernize agriculture through the development of a national e-agriculture policy.
It is also to bring together e-agriculture solution providers and share knowledge on innovative e-agriculture solutions and identify ways to scale up some of the e-agriculture solutions at the national level.
Finally, to build the capacity of Extension officers in the rural areas to be able to effectively disseminate relevant messages to small-scale rural farmers using ICT tools.
The theme of the 68th Annual New Year School has been broken further into sub-themes which cover the following:
- National E-agriculture Policy and Strategies
- E-solutions and Agricultural Productivity
- E-extension Adoption in Agriculture
- Agricultural Financing and Insurance
- Integrating ICTs in the Agricultural Value Chains
- E-agriculture, Gender and the Youth
- ICT, Climate Change and Agricultural Production