There is increasing recognition that local ownership is critical to the success and sustainability of poverty reduction initiatives, which requires capacity creation at the local level. While large numbers of agricultural extension workers in many countries have valuable knowledge of local conditions, they often lack the breadth of knowledge and skills that would make them creative problem solvers in their local communities and enable them to draw upon available funding. A highly innovative new professional Bachelor’s degree program in Poverty Reduction and Agriculture Management (PRAM), developed under the Wetlands Alliance and piloted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, has shown the tremendous value of providing such training at grassroots level. This program features the use of poverty reduction outcomes to evaluate student projects and to measure overall effectiveness.
ICT holds the promise to enable the scaling up of this program, as well as to link local and global agendas. Private sector development in Laos, like in many developing countries, has begun to provide viable ICT infrastructure in rural areas, including 3G Internet, inexpensive computing devices, and access to solar technology. Under a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Laos PDR, UNU-IIST, in collaboration with the University of Bremen, has begun to design the software that will tap the potential of this infrastructure to support capacity building at grassroots level in the country. It will form a repository for valuable local-level knowledge of successful poverty reduction projects. It will enable extension officers to share this knowledge and form professional networks to create a broad peer-to-peer learning community. This seminar highlights the novel challenges presented by the construction of such a system, from the perspectives of computing and cognition.
* Mr. Sousath Sayakoummane, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Lao People’s Democratic Republic
* Prof. Peter Haddawy, Director, United Nations University International Institute for Software Technology (UNU-IIST) in Macau
* Prof. Christian Freksa, Chair, Cognitive Systems at the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics, University of Bremen, Germany
* Jean-Marc Coicaud, Director, United Nations University Office in New York
Conference Room 7, Temporary North Lawn Building, United Nations Headquarters, New York