On 5 April 2011, the UNU International Institute for Software Technology (UNU-IIST) and the Laos Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) held a workshop in Vientiane to develop their first collaborative work plan. The meeting represents the first concrete step under a long-term strategic partnership established recently between the two organizations.
The aim of the partnership is to mobilize the resources and expertise of UNU-IIST and the Laos MAF towards their common goal of poverty reduction. The work plan ties closely to existing projects and programmes of the Ministry and, in particular, takes advantage of the norms and implementation modalities established under a regional capacity building programme called the Wetlands Alliance.
The collaboration between UNU-IIST and MAF will bring new expertise and resources to poverty reduction initiatives in Laos by enabling local change agents and community development workers to leverage the potential of information and communications technologies (ICT) and the resources available through the Internet. The collaboration aims to develop ICT solutions for poverty reduction that will empower people in poor communities and unlock the latent capacity that exists among local extension officers and community workers.
Through the development of appropriate ICT tools, MAF expects to significantly accelerate its local-level capacity building programmes and to develop Internet-based platforms that provide new opportunities for local communities and extension workers to share information and experiences.
The collaboration is an opportunity for UNU-IIST and MAF to develop new approaches to poverty reduction, professional education and ICT development. The work plan that has been agreed upon will launch a series of new initiatives, both in Laos and at the international level, which have the potential to enable important, novel approaches to the problem of poverty reduction.
Also present at the meeting was a representative of the Collaborative Research Center for Spatial Cognition of the Universities of Bremen and Freiburg, which is interested in contributing its expertise in human cognition to addressing the challenge of designing information systems for use by rural communities.