Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Canadian graduate student visits Rangiri Radio Station in Sri Lanka to collect feedback from the use of radio and ICTs (Radio+) for sustainable agriculture.

Faria Rashid, MSc candidate from the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development at the University of Guelph (Canada), visited Rangiri Radio Station, Sri Lanka in October 2015 to understand innovation in farm radio in Sri Lanka.

Rangiri Radio staff has been collaborating with the project titled “Mobilizing Knowledge for Sustainable Agriculture” where open source software and mobile technologies are tested. The project is led by University of Alberta (Canada) and partners with University of Wayamba (Sri Lanka). Various technologies (Frontline SMS, Freedom Fone, etc.) were tested by Rangiri to support programming such as “Call – in” audience response programs, multiple text messaging and voice recorded messages.

Faria also discussed feedback from the Rangiri Radio technicians and broadcasters about the farm radio program and further opportunities to use mobile technologies and open source software. Radio+ combines radio with new ICTs enabling radio and agricultural communities to create innovations such as rapid relay of information about sustainable farming to listeners. She discovered that open software such as Freedom Fone and Frontline SMS make the radio program more popular to farmer listeners. Rangiri Radio staff mentioned that after using the open source software in their farm program, responses from farmer listeners increased dramatically. The main strength of this experience for understanding ICT-enabled radio or “Radio+” is that it creates a strong communication relation as well as a multi-media connection between agricultural experts and farmers. Radio+ enhances farm radio programs. Farmers can get their problems solved quickly and easily by accessing important information from agricultural experts when they ask questions through the open source software channels. 

Faria and the rest of the project team greatly appreciate the work of Rangiri Radio and their support to make this visit successful.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Wold Food Day - October 16th

World Food Day Highlights Importance of Resilience in Agriculture Development 

This year’s World Food Day on October 16 is a reminder that building resilience to climate change and other shocks and stresses is critical to achieving food security. Increasing food production alone is not enough to combat poverty and hunger among the world’s most vulnerable communities. Roughly 1.2 billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty, with 78 percent of them living in rural areas where agriculture is the main driving force of the economy. Programs to better manage drought cycles, revolutionize farming in traditionally unproductive zones, connect farmers to early warning data, and promote access to financial services can truly transform livelihoods and break the cycle of chronic food insecurity.
Several of the winning Global Resilience Challenge teams are demonstrating how these approaches can build resilience among some of the world’s vulnerable populations: CLICK TO READ MORE.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Future of Knowledge Sharing in a Digital Age: Exploring Impacts and Policy Implications for Development


IDS Evidence Report 125 by Gregson, J., Brownlee, J.M., Playforth, R. and Bimbe, N.

Over the next 15 years, developing countries are likely to experience sweeping changes in how states and societies engage with knowledge. These changes hold the potential to improve people’s lives by making information more available, increasing avenues for political and economic engagement, and making government more transparent and responsive.....

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Forthcoming presentation at the Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide Conference

We are pleased have received word that our presentation "Supporting effective use through a technology stewardship model" accepted at the PPDD 2015 conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.  

Dr. Gow will presenting the preliminary results of our research at this event, hoping to generate further discussion on our approach to inclusive innovation and technology stewardship.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Communications Policy South, Taiwan

The paper, "Technology Stewarding method for Knowledge Mobilizationin Agriculture Communities of Practice", authors: Nuwan Waidyanatha , Gordon Gow , Chandana Jayathilake , Timothy Barlott , Helen Hambly, and Mahmuda Anwar; was presented at CPRsouth2015 in Taipei, Taiwan. The event was hosted by Innovation Center for Big Data and Digital Convergence, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan.

Abstract presentation at KDU-IRC 2015 in Colombo

I was glad to present an abstract on our partnership development project in the 8th International Research Conference at the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, Colombo, Sri Lanka on 28th August 2015.
I was the first presenter on the second day of the conference under the "Computing in Governance" session. Participants were interested on the Frontlinesms and FreedomFone FOSS and the "rapid prototyping, campaign concept".

watch on you tube

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Project presentation at IAMCR 2015 in Montreal

I was pleased to debut a short film about our partnership development project at the International Association of Media and Communication Researchers (IAMCR) Conference in Montreal, on July 16.  We had a small but interested group at the presentation with lots of good questions about the role of the technology stewards in the project.

I'd like to extend my thanks to Ranmalee Gamage and the Dinesh Gunaratne from Skitworks for their contributions to the video.  Nuwan Waidyanatha also played an important role in coordinating the conversation as we planned and edited the video.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Presentation notes - 7th International Conference on Communities and Technologies

I recently returned home to Brisbane, Australia after a whirlwind trip to Limerick, Ireland. It was a pleasure to present our Work-in-Progress paper at the 7th International Conference on Communities and Technologies as previously, previously posted by Gordon. This paper focused on our technology stewardship model for inclusive innovation.

I was the final presenter on the first day of the conference (June 29, 2015). The day kicked off with reflective initial keynote with Michael Gurstein, who initially developed the field of community informatics and is the editor of the Journal of Community Informatics. It was a full day, with a diverse range of presenters and lively panel discussion on communities and technologies. Despite being at the end of the day, participants remained engaged and there were a number of questions and comments on our presentation. 

The attendees & other presenters, being from a C&T and community informatics perspective, commented that our current technology stewardship model may build sponsor capacity more than community capacity. Another participant queried whether tech stewards were leaned on too heavily, asking "what happens if you develop highly capable tech steward, but then they leave?" Though critical, there was an overall positive reception to the presentation, the project and technology stewardship. 

The session chair wondered whether we had planned to develop a community of practice among tech stewards themselves, which is part of our future tech steward training plans.  

Would be nice to work towards a full paper at this conference next year

Monday, June 29, 2015

Scanvenger Hunts in Techology Steward Training

Gonzales, Fiesler, and Bruckman [1] had studied the choice of technology with communities engaging in a scavenger hunt. Spreadsheets and Word documents were favoured over specialized applications. Simple low-cost solutions are easier to replicate.

Gordon and I had discussed this concept a while back - leveraging scavenger hunts as means for Technology Stewards to train with the community. The FrontlineSMS, Freedom Fone, and Ushahidi tools can be combined to exchange clues and information.

[1] Joseph A. Gonzales, Casey Fiesler, Amy S. Bruckman (2015). Towards an Appropriate CSCW Tool Ecology: Lessons from the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, Computer Supported Collaborative Work (#cscw205), Vancouver, Canada.

Work-in-Progress Paper presented at 7th International Conference on Communities and Technologies in Limerick

Today, team member Tim Barlott will present a work-in-progress paper at the 7th International Conference on Communities and Technologies in Limerick, Ireland.

We wish Tim lots of luck at the conference!

A copy of the paper is available here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sri Lankan side expressed interest in learning from the experience of Bangladesh in Community Radio!

Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, MP,Bangladesh, on his current visit to Sri Lanka (June 2015) met Mass Media and Information Minister H E Gayantha Karunathilaka.  Notable to our project Mobilizing Knowledge for Sustainable Agriculture is that the Sri Lankan side expressed interest in learning from the experience of Bangladesh in implementing Right to Information Act and in introducing Community Radio.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are two countries in S. Asia which have distinctly different experiences in community radio for rural development. Sri Lanka has had a long history of rural and regional radio stations. In its SLBC network there are reportedly 15 stations now on-air in the country, aiming to ensure empowerment and right to information for the rural community. They are broadcasting altogether 125 hours program per day on information, education, and local entertainment and development motivation activities. Around 1000 youth are now working with those stations throughout the country as rural broadcasters. Sri Lanka has 5.5 million rural people in 68 upazillas under 14 districts. Sri Lanka stated that another 17 community-based radio stations will be on air by December 2016. Our project has collaborated with radio stations including Rangiri Radio and Wayamba.

Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) actively works to improve recognition of the community electronic media sector [Community Radio | Community TV | Community Film] & its work in and involvement with the communities it seeks to serve. BNNRC represent the community electronic media sector to Government, Industry, Regulatory Bodies, Media, Academia and Development Partners from 2000. The BNNRC provides leadership and support for rural initiators to facilitate independent electronic community broadcasting services and to build and strengthen rural communities with the support from Free Press Unlimited.

Currently there are 15 radio Stations are on-air in the country, aiming to ensure empowerment and right to information for the rural community. They are broadcasting altogether 120 hours program per day on information, education, and local entertainment and development motivation activities. Around 1000 Youth Women & Youth are now working with those Stations throughout the country as rural broadcasters. 15 community radio stations presently cover more than 4.6 million listeners of 67 upazilla of 13 districts.

The community radio movement is important in S. Asia. It has tremendous potential to mobilize agricultural knowledge as well as add value to new information and communication technologies such as mobile phones. Our project has encouraged the convergence of Open Source Software such as Frontline SMS and Freedom Fone. Such opportunities are an encouragement for rural areas who want to access knowledge and communicate. There is great potential in community based programming in both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. We welcome the international networking of these countries collaborating and wish them all the best in their policy development and activities to support the radio+ stations!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Poster Presentation @ CSCW2015

The 18th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2015) was held at the Westin Bayshore hotel in Vancouver, BC, Canada from 14th -18th March 2015. We presented our poster titled Technology Stewardship, Text Messaging, and Collaboration in Agricultural Work: Preliminary Results from an Action Research Study in Sri Lanka on 16th March on this conference. 

Many conference participants were interested in our work carried out in this project. Some  of them were very keen on our technology use and the concept of technology stewardship. They were surprised as to how this much of collaborations was possible in this project.  (because several Canadian Universities, Sri Lankan Institutes and University and NGOs involvement) we described them how this was possible. Another question they had was on how the Sri Lankan partners collaborate and how they run the campaigns. We elaborated the process from end-to-end. 
  1. Held a National Workshop - conducted in Peradeniya and invited all the agricultural institute and NGOs )
  2. Community Rapid Prototyping - We identified several potential Sponsors from the workshop to follow up with Community Rapid Prototyping
  3. Technology Stewardship Training - Tech-savvy individuals from communities were given hands-on experience on the technologies practiced in the campaign
  4. A series of field experiment termed as " Campaign"- this was short duration (2-3 months) activity specifically-designed to characterize the geography and communities belong to agriculture

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Brainstorming the Proportional Actor Influence Metric

2015 March 12, meeting at the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension
The campaigns carried out in Sri Lanka revealed to be worthy and the model for stewarding technology to be further examined. A question the ICTRaP [1] Research Team found was a need for a simple and easy to use evaluation metric that the Actors: Sponsor, Technology Steward, and Community could use in determining their strengths and weakness. Those factors would decide whether or not they should re-assess and re-design or simply continue on. It is ideal if the minimal set of inputs to the evaluation model would result in a simple green, amber, red output signal.

Gordon Gow arranged for us to meeting with Jason Daniels (Associate Director) and Stanley Varnhagen (Academic Director) from the Evaluation and Research Services, Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta. A challenge during the meeting was with breaking down the problem in a mathematically comprehensible way and second with arriving at a set recommnedations to pursue towards developing the stewarding technology evaluation metric.

ICTRaP team agreed on a plan based on the recommendations to pursue with a set of activities towards confirming the model:
  1. Verify the currently perceived metric with campaign actors and identify good examples of those that are representative; Identify differences between the four quadrants, then develop characteristics for each of the quadrants; document case studies relating to the quadrant 
  2. Formulate a structural equation model to confirm the theoretical model; develop the data collection and analysis procedures for testing the model
  3. Simplify the model to such that 20% of the model would provide 80% of the evaluation requirements: a simplified decision metric.
hypothetical dependencies between the actors

There are certain dependencies between the four Actors, illustrated by the nodes in the graph to the left. It may be possible to identify common dependencies such as campaign is coherent between the Community, Technology Steward, and the Technology. There may be unique dependencies with making the Community  trust facilitating technology stewarding for knowledge mobilization. Treating the edges between the Actor nodes would result in a set of independent variables.

A team of Researchers in the United Kingdom [2] are beginning to quantify the term "effort"; more specifically additional effort and interpersonal communication. One may relate to the amount of "work", in the mechanical sense. However, effort is more related to human related collaborative work but taking in to consideration the efforts related to evading distractions. In that sense, perhaps simply considering the time put in might the simplest and effective way to consider the individual effort in each of the variables such as campaign, training, facilitation, so on and so forth.

[1] ICTRaP - Information Communication Technology Rapid Prototyping
[2] Ryan Kelly, Daniel Gooch, and Leon Watts. (2015). Is ‘Additional’ Effort Always Negative? Understanding Discretionary Work in Interpersonal Communications, Proceedings of the Computing-supported Collaborative Works (CSCW2015), Association of Computing Machinery.

Friday, March 20, 2015

SSHRC PDG project now featured on SANCOM website

The South Asia Network for Community Media (SANCOM) have connected to the 'Mobilizing Knowledge for Sustainable Development' blog. See the Resources section of the SANCOM website. What a great opportunity for our SSHRC PDG project to share our results with this regional network!

SANCOM (www.sancomonline.net) was launched on February 13, 2015 at the World Radio Day event in New Delhi, India, organized jointly by UNESCO and the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre in Asia (CEMCA). SANCOM emerged from an international initiative round table entitled ‘Towards a South Asia Network for Community Media’ receiving support from UNESCO and the University of Hyderabad, India. Currently, the eight SAARC countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) are involved with the SANCOM initiative.

The South Asia Network for Community Media (SANCOM) identifies seven objectives for the network. Firstly, SANCOM advocates for a more free and open policy environment for community media to flourish in the region. Secondly, SANCOM uses the network for exchange of information regarding community media related initiatives and activities in the region. Thirdly, it encourages the building or sharing of capacities for community media production and management across national boundaries. Fourthly, it documents and disseminates best practices and explores possibilities of replicating success stories. Fifthly, SANCOM encourages comparative research that could help gain greater awareness and deeper understanding of community media in different national contexts in the region. Sixthly, their networking promotes peer learning and self-evaluation. Lastly, SANCOM builds alliances with other national, regional and global networks, both of community media as well as of broader social movements.

We hope you will also join SANCOM and share your experiences with our networks! 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Digital Technology for Community Engagement: A talk at the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension

University of Alberta, Faculty of Extension, Engagement Talks

On Thursday, March 12 the project Research Team was pleased to present our preliminary findings at the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension Engagement Talks. The audience comprised researchers and students interested in the use of text messaging for mobilizing knowledge in communities of practice.

The speakers were challenged to a discussion on the choice of using text messaging over other technologies. The pre-campaign survey results on the Farmers' choice of technology use is illustrated in the bargraph in the image below. It clearly shows that voice calls and radio are the technologies used mostly for seeking agriculture information. The question was, "why did the campaigns chose FrontlineSMS to serve in the preliminary activities of the campaign?"

Ken Banks, Kiwanja Foundation, illustrates in his social mobile's long tail graph that simple + low cost implementations are probabilistically higher to replicate. Therefore, the participatory approach to the campaign design along with the rapid prototyping exercises realized that the simple to use FrontlineSMS text-messaging would foster an immediate win and confidence building for the Community, Technology Stewards, and the Sponsors. Freedom Fone Interactive Voice Response system was perceived to be relatively complex and the chances of replication proved cumbersome. However, now that the primary campaign activities are complete and have proven success, the Department of Export Agriculture and Rangiri Radio Station are moving in to IVR supported implementations.
Farmers' choice of technology and preliminary campaign's choice of technology
  Other discussions were on the stratification of gender and age in realizing the disparities in the survey results. However, out analysis shows that there were no noticeable difference between the two genders in their choice of answer. The farmers interviewed were all between the age of 35-50 and the surveys did not capture youth farmers, for example.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

KULE Institute: the Springboard to this Project

Going forward with this 'stewarding technology and agriculture knowledge mobilization project', the research team is exploring ways of a joint education and training initiative in technology stewardship with University Wayamba and University of Alberta, University of Guelph, and other partners. We met with Geoffrey Rockwell (Director, KIAS) and Oliver Rossier (Senior Officer) at the Kule Institute for Advance Studies (KIAS) to explore these ideas with an intent to discuss ways for funding such an initiative.

ICT Rapid Prototyping Research Team at KIAS
The intial KIAS funding lead to this SSHRC grant. Therefore, it was important that we shared the research findings, face-to-face, with them (Left-to-Right: Chandana Jayathilake, Nuwan Waidyanatha, Geoffrey Rockwell, Helen Hambley, Gordon Gow, and Oliver Rossier); especially, the success of the KIAS seed funding leading to a SSHRC funded partnership development project and that in turn leading to new areas of research and development in Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D); i.e. successfully cultivating a strong research partnership through a participatory action research approach.

Sri Lanka Department of Export Agriculture (DOEA) is a keen sponsor who has realized the impact and efficiency gains of the technology steward model for knowledge mobilization. They have expressed their interest to scale the model within the Province spanning Kurunegala and Puttlam Districts. Therefore, there is a growing need to develop a Technology Steward training program. One that can potentially be advocated and managed through the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka ICT Center. The University of Alberta and the University of Wayamba would support developing such a joint education training initiative that requires a multidisciplinary approach.

The training would involve concepts evolving from Radio+, use of low-cost ICTs, user centric development, action research, short term limited duration campaigns, design, and evaluation methods. The Research Team is keen in exploring opportunities in developing such a program that can be leveraged by the ICT4D and Community Informatics Researchers and Practitioners.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Presentation at University of Alberta Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences

Today the research team had an opportunity to present findings from our work at a research colloquium hosted by the Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Alberta.  

Here, Chandana Jayathilake is describing the campaigns conducted as part of the project.

Colloquium at University of Calgary

Members of the research team were pleased to be able share some of our preliminary results with faculty and students in the Department of Communication, Media and Film at the University of Calgary on March 10.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Agriculture based MOOCs in India

agMOOCs in India intent to design and deliver MOOCs on topics that are critical to the continued enrichment of knowledge and skills of professionals in agriculture sector.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Free Catalog of Low Cost ICTs

Thanks to Tim Barlott for bringing this catalog to our attention.  It includes reviews and ratings for SMS, geospatial, and remote sensing tools.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A training Workshop on Interactive Voice Response for Department of Export Agriculture

Another Freedom fone (FF) workshop was conducted to train the Department of Export Agriculture (DOEA) staff in Kurunegala branch on 28 Jan 2015 at Wayamba University of Sri Lanka. 

DOEA previously introduced FrontlineSMS text messaging technology as part of our communication campaigns. They were actively using the SMS technology to interact with their farmer groups especially sending common message to farmers. DOEA experienced a low texting response rate by the farmers, partly because farmers are reluctant to use texting in part due to language barriers.  However, most interesting thing was after receiving a SMS from DOEA, farmers usually call back to confirm the message and/or ask more information about that. So, DOEA has taken up this insight and wants to test an IVR solution.

They were familiarized with implementing Freedom Fone--a low cost Interactive Voice Response solution (IVR)--for their farmer extension program.  DOEA staff is now well trained to use FF. We put less emphasis on technical background of the FF because they have not previous exposure to the Linux environment. 

They quickly realized the cost benefits and incremental effectiveness they gain from this IVR system and are pleased to use it for farmer extension program.  During the workshop they created a sample voice menu and tested. They need to further discuss the voice menu and content structure design with their administrative personnel (especially with Janaka) at DOEA as they roll out their implementation. 

IVR workshop for DOEA satff

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Interactive Voice Response for Radio Programs, a training workshop

A workshop was conducted to train the Rangiri media network staff on 02 Jan 2015. They were familiarizing with implementing the low cost IVR (Interactive Voice Response) solution for their Radio & TV programs. The Freedom fone (FF)  free and open source telephony platform was used in this workshop.
Kasun Perera, a Software developer at Lanka Software Foundation, was the key resource person who conducted the training sessions at the workshop. He has quite familiar with the FF technology and has used the technology in other research work: use of IVR in crisis response and management. . We presented with an overview of the FF technology and then lead the participants through a hands experience with: installing the Freedomfone, setting up the USB dongle, creating voice menu and set up voice call functionally and SMS functionality separately.

Most interesting aspect was the ability to use USB dongles, for voice and SMS connectivity, with newest FF version 2.S.7. The use of dongles further reduces the cost compared with the relatively expensive Mobigator or OfficeRoute GSM modem. Moreover, FF could connect multiple USB dongles with different SIMs simultaneously with  same voice menus and implementation.
Rangiri staff realized the cost benefits and incremental effectiveness they gain from this IVR system and are thrilled to use it firstly with their Radio programming before expanding on to TV. Now that they are trained and are competent with using FF, they will discuss the voice menu and content structure design with their radio programming personnel at Rangiri to roll out their first implementation.
We had previously introduced the FrontlineSMS text messaging technology to Rangiri. They were profoundly using the SMS technology to interact with their listener base. FF also has SMS messaging capabilities with polling function that allows for conducting surveys and simply receiving general text messages. However, it is relatively weaker, compared with FrontlineSMS, as it does not carry the "key word" functionality. Since FF has both voice call and SMS functionality, Rangiri would prefer using the same setup for their SMS & Voice based communication needs. However, we were technically challenged with applying the same key word and filtering with FF received SMS, unlike in FrontLineSMS.

 IVR Workshop @ Rangiri