The Mobile Agricultural Information System (MAIS) is an outcome of a project funded under the CABI Development Fund (CDF) in 2006. CABI Africa in partnership with two networks of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), namely the Regional Agricultural Information Network (RAIN) and the Coffee Research Network (CORNET) identified the need for MAIS as a resource for agricultural-sector stakeholders to access information and use technologies resulting from research. The MAIS is being piloted with stakeholders of ASARECA and through a partnership between CABI, ASARECA (CORNET and RAIN) and Virtual City Limited, a young, innovative company with expertise in developing knowledge management solutions.
The MAIS integrates web and mobile technologies, exploiting the power of hand-held devices such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and mobile phones to provide access to information to users, particularly those in remote and inaccessible areas,. The system which is based on users’ needs facilitates publishing and viewing of information on research activities within ASARECA programmes and provides links to partners’ websites. It is currently being tested among agricultural-sector stakeholders of in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The stakeholders include researchers, information officers, extension workers, livestock and coffee industry partners in the public and private sectors.
The MAIS enables users to access information such as project activities and outputs; announcements of research grants and training activities; market news such as prices of major agricultural commodities on national and regional markets; early warning information on crop and livestock pests and diseases; and weather updates. Registered users will be able to receive SMS alerts on their mobile phones of important information e.g. tasks they need to action, new emails received or new information posted in their areas of interest. The system also provides a forum for stakeholder to network, share information, ask and respond to technical questions. The system demonstrates the potential role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) especially the use of the web, short messaging services (SMS), email and Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) in promoting access to agricultural and development information.
If successful, the pilot project will be scaled out to other users in the East and Central Africa region and in Sub-Saharan Africa.
CABI, Wallingford, UK. 7 pp.