Capacity building of agriculture extension officers and farmers in ICT skills to minimize the digital divide and construct a sustainable social learning capital capable of using ICT for knowledge acquisition and sharing

Senadheera, Prasad
Kulasekara, Geetha U
Watthewidanage, Jayantha
Perera, Pradeepa
Senevirathne, M A P K
Prabash, Dineth
Coomaraswamy, Uma
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Traditionally majority of the rural farming community in Sri Lanka rely on agriculture extension officers for advice, guidance and training opportunities on crop cultivation, particularly due to government assistance schemes in agriculture. Ongoing COL-L3F project implemented by the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL) recognized that it was an essential pre-requisite to develop ICT skills in the officers involved with agri-extension services to establish a sustainable ICT based knowledge acquisition system in farming community. Preliminary survey revealed that 37 % of 175 officers who underwent training had prior exposure to ICT, whereas only 22% of them used it in extension services. Although 26% had an exposure to the internet, less than 10% used it for knowledge acquisition. Farming community had no prior knowledge in ICT. A programme was developed by OUSL to train 175 officers involved in agri-extension service in the Department of Export Agriculture along with some farmers from the farming community. The programme consists of a ‘bridge course’ in ICT, custom made modules on application of ICT in agriculture, knowledge acquisition through ODL and use of OER was offered by OUSL. Results of the summative assessments, quantitative and qualitative studies conducted by means of a questionnaire and interviews revealed that 80% of officers (140 ) have successfully completed the examinations and qualified for OUSL certificate on computer literacy. Sixty-six percent of them have planned ICT based activities for extension service. Sixty percent claimed that their ICT literacy level increased at least to ‘average level’ from ‘unfamiliar’ or ‘new comer’ status. Eighteen percent stated that they are at the level of ‘adaptation’ or ‘creative application’ on applying ICT in agriculture. Many have acquired skills in ODL and use of OER for knowledge acquisition. Motivated by the programme, farmers are in the process of building an IT resource center in the village. // Paper ID: 427

Skills Development,Capacity Building,Agricultural Extension,Farmers,Information and Communication Technology (ICT),Digital Divide
Sri Lanka