W4RA – Web alliance for Regreening in Africa
W4RA’s mission is to support farmer-managed regreening activities specifically by enhancing information, communication and knowledge sharing for rural development. It does so by developing and field deploying innovative ICT communication applications that link mobile phones, radio, Internet/Web, with the aim to successfully deliver useful locally relevant voice services and web apps to rural communities – also in remote regions and over long distances. Thus, W4RA provides an important dimension in the communication strategy needed to spread and scale-up regreening.
W4RA is an interdisciplinary network collaboration of scientists and professionals in information and computer sciences, informatics, software development, organization, business, and communication. It is hosted as an R&D and education program at the Network Institute of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Since its inception in 2009, W4RA has been inspired by the African Regreening Initiatives.
W4RA approach. We strongly believe in the principle that the key stakeholders have to be put central place. In regreening, it is local farmer innovation that has proven to be the crucial driving factor . In ICT, it should be similar. In “developed” countries it is nowadays commonplace in ICT to see end users as central to technology development. However, in the context of the developing world, it is still often thought that ICT technology developments are first-of-all driven externally, from the “advanced” outside world. In our view, also in ICT, mass communication, and knowledge sharing applications, the local stakeholders and their information needs have to be put first. Needless to say, this does require special efforts.
Accordingly, W4RA carries out a lot of field research, including many discussions and workshops with local communities, villages and farmers to elucidate outstanding information and communication needs. In this way, over the years we have built an extensive, empirically validated, portfolio of innovative ICT applications that cater for real local existing needs, in contrast to outside posited ideas on technology.