W4RA – Web alliance for Regreening in Africa
W4RA is an interdisciplinary network collaboration of scientists and professionals in information science, informatics, computer science, artificial intelligence, organization, business, and communication sciences, sustainable land management, rural development and web science. 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’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 approach. We believe in the principle that key stakeholders are at the centre. In regreening, it is local farmer innovation that has proven to be the crucial driving factor. In ICT, it should be similar. 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.
W4RA supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and works with partner organizations in the global South, towards: SDG1 (end to poverty), SDG2 (end hunger, food security, sustainable agriculture), SDG3 (healthy lives and well-being for all), SDG4 (inclusive and equitable quality education for all), SDG5 (gender equality) SDG17 (sustainably manage forests, and halt and reverse land degradation).