The proliferation of interconnected computers on a global scale has made the world to become compacted in terms of knowledge and information sharing. Information in this age is the key resource element for developing and establishing a prosperous, dynamic and viable for any nations. Thus, a country is termed as rich or poor based on how information rich or poor the country is. The quantum leap and advancements witnessed in recent times in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have transformed virtually everything; individuals, societies, nations, businesses and markets and have generated tremendous wealth and economic prosperity in many countries around the world. ICT is now the driving-force of all prosperous and progressive nations and hence all countries are striving towards establishing a robust and sound ICT sector that will serve as a catalyst for rapid socio-economic development.
Despite all these, the development, awareness and utilization of ICT in Nigeria compared to developed nations like the United States of America and Europe is grossly inadequate. Adedeji (2001, as cited in Salawu, 2008) emphasize that Nigeria is progressing even though at a slow pace as pointed out. Nigeria is still counted among countries that are poor in information sharing. However, in the last few years, there has been significant changes and progress in ICT development in the country. The Federal Government took bold steps to reverse the trend by formulating appropriate policies and measures that will bridge the digital divide. Nigeria with a population of 140,431,790 millions, National Population Commissions (2006) located in West Coast of Africa with 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and over 274 ethnics groups has tremendously coming up in development of ICT in rural areas. The expansion of ICT in rural area has brought about rural development in many villages. However, about 80% of Nigerian lives in rural area. ICT has improve easy communication among the ruralite, easier to medical care, better access to educational tools, easier access to government and government initiatives, reduction in rural urban migration, knowledge sharing and enhanced productivity linked to better access to communication (Ndukwe, 2008).
In developing countries such as Nigeria, rural people have greatly depended on extension worker for technological advice and information transfer on their farming activities. In essence, extension worker transfer technical advice to the rural people. Boone (1990) describes extension service as a human process in which technical information are integrated and used to help rural people in achieving their potentials. The term agricultural extension is a professional communication intervention deployed by organizations to disseminate agriculture knowledge and technologies to rural communities. Extension has a long history, based on adult education, communication science, community development, rural development, international development, and has strong linkages with agriculture research and practice. (Karbasioun et al., 2007).
It is important to disseminate information about new technologies so that the farmer is able to make use of the latest agricultural developments. For technology to be successful, it is necessary that it should serve a useful purpose to the end user. Therefore, the institution that bridges the gap between farmers and agricultural research scientists or ministry is the Agricultural Extension Service (AES). The main objective of agricultural extension services is to transmit latest technical know-how to farmers. Extension service is one of the departments in Agricultural Development Project (ADP) under the ministry of agricultures, fisheries and forest resources (state or federal Level). Extension worker on field are normally the junior staff in the department which range from Level 6 officers to level 9 and sometimes level 10 as well. Agricultural extension workers are intermediaries between research (i.e. ministry) and farmers, they work directly with the farmers and depend on information been received from the ministries which in most cases came late to them, this might happened due to inadequate information sharing device system between the field extension workers and the ministry. They serve as facilitators and communicators, helping farmers in their decision-making and ensuring that appropriate knowledge is implemented in order to obtain the best results. It is generally carried out in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect between agricultural extension workers and their clientele (farmers).
In other word, rural people are those that live in rural area which most of their activities is farming. In view of Deavers and Brown (1985), categories rural area on social, demographics and economic information which includes; agriculture, nearest to nature, persistence poverty and reduction in population growth. Rural area is faced with various problems which include: environmental degradation, inadequate channel of information for extension workers to rural people, poor portable water supply, inadequate social amenities, high level of unemployment rate, poor health facilities, high level of literacy and poverty. Of these entire problem faced by the ruralite, late of information delivery to the rural people by agricultural extension workers is one of the most significant aspect which needs to improve because it causes declination in agricultural produce and poor socio economic activities of the farmers. The existence of late information from the ministry to the extension workers is addressed by designing a conceptual model for extension information sharing portal.
1.1 Problem Statement.
Adequate and timely information processes from researchers to agricultural extension services in Nigeria have not been very successful in dealing with site-specific problem to the farmers due to absence of or weak linkage between them. The absence of sustainable linkages between technology generation (research) and technology transfer (extension) has resulted in completely untenable situations in such technology to rural people.
Generalized packages of practices and technologies, developed by the centralized research or ministry of agriculture did not work very well in diverse fields, season and causes farmers’ circumstances. In most of the cases, information dissemination package do reach extension workers at late time which eventually causes lately application of information transfer to or by the users i.e. rural farmers (Eponou, 1993). In addition, Agbamu (1999) noted that the research and extension workers linkage problems in timely
dissemination of information to rural farmers in Nigeria arises due to inadequate or weakness of research institution and extension worker policy, distance from extension workers at field, poor institutional arrangement for the linkages, inadequate and poor quality of personnel, inappropriate decision-making methods, poor conditions at on-farm level trials and inadequate finances. Individual and institutional issues under human resource development, the training of researchers and extension functionaries and farmers had not been addressed adequately in order to have linkage approach and adequate information dissemination at the right time (Sharma, 2003).
Furthermore, there is no means of given weekly report of activities to the researchers or at state ministry of agriculture other than travel with long distance to secretariat. This has causes lapses to on-farming activities at farm because farmer will be waiting for next of action from extension workers after receiving further information from researchers or ministry. Therefore, this study intend to design a conceptual model for agricultural extension information sharing portal in order to minimize late information package to extension workers at their various posting community and to reduce frequent travelling of extension workers to the researchers or ministry of agriculture either to submit weekly farm report or to receive information for the next step to do with the farmers on farm.
Figure1: Scenario of information sharing channel
1.2 Research Question
1. What is the alternative way to improve information sharing between extension department in ministry and extension workers on field for Level 6 to Level 10 officers in appropriate time?
2. What is the requirement for designing a model for agricultural extension information sharing portal?
The main objective of this study is to propose a model for designing agricultural extension information sharing portal and this shall be achieved through the following specific objectives:
To identify model requirements for the agricultural information sharing portal.
To design a conceptual model for the system.
1.4 Scope of Study
The scope of this study is limited between Level 6 to Level10 field officers’ of agricultural extension workers in extension service department at ministry of agriculture of Ondo State in Nigeria. This shall be done by getting necessary information from extension workers and state extension service department for the needed requirement. Information portal’s model will cover aspect on crops, live stocks and agricultural marketers. This information sharing portal’s model would be utilized (if the portal were develop in future) by field extension workers and extension service department at state ministry of agricultures, fisheries and forest resources.
Extension information sharing portal could be developed using this conceptual model as a means of timely information sharing device. On completion the system, it will create an effective dissemination of information channel between the researchers (ministry) and extension workers which directly benefit the farmers at the right time i.e. technology application so as to make the country has more development in rural ICT. It will as well allow the researchers or ministry to get timely feedback from the farmers about their farming activities through the extension workers by means of information sharing portal device. Furthermore, information sharing portal will encourage bottom-up approach which allows the farmers to have says in what they need at the right time (through prioritization). Another benefit to the farmers is increase in their farming product (output) which results in high income for the farmers, communities and development to Nigeria.
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.0 Agricultural Extension Services in Nigeria
The beginning of agricultural extension practice in Nigeria commenced in 1954 with the establishment of three regional ministries of agriculture namely; Western, Eastern and Northern region. The creation of regional ministries leads to abolished of Director and Inspector-General of Agriculture posts which was initiated in 1951. Each regional ministry of agriculture had a research stations, one school of agriculture and a field service division. The extension personnel trained by the school of agriculture worked under the field service division were deployed to teach farmers innovative farming techniques (Madukwe, 2008). After the establishment of regional ministries, the Federal Department of Agricultural Research was retained while extension workers remained regional responsibilities. The research findings of the federal research stations under this arrangement were to be transmitted through regional ministries of agriculture therefore, the regionalization of agriculture causes the consequent separation of research and extension which minimize the attention on extension and laid the basis for the enduring weak linkages between research and extension.
In the mid 60’s, The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources were created (now Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources) and had its structure reflected in the state ministries that came on board with the creation of states in the late 60’s. Agricultural Extension under the ministry was a relatively small unit compared to other sections in the ministry. The roles of transferring and disseminating agricultural technologies in the ministry were therefore bugged with so many problems. The problems were lack of staff, weak linkages of extension workers with agricultural research, poor staff mobility, inadequate qualified staff, and weak financial support (Madukwe & Ozor, 2004). The very poor performance of extension under the ministry of agriculture over the time has been adequately reported (Madukwe, 1990, 1994 & 1995).The place of extension in the administrative system of the ministry was a small unit in the administrative machinery of agriculture ministry until the creation of Agricultural Development Projects (ADP) in 1972 which later expanded to all states of the nation in 1982 due to the success of the project. The budget allocated for extension unit and hierarchy in ministry was relatively low even the staff of the unit had little or no training in extension.
As at present, Nigeria has 36 states with her Federal Capital Territory in Abuja. Each of the 36 states is divided into extension zones, blocks and cells. The extension workers and subject-matter specialists of the state Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) depend on the national research system for most technologies. Nigeria is divided into five ecological regions. Five regional coordinating research institutes (operating under the National Agricultural Research Project) oversee the research needs and coordinate farming systems research activities in each ecological region (Agbamu, 2000). Research-extension linkages are promoted at regional level through regional research-extension committees and quarterly technology review meetings involving subject-matter specialists. Furthermore, the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Service (NAERLS) operate through the programmes of each national research institute and through NAERLS regional offices. The Federal Agricultural Coordinating Unit works with collaborating institutions (research institutes, universities, and ADPs) in coordinating linkage activities.
There have been calls to restructure the ministry of agriculture and give more autonomy to extension service (Madukwe & Anyanwu, 2000). Such calls have been resisted for power, fear of loss of budget and influence particularly as the total expenditure for extension over time has continued to be on the increase due to funds from external agencies. Various additional agencies and programmes in extension are : the then Project Coordinating Unit (PCU), Agricultural Development Project (ADP), Special Programme on Food Security (SPFS), Root and Tuber Expansion Programme (RTEP), National Fadama Development Project (FADAMA) and National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) are tied to the administrative system of Ministry of Agriculture. Agbamu (2000) stated in his findings ‘indicators of research-extension linkage form of seven countries’ that the ratio of extension workers to farm families is 1:1615 in Nigeria when compared with other six countries such as Mexico, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Tanzania. Moreover, extension budget as percentage of national agricultural budget is 2.1% whereas 3.0% were disburse for research budget as percentage of national agricultural budget in Nigeria.
2.1 Ondo State and Agricultural Extension Services
Ondo State was one of the seven states created on 3rd February, 1976 by the then Federal Military Government of Nigeria. It was carved out of the old Western State. The state covered the total area of the former Ondo Province, created in 1915 with Akure as the provincial headquarters. Ondo State took off formally on 1st April, 1976, consisting of the nine administrative divisions of the former Western State (Ministry of Information and Culture, 1979). These nine divisions then were Akoko, Akure, Ekiti Central, Ekiti North, Ekiti South, Ekiti West, Okitipupa, Ondo and Owo. Akure Township was retained as the state headquarters. Due to creation of Ekiti State in 1st October 1996, Ekiti Central, Ekiti North, Ekiti South and Ekiti West divisions was carved out of Ondo State. Hence, the present Ondo State is made up of Akoko, Akure, Okitipupa, Ondo and Owo Divisions. Akure remains the state capital.
As at present, Ondo state has eighteen local governments, which are: Akure South, Akure North, Akoko North-East, Akoko North-West, Akoko South-East, Akoko South-West, Ondo West, Ondo East, Ose, Owo, Idanre, Ifedore, Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo, Ilaje, Irele and Ese-Odo. The state lies between latitudes 5: 450 and 7: 520N and longitudes 4: 200 and 6: 050E. Its land area is about 15,500 square kilometers. Ondo state is bounded on the east by Edo and Delta states, on the west by Ogun and Osun states; on the north by Ekiti and Kogi states and to the south by the Bight of Benin and the Atlantic Ocean (My Ondo State.Com, 2010). Extension service is one of the departments in ministry of agricultures, fisheries and forest resources in Ondo State.
2.2 Functions of Agricultural Extension Service
Agricultural extension performs these major functions, which are:
To get the farmers into a frame of mind and attitude conducive to acceptance or adoption of technological change. This function is achieved by educating the farmers on the newly developed technology and to convince them of the viability of the new technology in agriculture.
To disseminate to the farmers the results of research and to carry the farmer’s problem back to the research system or ministry for solution. In order to perform this function properly, effective communication must exist between the research institute, the extension agent and the farmers. This also calls for adequate knowledge in technical matters related to agriculture and be skillful in the art of communication. For the extension agent to communicate effectively with the farmers, he must understand the norms and ethics of the community.
Help to identifying teaching instruments, developing essential method and approaches to work with the farmers through group discussion, participatory rural appraisal (PRA), rapid rural appraisal (RRA) process and farm field demonstration.
Extension worker should be seen as a community facilitator to the farmers, as teacher, educator, communicator, leader, motivator, broker, consultant, intermediary, listener, organizer, administrator, enabler, activist, provider, arbitrator, advocate, catalyst, friend and stimulator (Fadama III, 2008).
To help farmers make wise decision in farm management. Extension is a significant tool in assisting the farmers to develop proficiency in the management of his farm.
Van den Ban & Hawkins (1996) stated that agriculture extension is a public service for Human Resources Development of workers in agribusiness sector, including farmers. However, the function of agricultural extension is not only seen as vehicle for spreading scientific and technical progress and technology transfer but it is a broader concept which emphasized implementation of projects, delivery of knowledge and information.
Agricultural extension primarily deals with human resource development (HRD) and the transfer of technology and knowledge from agricultural research centers to farmers through extension service. Improving human resource development within rural community is essential for agriculture and community development. Extension workers are professionals in the extension system which is responsible for developing individuals and livelihood in the community.
2.3 Information Portal
A portal is a form of web technology which is also known as portal technology. As World Wide Web has been receiving increased attention in recent time Scharl, (2001) on the Internet, a portal accessed through the World Wide Web is gaining popularity.
Kotorov & Hsu. (2001), defines portal as technology which appears to be a one-stop solution to the information problem created by the World Wide Web because the driving idea behind it is the newspaper stand, to state it metaphorically. Lim et al. (2002) further expressed web portal or simple portal as a World Wide Web site that provides well-organized information resources within a common domain for the benefit of users.
Information portal is a web system that provides the functions and features to authenticate and identify the users and provide them with an easy, intuitive, personalized and user-customizable web-interface for facilitating access to information and services that are of primary relevance and interests to the users (P, Ho.2003). Portals is used in businesses for work purposes either in public or private are known as corporate portals which also known as business portals or enterprise portals (Brathen, 2003; Dias, 2001; Plumtree Press, 2003; and Terra & Gordon 2003).
2.3.1 Types and Functions of Information Portal
Basically, portals can be divided into two main types, i.e. Vertical Portals and Horizontal Portals.
Vertical portals are the portals that focus on a specific industry, community, settings and organization. Vertical portals are also referred as Vortals due to its multipurpose uses.
Ovum.(2000) a leading European consultancy and research firm in the field of telecom, software, and IT services divides portals in four main types base on his result. This are listed below.
Figure: Ovum hierarchy of portal types.
A specialized portal is type of system that is designed for a specific purpose and functions (Winkler, 2003). This kind of portals fulfills the needs of community interested in the specific area of purpose. Examples of specialized portal are, open source initiative (http://www.opensource.org) and ERP portal (http://www.erpassist.com/)
Public portals proffer products and services to all-purpose. These portals have the leading target market as compared to other types of portals. Public portal predominantly known as mega-portals (Little, 2001cited from Aqdas), it offer a wide variety of unrestricted services to masses.
Google (http://www.google.com), Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com), Lycos (www.lycos.com) and Ask (http://www.ask.com) these are examples of a small number of famous public portals. Moreover, it provides search facilities and also offers e-mail, web directory, news, products comparisons and job search services. Majority of these public portals offer personalization and customization options to the users.
These types of portals maintain business-to-business or business-to-consumer e-commerce. In the course of market space portals, companies and customers can procure and trade products and services. These portals make available software support for e-commerce transactions. Consumers and businesses can find adequate access of information about the products on sale and can also contribute in discussion groups with other vendors and/or buyers (Winkler, 2003).
Few examples of marketspace portals are: Barnes and Noble (www.bn.com), Trade Worlds (http://www.tradeworlds.com), BellZinc (http://www.bellzinc.ca) and NetAnttila (http://www.netanttila.com)
Organizational or workspace portals gives support to the processes and roles in particular industries, enabling employees to more efficiently observe the knowledge they need, understand how that knowledge can support decision-making and then act through integrated applications.
Workspace or corporate portals are organizational portals particularly designed for employees. However, organizational services are not just limited to employees, but can as well extended to its other stakeholders like partners, customers, suppliers and contractors. These portals offer all the information, applications, and documents to its users in a customized way that’s he needs on a daily basis.
Workplace portal “is a secure, Web-based interface that provides a single point of integration for and access to information, applications and services for all people involved in the enterprise which include employees, partners, suppliers and customers (Fitzgerald cited from Aqdas)
2.3.2 Conceptual Model
A conceptual model is a visual method (diagram) of representing a set of causal relationships between factors that are believed to impact one or more biodiversity targets (Morgan, 2005). A conceptual model portrays graphically the situation at your site and provides the basis for determining where you can intervene with your strategic activities. Conceptual models are designed majorly for projects, it can as well be applied to programmes, though complexity which can be a concern with larger system or complex project sites .One of the benefits of conceptual model is that it has an advantage of being visual and, when kept simple, can be easily followed from indirect threats and opportunities to direct threats as well to biodiversity targets (Morgan, 2005). Conceptual modeling is almost definitely the most essential aspect of a simulation project (Durk-Jouke & Jack 2007 as cited in Robinson 2007).
Conceptual models serve as abstractions of user’s perceptions of a system – being either real or proposed. Important purposes of conceptual models are:
Ability to foster analyst understands of a domain
Help developers and users to communicate,
To serve as a basis for design.
Ability to serve as documentation of the original requirements of the system (Durk-Jouke & Jack 2007 as cited in Kung & Solvberg 1986).
2.3.2 Research Work on Information Portal
Generally, several studies have been researched in agricultural extension services contexts focus on evaluating the effectiveness of extension organizations from economical prospective. For instance, Dinar et al. (2007) focused in his research work on assessing the impact of agriculture extension on farm production, farmers’ adoption rate of the new technology disseminated by extension workers and adequate awareness of information.
Another research from MSU and UN Economic Commission for Africa’s with Sustainable Development Division (UNECA/SDD) and five regional African networks (including INSAH, SADAOC, and REPA in West Africa) brought about effort to design and put into operation using internet information portal responding to the needs of individuals and institutions working on food security and related development policy issues in Africa which decided in 2003. Specific objectives of the FSIP (Food Security and Policy Information Portal for Africa) are to assist African food security and food policy researchers working at the African country and regional-level to:
Rapidly find important and high quality Internet sources of data and information to assist in their analytical work.
Make data and research results produced by African researchers available to a worldwide audience. Improve capacity and specific skills needed for quality research, policy analysis and
Overcome language barriers that inhibit the exchange of scientific and policy analysis documents across Africa by providing an on-line informational translation feature for documents posted on or linked to the portal.
It is expected that the FSIP will help facilitate the building of learning communities of researchers and policy analysts through increased cross-country and cross-region interactions and the use of web-based tools to stimulate intellectual exchange and strengthening policy analysis and policy outreach skills. The first 18 months of FSIP development has been devoted to designing basic operation of the portal, defining the role of participating institutions, developing a plan for transferring portal management from MSU/FSIII to UNECA, and developing portal content. Although the FSIP is still “under construction,” it is online and accessible, and already provides links to a tremendous amount of information (Josué et al, 2004). At present, there are three broad areas of FSIP content:
Country-level pages providing easy access to full text information, documents and website links by topics that are specific to each African country (http://aec.msu.edu/fs2/test/index.cfm?Lang=en).
Topic-level pages providing links to websites, downloadable data and documents on n22 (agricultural biotechnology and gender in development are being added and will bring the topic coverage to 24) major topics of interest to agricultural scientists and food policy analysts.
Professional skill building pages in English, French and Portuguese, providing links to tutorials and other capacity building materials designed to improve both digital information access and Internet search skills, as well as strengthen professional research and management skills.
Another researchers in portal Hazra (2002), IBM Corporation (2002), McGrath (2001), The Delphi Group (2001, 2002) and Zahir ( 2002) each scholars confirm frequently use of term “information portals” or “knowledge portals” as essential way of managing information. Agbamu (1999) reports that the systems in agricultural extension services are required to be increasingly use management information systems (MIS) for resource planning and management. The packaging of research recommendations could be affected in a more participative way with the help of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). The issue of researcher and extension worker components could be linked electronically in such a way that information packages can be exchanged in a more convenient time and manner. ICTs can also enable both the researchers and farming community to talk to each other on a regular basis. Another research work on agriculture and information sharing in rural environment concluded on designing e-agriculture which is an emerging field focusing on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved information and communication processes. The specification of e-agriculture involves the conceptualization, design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the rural domain with focus on agriculture (online e-agriculture.org, 2010).
In 1995, Indonesia government decentralized its downstream research by creating 17 Agricultural
Technology Assessment Institutes (BPTP) to improve research, extension and agribusiness linkages to the rural farmers (Rahman, 2003). Information is crucial to farmers and those interested in practice agriculture. Web portals have been deployed as one of the key media used in sharing agricultural information. The Department of Agriculture in Malaysia (DOA) has deployed a website where research information can be disseminated effectively to the respective agricultural extension officers and technicians in the field at their various locations in rural area and they in turn are responsible in sharing of information to the farmers and transform it into usable knowledge (Sohaimi & Azrilah, 2009).
Extension workers are the end users who bridge the dissemination of knowledge from the research laboratories of ministry to the farmers at the point of use. The portal is likewise designed for agricultural extension officers so as to get information on activities and policies from the ministry, this make it more relevant to them on information dissemination to the farmer in the field through accessing the web portal via (http://www.doa.gov.my/main.php).
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY
Research methodology can be defined as system of collecting data for research projects (Blurtit, 2010).