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Steffen, Dominic, University of Mnster Srinivasan, Rajesh, University of Liechtenstein

With a growing global population expected to reach over 9 billion people by 2050, this paper investigates ICT-applications to mitigate the inevitable problems that arise in the demand for food from such a large number of people. It is discovered, that ICT can be applied to solve problems arising from population growth and can assist in increasing agricultural output. Keywords: ICT, Population growth, long-term food security, agriculture, health.


The world population is growing. Right now, more than 7 billion people populate this planet and it has been projected that until 2050, this number will rise to a staggering 9.4 billion or even higher (UN 2002). This invites an essential question: Do we even have enough food to feed such a large number of people? Can our earth provide for 9.4 billion people (or more)? Already, nearly a billion people are considered undernourished, meaning that they do not receive the sufficient amount of nutrients for a healthy life (FAO 2010). In the years 2007/2008, sudden price spikes for food commodities alarmed the world (Piesse & Thirtle 2009; OECD/FAO 2011). It seems imperative, that this question needs to be addressed. It seems also, that this question should be of concern to everyone. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have successfully reformed and transformed the way of life through a number of innovations: From the personal computer to mobile telephony, the internet, up to cloud computing and social networks. Therefore, as the central question posed above should be of everyones concern, we will look at the question from our perspective of Information Systems science. In the course of this paper, we will try to determine if ICTs transformative potential can be applied to this problem. A literature review has been performed to investigate if and how this has already occurred. Best practice for conducting literary reviews is to document each and every step of the research process to demonstrate the methodology used and to allow other researchers to recreate and replicate the process (Brocke et al. 2009; Webster and Watson 2002). With this as the principle we discuss the research process for our challenge. The broad topic of this paper is based on the global challenges from the millennium project, and is given as How can population growth and resources be brought into balance? (The Millenium Project n.d.), which in the context of the seminar has been reformulated to the question How can ICTApplication be used to align global resources with a growing population?. The research began by first investigating the underlying problem, excluding the question of ICT for now. After a precursory research, it was also decided to divide the topic into two sub-divisions: Supply and Demand. In the demand development, we concentrated on population centric functions for growth and development and in the supply demand development; we concentrated on farmer centric functions for resource growth. In the second stage of our research, we specifically investigated how ICT could be applied to solving the underlying problem.

Sources were discovered by using the academic search engine Business source premier, JSTOR, SpringerLink and Google Scholar, searching for matches of the search query in title, abstract, keywords and full text. Searches were performed with the search terms population control, population growth, population growth food, population ICT, ICT agriculture, and ICT food security. The first 100 documents were assessed for relevance in regard to this papers topic. Relevance was assessed by analyzing the title and abstract for a reference to indexing methodologies for population control and ICT (Exact and approximate structure and substructure search). In cases where the assessment of relevance from the title and abstract was inconclusive, the relevance was assessed by analyzing the full text. Irrelevant articles those without any contribution to the problem were discarded. The cut-off points were based on the falling occurrence of relevant papers in the search results. The papers cited above in this section also argue for the need to disclose whether backward or forward searches were performed. For all sources in this paper, iterative and selective backward searches were performed. A backward search is a search that discovers all the references of a query paper. The searches were iterative in the sense that once a discovered paper was deemed relevant, backward search was also applied to it. It was selective as papers deemed irrelevant were

discarded and therefore backward and forward searches were not applied to them. Obviously not all discovered sources were used and cited in this work, as this would have introduced too much redundant information. This paper is organized as follows: In the following section, we have analyzed the underlying problem from the perspectives of demand and supply. In section 3 we will introduce ICTapplications that mitigate issues arising from a growing population. In section 4 we investigate ICT-application that can help increase food production. Section 5 concludes this paper with a summary.


The Challenge

One of the main factors influencing the population and resource balance would be the growing demand of resources. In this part, the current factors influencing these demands will be discussed and as well as the sufficient future requirements needed for balancing the demand growth will be discussed. With the persistent increase of the human population, which is now exceeding seven billion - all species face increased pressure on resources. It is commonly accepted by scholars that the twenty first century is an epoch of an unanticipated population growth throughout the world, which leads to changes in the ecosystem as a whole. Population growth not only causes a negative impact on the environment but also causes problems with resource utilization thereby increasing the demand of sources. Population growth and the resulting human activities generate pressure on the natural and man-made environments. This is demonstrated by the rapid declines in tropic forests, global warming and world population (Madulu, 2004). Human beings the destructive intruders to natural environment, the solution is to effect stringent rules and legislation that protects the environment. Although different environmental protection strategies have been affected in different regions, strict protection measures have been used as the most sustainable strategy to conserve biodiversity in many areas. The high rate of growth and the large size of the population, also affects the pace of development and poverty reduction directly, as well as indirectly, via its effects on a large number of intermediate variables and proximate determinants of development and poverty reduction. According to the most recent UN medium projections (UN 2002), the population of the world will continue to grow at least until 2050, when the total is expected to reach 9.4 billion. This represents an increase of 2.4 billion over the 2011 population of 7 billion. Nearly all of this future growth will occur in the developing world, i.e. Africa, Asia (excluding Japan, Australia, and New Zealand), and Latin America where population size is projected to increase from 4.5 to 8.2 billion between 1995 and 2050. In contrast, in the developed world (Europe, Northern America, Japan, and Australia/New Zealand), population size is forecast to remain virtually stable, growing very slowly from 1.17 to 1.22 billion between 1995 and 2025, followed by a modest decline to 1.16 in 2050. In order to keep this balance of population and resource growth, population policies has to be defined by each country. According to Paul Demeney (2003), Population policy may be defined as deliberately constructed or modified institutional arrangements and/or specific programs through which governments influence, directly or indirectly, demographic change. Population policies can also look at the quantitative changes to the population under the governments jurisdiction as well as into the qualitative aspects of international immigration.

Malthus' suggested solution was to proportion the population to food, since the food could not be proportioned to population (Malthus TR 1999). But critiques of Malthus have opposed his theory arguing that he failed to foresee the potential technological improvements that would increase food production (Sen A 1994). Economic growth in developing countries is driven by population growth and the pursuit of a higher living standard. Worldwide, food demand is shifting from such basic commodities as cereals and rice to products with a higher value added, namely meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, fats and oils. The growth in food demand will have major consequences for the relation between food demand and supply, and thus for food prices. The nature of consumer demand is changing as a result of the prevalence of consumerism. Consumers continue to spend more and consume more, while also having more choices than ever. Consumer behaviours are nowadays more affected by global food advertising and promotions, Retail restructuring, urbanisation and socially responsible food products. According to a publication about 85 percent of the increase in the global demand for cereals and meat between 1995 and 2020 will occur in developing countries (Andersen, Pandya- Lorch, and Rosegrant 1999).



After exploring the demand for the resource food, a question that springs to mind is whether this demand is met now and can be met in the future. We will explore this in the first part of this section. Then, in the second part, we will investigate long- and short-term factors that influence the supply. Currently, the latest available figures estimate that a total of around 925 million people in the world are undernourished (FAO 2010). In the short to medium term, high volatility in agricultural commodity markets are of major concern, as they have major implications on food security (OECD/FAO 2011). Price spikes in commodity markets occur as markets fail to match demand in the short-term due to supply shocks like crop production shortfalls or unexpected demand surges (OECD/FAO 2011). In the long term, there seems to be a declining trend in global food production growth (Trostle 2010; OECD/FAO 2011). The global potential for agricultural production has been estimated to be sufficient to produce an affluent diet to 16 to 24 billion people (Koning 2008a) or even more (Chalkley 1997), however the authors acknowledge that this would be unsustainable. Another study puts the population limit under sustainable agricultural production at less than 2 billion(D. Pimentel et al. 1994). Several authors have identified land, water, nutrient resources (fertilizer) and energy as important input factors for agricultural production (OECD/FAO 2011; Koning 2008a; Evans 2011). However, arable land is in finite supply and it is estimated that globally about 7.6 Gha are suitable for agriculture, of which 58% are already in use, with the remaining being mostly marginal lands of lesser quality1 and with only a few countries in South America and Africa having significant reserves of good land (Koning 2008a). Water is also an important limiting factor, with up to two thirds of the global population living in areas suffering water-stressed conditions and worse. The number of people suffering from absolute water scarcity is expected to grow from 1.2 billion to 1.8 billion by 2025 (Evans 2011). Nutrient resources are also subject to limitations: Nitrogen fertilizer production is highly energy consuming; total and potential phosphorus reserves are estimated at 9.5 billion tonnes. There is also the long term possibility that the supply of mineral phosphate may be increasingly dependent on a single country (Morocco) (Koning 2008a). Fossil energy is also a factor used in agricultural production, its use characteristic however is dependent on the farming paradigm: Developed countries employ highly intensive and complex farming technologies which use massive amounts of fossil energy in the production of fertilizers and pesticides, in irrigation technologies and

less fertile, easily degradable, much under forest (Koning 2008a), and at higher risk of adverse weather events (OECD/FAO 2011)

for agricultural machines while agricultural energy use in developing countries can be attributed to fertilizers and irrigation (D. Pimentel et al. 1997). For oil, there may be an supply crunch due to underinvestment in infrastructure in the short term; while questions about long term availability are unresolved, with estimates ranging from sufficient supply for decades to suggestions that peak production will be reached by 2020 (Evans 2011). We define adverse events as those exogenous developments that have the effect of reducing the supply of food. In our research, we have come across three types of adverse events: Pests and Diseases(Koning 2008b), climate change (Evans 2011) and competing use (OECD/FAO 2011). Competing use claims exist for input factors as well as agricultural output (OECD/FAO 2011). For agricultural outputs, non-food use continues to rise (OECD/FAO 2011). Feed use of cereals and coarse grains are expected to keep growing due to expansion and intensification of the livestock sector (OECD/FAO 2011). Industrial use of agricultural output is also expected to rise, as more is diverted to biofuel production (OECD/FAO 2011). There are some drivers which have a direct impact on production efficiency. These are access to agricultural knowledge and access to advanced farming technologies (Koning 2008a; Balaji & Meera 2007a; OECD/FAO 2011), Investment (OECD/FAO 2011; Koning 2008a), access to markets and market information (N. Rao 2007a; Singh 2006a) and improved biotechnology (Chrispeels 2000; Serageldin 1999; Bruce 2011) . Production targets of farmers as well as investment decisions are the result of profitability considerations. Higher prices will increase farmers desire to increase production targets as well as make investment in agriculture more profitable and therefore more available (Koning 2008b).


Demand-Side Applications
Population centric functions

As mentioned before population has timely shown that it is ever-growing and uncontrollable. But the standard of the population can be improved for a better use of the available resources. This can be done by making steps to decrease our growth, informing the general public with the sustainable solutions and making better decisions. We use these objectives and point out the main functions that have a major impact on and of the ever-growing population.


ICT as a Tool

"Knowledge is like light. Weightless and intangible, it can easily travel the world, enlightening the lives of people everywhere. Yet billions still live in the darkness of poverty- unnecessarily" (World Development Report 1999). The main objective of Information communication and technologies (ICT) is to have a greater role of communications and the integration of technologies that enables the user to create access, store, and transmit information within the fields of both economic development and international development. ICT uses a full range of technologies which includes traditional and upcoming devices such as community radio, television, mobile phones, computer and network hardware and software, the internet, satellite systems and podcasting. When considering the ICT as a strategic tool for development, the main areas would be to facilitate access to and sharing of relevant information and knowledge. With ICTs the voices of poor, excluded and disadvantaged groups can be strengthened with a higher incline towards the decision making. Using ICT as a tool increases the efficiency and effectiveness of the objective and ICT also acts as a catalyst for change. We will try to give a number of strategic solutions using ICT for encountering this challenge below.


Socially responsible functions

One of the main impacts of population growth is on the society we live in. As the population increases, a balance between the economy and the ecosystem is difficult to maintain. Being socially responsible we can act to benefit the society at large. The main aspects of being socially responsible include social economic development of under developed population and poverty reduction. The relation of economic costs with population growth is mainly related due to the high fertility rates. This concern was first raised in 1960s with the alarmed population growth rates; the economic costs also increased which raised the proposition of further policy actions to limit fertility (Davis K 1967; Ehrlich.P.R, Ehrlich.A.H 2009). According to the demographic transition theory, rapid population growth during a certain period of time happens in all societies, because improvements in living conditions and health care lead to reduced death rates first (Raleigh VS 1999). In addition, as societies develop and socio-economic development takes place, the need for more children as sources of labour and carers of ageing parents becomes less (Kibirige JS 1997). Even though it is evident that populations with high socio economic development have lower fertility rates and hence stable population sizes, the evidence of effect of population growth on economic growth and development is not straight forward. Studies show conflicting results: either negative (Ahituv.A A 2001; Kelley AC & Schmidt RM 1995) or positive (Crook N 1996) effects of population growth on economic growth. The direction and size of the effect may vary from country to country according to which stage of the demographic transition the country is at and its related characteristics such as the political and economic context (Barlow R 1994; Kelley AC 1988). Socio economic growth also has a major impact on poverty. With the increasing economic growth, the poverty problem can also be tracked and reduced. Poverty reduction has been largely as a result of overall economic growth (Parker G 2001). Use of ICT in this function will create good awareness and increase the growth and development of by having better decision support systems. 3.1.3 Universal healthcare functions

Rapid population growth mainly characterised by high fertility in less developed countries and unequal distribution of fertility rates between rich and poor in middle income countries have a very high impact on reaching full development of the nation. Adding to that consequences of population growth with respect to high socio economic inequalities and bad infrastructures have resource implications for both less developed and middle income countries. A clear need to focus on healthcare exists in all cases. Healthcare systems work with the principle of universal coverage for all members of society. It uses health financing and service provision as a means to provide greater healthcare to everyone. In the cases where composition of the population changes due to rapid growth, the needs of an increasing number of people of reproductive age should be met to enhance human potential. Programmatic responses in these circumstances include not only meeting family planning needs but also addressing other reproductive health issues which could pose a high burden on individuals, particularly women, if not appropriately dealt with. According to WHO (2004), more than half a million of women die each year due to pregnancy-related causes. In 1994 with respect to the reproductive healthcare for populations, the international conference on population and development (ICPD) addressed the causes as well consequences of population growth. It strengthened the human condition by reducing the burden by high fertility, unplanned fertility and complications of pregnancies and childbirth. Addressing these conditions has important implications for development by enhancing human potential. Increased focus on reproductive health therefore will accelerate achievement of human development (Sachs & McArthur 2005).This means distribution of human capabilities both to the future generations (e.g., the influence of maternal education and health on the well-being of the next generation, environmental sustainability) and to the poor and

disadvantaged segments of the population (e.g., addressing health inequalities, policies to improve the status of women) (Anand.S S & Sen A 2000). Use of ICT in this function will help improving the human conditions as well as create good awareness for a better and stable growth. 3.1.4 Environmental care functions

It is evident that with increasing human population today, the realization of the environmental changes and its costs takes a pivotal role in growth and development. With this increase in human population, there are changes to the ecosystem as a whole. With the larger population, the demand for nourishment is greater and with a greater consumption of nourishments there are more negative impacts on the environment. As human population rapidly expands, there is a great concern about the growing imbalance between the worlds population and scarcity of the resources that support life on earth. Evidently, enlarged population size demands more land for crops, natural resources for industrial and domestic use, and more water supply for supporting life and agriculture. As a result, damage to the environment in terms of climate, water shortage, deforestation, soil erosion, and decline in the level of biodiversity and slowness of economy becomes an inevitable fact. Adding to the above the rising danger of global warming from the ongoing greenhouse emission is ever increasing. . According to most estimates, over the last few decades, a rise in global temperature of four degrees Celsius is most likely to occur during the 21st century (Knight M 2010). The current rise in the global temperature threatens not only the lives of human beings, but also the lives of many animals and plants. In fact, the higher temperature is the basis for the massive melt-offs of the Arctic caps, which in turn causes the sea level to rise by as much as few feet (Goldstein and Pevehouse 2011).Consequences of deforestation are not only the fact that the trees are being cut down, but also plants and animals that occupy the ecosystem, are either permanently or temporarily suffering. For instance, it is estimated that in the Amazon one of the species become extinct everyday as a consequence of deforestation (Wilkinson 1990). There is also a rising danger of global warming from the on-going greenhouse emission, mainly from burning fossil fuels and timber. One of the major atmospheric problems caused by greenhouse gases is the depletion of ozone layer. With the vulnerability of reduced ozone layer, harmful ultraviolet rays are sent down by the sun. One of the main causes for the ozone layer depletion is certain chemicals expelled by industrial activities that float to the top of the atmosphere and interact with ozone in a way that breaks it down (Goldstein and Pevehouse 2011). To address and spread the awareness for our environmental care, ICTs can be used extensively. With the use of ICTs poor and marginalised can be informed about the potential impact of climate change on their livelihoods. But scientific jargon and high-level concepts about climate change need to be demystified to make them comprehensible and applicable to the layperson for increased effectiveness. Also by using ICTs, many low cost and environmental sustainable solutions can be realized.

Supply-Side Applications

Supply-side applications of ICT target production efficiency. We identified applications that can improve production efficiency and grouped them into two categories: Farmer-centric applications and strategic applications. The former will provide benefits to an individual agricultural producer directly, while the latter will benefit a group of agricultural producers indirectly. We considered applications for all types of agricultural producers globally, but we have given special weight to applications for farmers in developing countries. This special weight is warranted as the majority of agricultural produce are crops (grain, etc.), and compared to the developed world which is already very efficient, the developing world has the highest efficiency potential. We did not investigate ICT-applications that improve biotechnology research, although biotechnology (like genetically engineered crops) plays an

important role in increasing production. As the ICT-applications for biotechnology research are specialised and do not apply to agricultural production directly, they are out of the scope of this paper.


Farmer-centric applications
Knowledge Distribution

Sources of relevant knowledge (e.g. farming technologies, pests and diseases, etc.) for farmers are social and professional networks (Warren 2004; Rosskopf & Wagner 2003), agricultural journals (Rosskopf & Wagner 2003), private consultancy (Warren 2004; Rosskopf & Wagner 2003) and public sector agricultural extension services (Richardson 2006; Munyua et al. 2008; Warren 2004; Rosskopf & Wagner 2003). ICTs have been suggested as a potentially more convenient and efficient method of delivery of the knowledge contained in these sources (Warren 2004; Rosskopf & Wagner 2003; Munyua et al. 2008). Farmers, both in developing as well as in developed countries, are interested in information on agricultural technologies, pests and diseases, market prices for in- and outputs, local weather information and government regulations (Singh 2006b; Rosskopf & Wagner 2003; Warren 2004). The information can either be accessed by farmers based on demand or farmers can take part in broadcasts of agricultural information (Singh 2006b). Following the demand-driven method of information retrieval, the farmers demand for a certain kind of information is satisfied by accessing a knowledgeresource by the farmer (Singh 2006b). ICT-enabled knowledge distribution can take a number of forms. Time-tested methods of delivery are based on radio or television broadcasts of topics of relevance for the agricultural sector (Singh 2006b). Started in the 1940s with the Canadian radio Farm Forums (Singh 2006b), relevance of radio and television broadcasts on agricultural topics is especially high in developing countries due to the comparatively higher penetration of radios and televisions compared to newer ICTs such as internetenabled PCs (Singh 2006b). Programs usually involve a knowledge-provider such as an extension service and can follow either the top-down approach in which the program is designed solely by the provider or a bottom-up approach in which the audience has at least some influence in program design, for example by suggesting topics or presenting questions (Singh 2006b). Knowledge can also be compiled into repositories by one or more knowledge providers, and either be distributed on static mediums such as CDs or DVDs or made accessible through a website (N. Rao 2007b; Singh 2006b; Munyua et al. 2008; Colle & Yonggong 2002; Flor 2002; Rosskopf & Wagner 2003; Richardson 2006). In the latter case, the system will consist of a web server with access to a database which stores the content (Meera & Jhamtani 2004; Thysen 2000; Ramamritham et al. 2006). The user front-end is then a website which provides structured access to the knowledge either through search methods, keywords, hierarchical content structure or a combination of the three (Ramamritham et al. 2006). Usually information on agricultural techniques, pests and diseases, and governmental information are delivered in this way (Singh 2006b). A third option are ICT-based systems which enable more interactive or less standardized queries. Under the Question-and-Answer paradigm, farmers can send a query (a question) to a service provider and will receive an answer from the provider (Singh 2006b; Meera & Jhamtani 2004; Richardson 2006). Depending on the service, questions can be sent to the provider using mobile textmessage2, email3, telephone or VoIP4, website forms5 , or in a video-conference6 (Singh 2006b; Balaji

2 3

e.g. RDAs AIS (Singh 2006b) e.g. RDAs AIS (Singh 2006b) 4 e.g. Kisan Call Centers (Kumar 2005), Tamil Market (Plauch & Prabaker 2006) 5 e.g. eChoupal (Singh 2006b) 6 e.g. n-logue (N. Rao 2007b)

& Meera 2007b; N. Rao 2007b; Kumar 2005). Answers are provided either immediately or asynchronously within a certain time-frame. Answers can be provided either by an automated system or by a human operator (Balaji & Meera 2007b; Ramamritham et al. 2006; Meera & Jhamtani 2004), usually an extension worker or agricultural expert. For example, a farmer could inquire on growing techniques for a special crop by posing a query via text message either to Googles automated mobile search engine (Heim 2009; Arnquist 2009) or to a provider in which an agricultural expert answers the question. 4.1.2 Market Information and Access

ICTs can be a means to connect farmers to markets in a more efficient way (N. Rao 2007b; Singh 2006b). ICT-supported systems can provide accurate and timely market information on agricultural commodities as well as services which allow farmers to buy inputs as well as sell the outputs they produce (e-commerce) (N. Rao 2007b). Market information are prices and quality of agricultural commodities (in- and outputs), the quantity in supply or demand (for commodities and labour), handling and transaction costs, credit availability, distribution and logistics information, and selling options (Rao 2007, p.496). ICT can cut the transaction costs associated with information search (De Silva & Ratnadiwakara 2008). Availability of market information empowers farmers against intermediaries through increased transparency (Singh 2006b). Without availability of accurate and timely market information, intermediaries have usually an information advantage compared to farmers, and this information asymmetry can be exploited to the disadvantage of the farmer. Availability of information on prices allows fairer prices to be reached (FAO SDR & FAO WAICENT 2001). If price information is tied to additional information, such as market location, distribution of the commodities is improved, as farmers can optimize the choice of market place and their timing to buy or sell the commodities (Singh 2006b). If the system provides e-commerce functions, such as buying and selling, additional benefits can be achieved (N. Rao 2007b). In a supply chain that includes a buyer, seller and at least one intermediary, e-commerce systems decrease costs for buyers and sellers by eliminating intermediaries and therefore the costs attributed to them (N. Rao 2007b). This increases the profitability of the trades and with that usually the farmers productivity as inputs become cheaper and outputs become more profitable (N. Rao 2007b). Another way e-commerce can benefit farmers is through demand aggregation (Singh 2006b; N. Rao 2007b). This is especially true for rural, small-holder farmers which are not associated. While provision of market access to individual farmers may not be interesting for sellers of agricultural input due to the involved high cost and risk; demand aggregation reduces risk and cost of supply (N. Rao 2007b; Singh 2006b). Therefore, e-commerce systems that provide demand aggregation connect farmers to input markets they werent able to access before and can therefore increase the access to quality inputs at lower prices (N. Rao 2007b; Singh 2006b).


Decision Support Systems

Decision Support Systems can enable farmers to make better, more informed decisions which can lead to production-efficient use of input-factors and increased production output (Newman & Lynch 2000). Precision Agriculture (PA) is a relatively recent farming technique which allows field management dependent on spatial and temporal variability (Fountas & Pedersen 2005). It is based on site-specific data and allows targeted agricultural actions, such as fertilizer application or irrigation, on sub-field level (Fountas & Pedersen 2005). Main activities within the PA framework are data collection, data processing and determination of input factor application quantities (Fountas & Pedersen 2005). Benefits associated with precision agriculture are improved economic returns and a reduced environmental impact of farming activities (Fountas & Pedersen 2005). As input factor efficiency is improved, a global benefit is reduced use which increases sustainability.

ICTs and other modern technologies, such as GPS, sensor systems (yield monitors, soil sensors, etc.), automated application technologies, etc., are important components of PA (Fountas & Pedersen 2005; Gebbers & Adamchuk 2010). The system works through on-going data collection, which collects data on soil composition (Fountas & Pedersen 2005; Gebbers & Adamchuk 2010). Soil data can be collected by analysing soil samples in the lab, through locally deployed sensor systems, and remote sensing (Fountas & Pedersen 2005; Gebbers & Adamchuk 2010). Sensor systems can perform various analyses such as soil structure measurement through electromagnetic induction, water measurement, and chlorophyll-measurement through Hydro-Nitrogen sensors (Gebbers & Adamchuk 2010). Another advantage of sensor systems, which can be deployed as networks, is the ability to produce up to realtime information (Panchard et al. 2007; Gebbers & Adamchuk 2010). Remote-sensing utilizes orbiting satellites or aerial reconnaissance planes which produce images of the target location that can be analysed to determine relevant properties (e.g. soil structure or water content) (Gebbers & Adamchuk 2010). A limitation of remote-sensing is that current systems cannot penetrate the soil very deep so that only the top-most layers are open to this kind of analysis (Panchard et al. 2007; Gebbers & Adamchuk 2010). Another important sensor class are yield monitors, which are installed in harvesting equipment (Fountas & Pedersen 2005; Gebbers & Adamchuk 2010). They analyse the quality of the output as it is harvested and can relay the quality of the harvest with geographical information from GPS, which allows input-output analyses (Fountas & Pedersen 2005; Gebbers & Adamchuk 2010). The collected data can be analysed to support decision making regarding the quantity of used inputs (Fountas & Pedersen 2005; Gebbers & Adamchuk 2010). PA software typically allows the generation of maps from the data (yield-maps, soil-composition maps, etc.), data filtering and statistical analysis, record keeping, and variable application rate computation (Fountas & Pedersen 2005; Gebbers & Adamchuk 2010). Farmers usually prefer to retain the data and use the software locally, but some companies and government extension services introduced internet-based PA services which allow farmers to send data to the service provider who analyses the data and produces maps, application rate- and other agronomic recommendations (Fountas & Pedersen 2005). Interned-based decision support systems have the advantage, that farmers have access to the latest up to date knowledge and software as well as expert recommendations (Fountas & Pedersen 2005). If advisory services are used, advisors can guide the farmers through field plans and farm operations from a central office (Fountas & Pedersen 2005). Utilizing ICT for planning and recommendation sharing can reduce the time required and lead to faster decisions (Fountas & Pedersen 2005).


Strategic Systems
Agricultural Research Information Systems

Agricultural Research Information Systems (ARIS) integrate and coordinate the flow of information and access to knowledge resources between national agricultural research institutions (Maru 2002). An ARIS uses ICT to facilitate communication and exchange of information on scientific, technical and research matters among participating institutions (Maru 2002). The benefits of a common information system in agricultural research are based on realised synergies and have been stated as improvements in research, in management and coordination of research activities, in access to information available in the national research institutions and in improved protection of intellectual property rights (Maru 2002). A networked national research systems should also allow for inclusion of private commercial and non-governmental organisations in collaborative research projects (Maru 2002). Additionally, a networked research system should allow efficient dissemination of the acquired knowledge to extension services and farmers (Maru 2002). A successful example profiled by Singh (2006) is South Koreas Agricultural Information Service (AIS), developed and maintained by the countrys Rural Development Administration (RDA). The system connected and integrated South Koreas national institutes into a high-speed computer network. It supports the researchers by providing a knowledge portal and by enabling interaction between researchers and agricultural experts, which results in an

improved quality of research and facilitates collaborative projects. The AIS is also built to quickly disseminate knowledge to the users. Farmers can access a database on agricultural technology information through a website or they can take internet-based training courses. The system also connects farmers to researchers and experts through a Customer-Relationship-Management-System (CRMS). Farmers can consult experts using e-mail or mobile text-messages (Short Message Service, SMS), or in crop-wise virtual meeting rooms. The service therefore is a good example of an ARIS that (a) supports and improves agricultural research and (b) efficiently and quickly disseminates the generated knowledge to the users. 4.2.2 Geographic Information Systems

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are automated systems that allow geospatial data to be captured, stored, retrieved, analysed, and displayed (Clarke et al. 1996; Flor 2002). The systems therefore add a spatial dimension to data analysis. GIS can be used to monitor environmental sustainability of farming techniques, to evaluate the efficiency of agricultural techniques, to assess the state of food security and vulnerabilities, to improve regional planning, and crisis preparedness (N. Rao 2007b; Stephenson & Anderson 1997; Flor 2001). GIS enable the analysis and interpretation of biophysical-, social-, economic-, and environmental spatial information based on data from relevant data sets (e.g. geography, elevation models, soils condition and structure, weather, land use, land cover, socioeconomic data, etc.) (N. Rao 2007b). Data gathering methods can range from crowd-sourced, distributed data-entry using mobile devices (Munyua et al. 2008; Arnquist 2009) to remote sensing (N. Rao 2007b; Food and Agriculture Organization n.d.). The most important data source are probably the data sets gathered in various institutions and organizations (N. Rao 2007b). In this case, provision of access to the data by the institutions and standardized formats to facilitate exchange are important issues (N. Rao 2007b). GIS-based systems can be used to compile data on input factor use, farm management techniques, and output flows on the farm level, while aggregation of the data on a regional level allows the assessment of the state of production and the efficiency of the employed farming techniques in a region (N. Rao 2007b). External effects of agricultural activity, such as ground water pollution or soil salinity, can also be included in the measurement and analysis to assess the environmental and economic sustainability of the farming activities (N. Rao 2007b). Another important area of use for GIS-based systems are food security vulnerability assessment and crisis detection (N. Rao 2007b; Stephenson & Anderson 1997). Systems that allow for the anticipation of potential risks and provide early warning allow policymakers to reduce vulnerabilities and to plan a response to occurring crises (Evans 2011). These Early Warning Systems (EWS) can be implemented on a national scale or on an international scale. An example of the former is the German national food security assessment system IS-ENV (Bundesanstalt fr Landwirtschaft und Ernhrung (BLE) 2011), which is being operated by the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (Gizewski 2008). The system is comprised of three components: An internal information portal (FIS-ENV), a Geographic Information System (GIS-ENV) and a public information portal (Bundesanstalt fr Landwirtschaft und Ernhrung (BLE) 2011; Gizewski 2008). The system is used to disseminate and communicate the available information on the state of food security (Gizewski 2008), to facilitate coordination between the relevant institutions (Bundesanstalt fr Landwirtschaft und Ernhrung (BLE) 2011), and to support the relevant institutions in the management of acute food security crises through provision of spatialstatistical data as well as analysis and visualization of crisis-scenarios and planning options (Bundesanstalt fr Landwirtschaft und Ernhrung (BLE) 2011). On an international scale, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other international agencies operate and maintain a number GIS-based monitoring and early warning systems (N. Rao 2007b). The most important of which is probably the Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS), conceived and operated since 1975, it is the United Nations major provider of information on food supply and demand (Food and Agriculture Organization n.d.). The system continuously monitors food supply and demand in all countries; it collects and analyses information on

global production of agricultural goods, stocks, food aid and trade in agricultural commodities (Food and Agriculture Organization n.d.). It makes extensive use of remote-sensing capabilities, by estimating the state of crop production from frequently taken satellite images and prediction of it through satellite weather information (Food and Agriculture Organization n.d.). The system uses this and other data to predict global food supply and demand and to calculate food import requirements; it also monitors global agricultural markets and warns of market events that indicate a possible major rise of food prices (Food and Agriculture Organization n.d.).


The world population is growing. Which size it will ultimately reach by 2050 is a question that can only be answered with a high degree of uncertainty right now. What is clear, however, is that major changes in the global structure will follow as a consequence of the fact that most of the growth will occur in the developing world while the population of the developed countries will remain fairly stable. In addition to that, rising affluence in some countries which are on the economic rise, like India and China, whose consumers are demanding an increasingly better diet, shift global consumption patterns and food prices. The essential question, whether or not the resources provided by our planet can accommodate the growing number of people, is age old7 and comes up repeatedly from time to time. When it came up and it seemed as if a production ceiling had been reached, humankind was able to push the barrier further (Koning 2008b). Whether or not this will be possible this time, considering the staggering number of people, is a question only the future can answer. It is however clear that an increase of the global production of food is necessary to feed the world in the future. In this paper, we therefore investigated if there are applications of Information and Communication technologies (ICTs) that can mitigate the problems that arise from a growing population and that can align resource consumption with the rising demand. The answer is yes, there are a wide variety of applications for ICTs. However, this is not unqualified: Even with the current innovativeness of ICT's for the demand of a better human condition, an ever increasing Population is still a problem in many developing countries where the socio-economic development is still under progress. The reason in most of the cases is slow progress and bad infrastructure in the developing countries. To add to that unequal distribution of fertility increases the socio-economic inequalities. More focus on health care is needed in less developed countries for better and more humane living standards and socio-economic development. With more innovativeness in the field of ICT, the future of human development is on the rise. ICTs can support production growth in agriculture. They can help individual farmers by providing them with access to knowledge on efficient production techniques and technologies and they can connect them to agricultural experts. They also provide market information and access, which allows farmers to profit from lower transaction costs, fairer prices and improved access to quality inputs. ICTs can also help in allowing farmers to efficiently use input factors and to optimize their production through information-driven decision making. Access to the necessary technologies is however expensive, and in the short-term bio-engineered crops and liberal input factor use may be better to quickly increase production (Fountas & Pedersen 2005). With increasing factor costs and reduced hardware costs, information-driven decision making will play an essential role in increasing the production efficiency and sustainability of agriculture in the future. ICTs can also be strategically applied to improve agricultural research and to streamline the dissemination of the generated knowledge to the users. GIS-based solutions are already being used in food security monitoring, production efficiency evaluation on a regional level and to provide early

See (Malthus 1798)

warning to detect and avert food security crises caused by unexpected shocks. They allow policymakers and relief-organizations to plan a response ahead of time and improve reactions to acute crises. All in all, ICTs can play a role in mitigating the problems that arise from an increasing demand for food and a production system that may have reached its efficiency barrier. They are however mostly catalysts of innovation and although they play an important part, it is essential to push for a solution to this challenge on all fronts.

Table 1 - Concept summary
Subconcept Demand Socially responsible functions Artefact DISK, Radio Web browsing, GrameenPhone. Universal Healthcare Telemedicine project, RESCUER, MARA Environmental care functions Farmer centric functions RAISON-GIS, Low cost digital mapping Information portal, Decision Support System, GIS Farmer centric functions ARIS, Information portals, GIS Role of IT Information Distribution, Communication, Decisions Support. Information Distribution, Communication. Sustainable Solutions, Information Distribution. Supply Knowledge dissemination, Decision support, ecommerce Knowledge management, communication, Coordination, Monitoring, Detection, Early Warning

Table 2 - Selected Applications

Dimension Name of the application Country of application Description of the application Community radio for broadcasting a daily programme on different awareness topics including rural development and growth and health. Also known as Kothmale community radio. community telecenters as an appropriate means for building local capacity to obtain and use information relevant to economic development and sustainable management of natural resources in a marginalized region. To significantly improve communications and to stimulate new commerce by funding mobile phones in each of Bangladesh's 68,000 villages. Uganda Connect represents an innovative solution to establishing a network used to link NGOs in Uganda by means of HF radio transmission. Provides relevant information to farmers through a database that contains complete histories of all cattle owned by members of the cooperative and a dairy portal connected to the Internet. Benefits

Rural Development

Radio Web browsing


Public awareness, Better decisions Skill improvement, access to markets, Public awareness to food security and socio economic development. Creating small telephone callbox businesses, Communication in remote areas of the country. Free-to-air' solution with connecting the NGO's, Improves development with better coordination.

Rural Development

InforCauca project


Rural development



Rural development



Poverty reduction

Dairy Information System Kiosk


Increased development as better decision support system available for growth.


Name of the application

Country of application

Description of the application SatelLife is a non-profit international organization that aims to use modern communication technologies to link medical centers and physicians throughout the world.

Benefits Information transmission, permits several e-mail accounts to be set up in each remote location using radio links Information on heath drugs in remote areas, dissemination of information concerned with emerging infectious diseases. Better connectivity and increased public awareness on heath.



North America, Europe and many developing countries


HealthNet Information Services

28 different countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

HealthNet is an electronic network set up to give health professionals in developing countries access to a range of health related information. Project aimed at minimizing the need to travel long distances to the major hospitals in San Jose, costa Rica.


Proyecto de Telemedicina

Costa Rica


MARA, Mapping Malaria Risk

African Continent


Record-keeping in health care


Special database to identify areas most at risk and determine the effectiveness of Project established to the techniques map malaria infestation in for controlling sub-Saharan Africa. the disease. Improvements in information and communication for the patients, physicians, administrators and planners in health care In Ghana, it is planned to institutions set up a structured thereby electronic record-keeping increasing system in health care efficiency and institutions. effectiveness.


Name of the application

Country of application

Description of the application





RESCUER is short for Rural Extended Services and Care for Ultimate Emergency Relief used to lower maternal mortality in Uganda.

Maternal mortality dropped by 50%.


Low Cost Digital Mapping Turkey

Images produced by a small demonstration project in Turkey demonstrate the increasing capabilities that ICTs have for providing hightech/ low cost project solutions. Images produced by digital camera flown on a small light aircraft used for planning and infrastructure design purposes. Regional Analysis by Intelligent Systems ON microcomputers Geographic Information System (RAISON-GIS) is a software system developed by the IDRC in Canada. It is being used in different parts of the world as a tool to analyze the quality of drinking water.

Low cost sustainable solutions.




Information on the nature of sanitation facilities and sources of fresh potable water.


Schiphol Real Estate office building simulation


Schiphol Real Estate is using DesignBuilder in conjunction with EnergyPlus to simulate the energy performance of office building projects. Enable a 90% reduction in the consumption of natural gas and a 40% reduction in the consumption of electricity. Local food promotion, marketing, Rural region image improvement and Increasing number of local food producers.

Sustainable solution, Environmental and resource management.

Food promotions & patterns



Environmental food marketing.


Name of the application

Country of application

Description of the application

Knowledge dissemination / ECommerce



Provides information on agriculture, government schemes, weather, market information, and e-commerce functions. Provided through an information kiosk.

Benefits Improved agricultural knowledge, reduction of transaction costs, elimination of intermediaries

Multichannel Knowledge Learning Dissemination Centers

Papua New Guinea

Organisation of local tribes to to jointly harvest, market and export local crops. Use of MLCs and radio to educated.

Sustainability: Management and conservation of local rainforest

Knowledge Kisan Call Dissemination Centers


Toll-free helpline for farmers. Call-centers are staffed with agricultural graduates with access to a computer and knowledge repository.

Quick answers to questions in local language.

Knowledge Dissemination aAqua


Web-based information portal. Information on agricultural techniques, crops knowledge, pest and disease, market information.

Improved agricultural knowledge


Name of the application

Country of application



South Korea

Monitoring/Early Warning IS-ENV


Description of the application Interconnected agricultural research institutions on a national level, quick contact to experts for farmers through customer management system, information portal. National food security monitoring system. Provides access to upto-date information on food supply and demand. Allows for crisis planning and quick reaction. Facilitates communication and coordination. Information portal for public.


Improved research; quick dissemination of generated knowledge. Access to experts.

Improved planning and coordination; Informs public.

Monitoring/Early Warning GIEWS

International (FAO)

Monitors global demand and supply for food. Through production and market surveillance. Predicts food production and supply, detects potential crises.

Quicker response, allows vulnerability assessment and planning

Sensor network

Experimental low-cost COMMONSense sensor network for Net Switzerland/India decision support

Affordable and hardened for conditions in developing countries

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