How Bridging the Digital Divide Supports Community-led Development Initiatives

March 1, 2021

On February 17, The Hunger Project hosted a panel discussion centered around bridging the digital divide in Ghana. The panel explored the innovative ways that private service providers, like Microsoft, and public interest nonprofits like AGRA and THP-Ghana, along with social entrepreneurs like Farmerline, are working with government to develop digital solutions that can enhance community-led development in rural areas of Ghana.

Panelists included Lydia Carroon, Business Manager of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, Forster Boateng, Regional Head of West Africa for AGRA, Worlali Senyo, Corporate Head of Farmerline,  Paul Siameh, Director of Agriculture Extension at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and Samuel Afrane, Country Director of THP-Ghana. 

The event began with individual questions for each of the panel participants, followed by a single rapid-fire question for all and an audience Q&A session. Speakers at the panel emphasized the importance of mobilizing women, addressing the unique technology needs of smallholder farmers, and ensuring that progress and development are community-led. 

Digital technology has the power to uplift communities and allow them to take control of their own agricultural practices. Rapid information about weather conditions, crop health, and agriculture quality can all be spread through digital technologies, which helps farmers stop devastating pests like Fall Army Worm. Technology also increases the capacity of agriculture extension service workers and village-based advisors, who are local citizens working within small areas to provide smallholder farmers with valuable information and assistance. These programs also frequently hire women, allowing rural women to increase their visibility within their community by taking on more prominent leadership roles.  

According to Lydia Carroon, focusing on women and girls is a crucial part of Microsoft’s agenda,  and the company is focused on “targeting connectivity solutions for women and girls” as part of their partnership with The Hunger Project. She went on to emphasize that “it’s not just connectivity, it’s not just agricultural solutions. There really needs to be a targeted and holistic lens to bring women and girls online and get them engaging with solutions.” 

Digital solutions that uplift the voices of women are an essential part of community-led development. Samuel Afrane, Country Director of THP-Ghana, gave insight into how these solutions dovetail with The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy in Africa, which reaches over 450 communities and 320,000 people in Ghana. The basic principles of the Epicenter Strategy focus on sustainable self-reliance through education, adult literacy, microfinance, and community spirit. It’s extremely important for local leaders to promote technology advancements, in order to mobilize communities around technology tools that have the power to improve quality of life for entire villages. THP-Ghana has trained a system of animators, or community leaders trained in agriculture, to lead their communities towards modern means of production.

“These animators are able to introduce modern technologies that will help [rural communities] leap higher in their development,” Samuel emphasized, before adding “this is what The Hunger Project has been doing for years.” 

The event reiterated The Hunger Project’s longstanding commitment to look at global issues with a holistic lens, and center solutions around a model of community-led development that prioritizes the role of women and rural communities. To hear more insights from our panel, watch the event here.  Stay tuned for more information about The Hunger Project’s partnerships with Microsoft, AGRA, and Farmerline, as well as updates about future events and collaborations. 

Watch the full event: