Universidad de Córdoba and IICA will launch a Master’s program aimed at boosting digital transformation in agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean
San Jose, 1 March 2021 (IICA). The Universidad de Córdoba (Spain) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) launched Digital Agri for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), a Master’s program on Digital Transformation in the Agrifood and Forestry Sectors, which seeks to train professionals who will, in turn, support and promote digitalization in agriculture and rural activities.
The post-graduate program offered by the Higher Technical School of Agricultural Engineering and Mountains (ETSIAM) of the Universidad de Córdoba took place during the closing session of the series of virtual forums entitled “Bridging the Digital Divide in Rural Areas of Latin America and the Caribbean: Towards a Digital Agricultural Revolution”, organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
The program has more than 10 modules and provides specialized, high-quality training on disruptive technologies through a program featuring real-life cases of innovation, digitalization and technological surveillance, Internet of Things, data and satellite image analysis, sensors in food production, soil, water and plants, big data, blockchain and other topics.
The methodology of this academic program seeks to foster critical thinking that can be leveraged to develop a more competitive, sustainable and inclusive agriculture in the region. Those interested in attending the program can visit https://digitalagri.es/.
“Digital transformation is no longer just an option or a strategy to increase productivity; it represents the survival of agriculture and the agrifood sector. It is paramount to train professionals that will take into account the importance of the innovation process. The program we are presenting jointly with IICA can help overcome barriers that hinder the adoption of technology, thus building a better future for our agricultural sector”, stated Rosa Gallardo, the Director of ETSIAM
The decision of the Universidad de Córdoba to offer the Master’s program for LAC was the result of a growing demand by Latin American professionals. For this reason, it joined forces with IICA to contribute and promote the digital agenda through its network of 34 offices in the Americas and its wide range of action, by coordinating and engaging the efforts of key players such as governments, institutions and the private sector.
“Within the framework of this partnership, we want to offer our network of 34 offices in every country of the Inter-American system. Our Americas are in dire need of more trained professionals in these new disciplines", explained Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA.
Roadmap to bridge the digital divide
The academic program was presented during a forum featuring the participation of public authorities, private sector representatives, academics and members of international cooperation organizations. The speakers described the priority elements needed to advance a joint roadmap that will help close the digital divide and better leverage the opportunities of digital agriculture in LAC.
The topic of training was discussed along with the importance of investing in telecommunications infrastructure, connectivity, digital literacy, democratization of information and access to data for decision making in the farms. Other issues addressed included the generation of institutional frameworks to incentivize public and private investment.
"This fourth session marks the beginning of the process that must ensue, with the definition of a roadmap and the steps to take in order to facilitate digital transformation and the closing of the digital divide, which proves essential for economic reactivation and the development of LAC countries" stated the Vice-Minister of Science and Technology of Costa Rica, Teodoro Willink.
The Director of Agriculture of Microsoft's program Azure Global Engineering, Claudia Rossler, added that "connectivity is essential, and farmers cannot participate in digital innovation if they do not have connectivity or access to simple things such as a cell phone. The public, private and technology sectors must address this issue in order to move forward".
Mrs. Rossler went on to explain that the improvements that can be made to the lives of smallholder farmers through technology sometimes go unrecognized. For instance, "the meteorological and satellite data, which must be analyzed and then shared with the farmers, can facilitate the decision-making process in farms" and have a positive impact on their productivity, sustainability and livelihood.
Another topic that was discussed during the meeting was the imperative need to reduce costs in order to make access to digitalization more affordable by prioritizing simple and effective solutions, always adapted to the specific needs of each territory, of the youth and the indigenous communities, and with a gender approach to empower women, who play an essential role in the rural sector.
"The prioritization of simple, cost-effective solutions with high returns may constitute a significant change in the type of investment that must be considered for the digital agenda of a country through an inclusive approach that adjusts to the local needs. It is paramount to promote an environmentally sustainable, climate-resilient digital development to make better use of the natural resources and promote public policies in accordance with these needs", explained Pedro Martel, Head of the Environment, Rural Development and Disaster Risk Management Division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).
Claudia Carbajal, Regional Director of Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD) for Latin America, stated that "it is necessary to improve the quality of communication systems in rural areas and the institutional framework to incentivize public and private investment, and find mechanisms to deliver these resources to the areas involved and lower telecommunication costs, as well as invest in digital literacy".
Last year, IICA and PAD (co-founded by the 2019 winner of Nobel Prize for Economics, Michael Kremer) established a partnership to execute a technical assistance and digital rural extension program through mobile technology. During its first stage, this joint initiative will provide remote assistance to thousands of smallholder farmers in the Northwest of Brazil whose livelihood depends on the raising of sheep and goats and the cultivation of corn and beans.
The Director General of IICA concluded by stating that in order to set the foundations for a more modern, resilient, sustainable and socially inclusive agriculture, it is increasingly important to engage in intercooperation, and ratified the commitment of the Institute to join forces for this purpose.
Mr. Otero affirmed that "this is the time for intercooperation, for creating alliances and innovative coalitions to promote digitalization in our agriculture and to ensure it reaches rural areas, so that no one is left behind. Together, we must define actions geared towards bridging the digital divide in the rural sector, and continue to advance the agricultural transformation that the rural sector so direly needs".
The virtual forum also featured the participation of Luca María Pesando, Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology and Center on Population Dynamics of McGill University, and Rolando Flores, Dean of New Mexico State University.
Emmanuel Picado, Manager of the Information and Communication Technologies and Digital Agriculture Division, IICA.