IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Fall 2013 - 13

goods, and services. While such a direct approach
can achieve quick results, it may in practice have
limited sustainability. This direct approach also
often may be unable to achieve scale, and its effect
on markets may be distorting. Katalyst's approach
is distinctive both because of its objectives for propoor market development and because of how it goes
about achieving these.
Katalyst works indirectly, focusing on achieving
systemic change, and partnering with a wide range of
domestic and international private and public sector
intermediaries who have long-term business interests
or a mandate in a particular sector. It actively seeks to
"crowd-in" domestic public and private market actors.
By harnessing their resources and incentives, Katalyst's interventions can leverage its own resources and
incentives, thus stimulating a larger-scale and more
sustainable impact than if it attempted to provide solutions in isolation [17].

The Soil Resource Development Institute

Katalyst's Philosophy as it Applies
to this Context
fertilizeruse emerged for Katalyst as a cross-sector
component following analysis undertaken in several adjacent agricultural value chain sectors (maize,
potatoes, and vegetables). findings identified a lack
of access to quality inputs and information regarding fertilizer usage as first-level causes of farmer
under-performance. The specific target group for an
intervention in this area was identified as small and
marginal farmers (land-holdings of 0.05-0.49 and
0.50-2.49 acres, respectively) [17].

SRDI
The Soil Resource Development Institute, an agency
of the Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture, is directly
involved in information collection related to soil and
soil related resources. SRDI officials collect soil samples, test these in the SRDI laboratories, and using a
variety of analytical tools are able to calculate optimal fertilizer requirements by soil type (location),
crop, and height of land. Information gathering for
this purpose began in 1984 and was completed for all
upazilas in Bangladesh in 2005, providing information for one book per upazila.
The fertilizer recommendation information, however, was only accessible to farmers with help from
technically proficient professionals (such as Extension
Workers) who were able to undertake the quite complicated and time-consuming calculations to compute
individual requirements. Thus only a very small number of farmers were able to access the service.
Katalyst initiated and supported a process where SRDI
would collaborate with a Bangladeshi software developer to design a computerized decision support system
able to undertake the calculation for providing localized
fertilizer recommendations for individual farmers.Katalyst funded the development of this software (although
SRDI would own the application). Katalyst also paid for
the digitization of the supporting information tables initially for 30 upazilas, selected as pilots for the program
[18, p. 6], although this has now been extended to effectively all of upazilas in Bangladesh.

Delivering an ICT Solution
The Soil Resource Development Institute (SRDI)
initially had a fertilizer Recommendation Guide in
booklet format. Katalyst at first updated the guide
for 2 upazilas and tried to promote the information
through various channels. Based on the findings from
this first effort, the Katalyst fertilizer team realized
that the information delivery would be more efficient if a digitized version of the guide was created.
Although the initial plan was to develop an offline
system to disseminate the information, experience
with Community Information Centers (CICs) and
mobile-based information and advisory services suggested the potential of introducing an online soil test
information service. This would be available through
the CICs with a mobile technology where a farmer
could for a small fee bring in his soil characteristics
and obtain a fertilizer recommendation appropriate for his location, crop, and soil type. The overall
objective of the initiative would be to develop a fertilizer recommendation advisory service that could be
offered in a commercially viable way through various
ICT media [18].

Delivering a Software-Based Decision
System to People without Computers
SRDI, with funding from Katalyst, contracted out the
development of the fertilizer Recommendation Software (fRS) database. A proposal call was sent out for
the development of the software [19]. Technical calculations for developing the software were initially tested
in 8 upazilas. The idea was that the pilot would give
an indication of the effectiveness of the software and
the farmer's reactions before the system was developed
for nation wide use. The software would assess what
amount of fertilizer by type was required, using as
parameters soil physiology and water level determined
by location and drawing from a national mapping of
soil types developed for the entire country in the 1960s.
In order to provide recommendation as per the
manual guide book, a farmer needed to provide 15-16
inputs that proved somewhat complicated given the
normal educational profile of a typical Bangladeshi
farmer. Included within the range of were parameters
such as the physiology of the soil, water level, type of
soil, ground type, and so on, of which farmers would
not be fully aware.

IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

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