It seems only yesterday, as the often-quoted expression goes, but that is how it does feel.
In March 2008 ATI Central Office initiated a series of demystifying e-learning seminars in various ATI training centers across the country. In Region 5 (Bicol) the seminar came to be in April 2008. In hindsight, the activity was not only an eye-opener, it was also a preview to ATI’s upbeat, future-looking, information and communication technology (ICT)-based focus.
Just a few months after the e-learning launch in Manila in 2007, the program even then showed strong conceptual framework, well-defined components, and vigorous energy, propelled as it was by the youthful and high-spirited team headed by Ms. Niet Arceo, Ms. Pam Mappala, and Prof. Jose Rey Alo.
The idea, of course, snowballed from Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap’s edict (through Department Order No. 3 Series of 2007) and Director Asterio Saliot’s incisive vision for ATI. Thus, ATI-led and inter-agency constituted, the Philippine’s e-extension program has reached new heights and still seeks to cover a very, very wide stretch of fresh ground. ATI’s (and other agencies’) compact league of e-learning coordinators, webmasters, module developers, and knowledge crusaders have been working double time to make the program responsive to the needs and interests of its clients.
Let’s look at the big picture. In a country troubled by frequent electric power shortage and outages, insurgency problems, geographic heterogeneity, socio-demographically diverse populace, dwindling agriculture and fishery resources, going electronic is a big challenge. What has been said of ICT (or information technology) could very well be said of e-extension. That is, it may further widen the digital divide that separates the information-rich and the information-poor. On the other hand, it could very well be the great equalizer of opportunities for both. How best to reach a greater variety of agricultural extension workers (AEWs) than through the omnipresent (well, at least in most populated areas) Internet kiosks and user-friendly computers?
…And the small picture? Well, let’s look at it this way: knowing the power of ICT, having in mind the great body of knowledge lying along the information superhighway waiting to be tapped and used, and reaizing that things will never be same again, our sense of right and wrong (and I have in mind not just government workers such as myself but everyone involved in research, development, and extension) quite simply demands that we keep up with the times to be relevant in our work. “This is not the best way, it is the only way” (I believe it as had been said by someone, somewhere). After a year of successes and lessons learned, this remains to be a dictum we must work by.