Value Added Services of Information & Communication Technology- Mobile Telephony for Farmers Benefit
Mr. G Raghunatha, State Manager, IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd., Bangalore and Secretary, Institution of Agricultural Technologists, Bangalore has written an article on how ICT - Mobile Technology can be used for the farmers' benefit.
The rural areas are suffering with extreme poverty and isolation. Such isolation has led to many miseries and tragic consequences in many families. This trend is more evident due to the absence of joint family system, which has deprived the supportive role of family members. It is seen that mobile phones have to some extent end isolation and therefore proved to be most transformative technology of economic development in recent times. The mobile phone technology has been so powerful and costs so little that it has now proved possible to sell mobile phone access to the poor.
The rural poor have access to wireless banking and payment systems. The mobile revolution is creating logistics revolution in farm to retail marketing connecting farmers to food retailers enabling them to sell the produce at high farm gate prices without delay.
Mobile telephony has become a part of everybody’s of life. This has also become a symbol of progress. If rural telephony grows by 1% there will be an increase of 0.6% in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) showing the impact of growth of rural mobile telephony on Indian economy. 70% of the population of the country is still left behind so far as mobile telephone connectivity is concerned. This indicates that there is an excellent potential for growth in rural areas.
The rural population deserves to shift to mobile telephones in view of the delipitated, ancient and almost useless fixed line infrastructure. They have proved to be an effective instrument of empowerment of rural masses. It is a welcome sign that mobile operators have now shifted their focus to service the rural areas. The once neglected, non profitable areas with high operating costs with low income subscribers is now seen as a proverbial pot of gold with technological advancement and better network management.
Karnataka being in the forefront of Information technology revolution has not lagged behind to harness the Information and communication technology for strengthening the rural masses. Communication is a major challenge and serious impediment in taking the fruits of development to our farmers in the country. IFFCO has realized that a reliable and economical communication medium, as well as, useful services of relevance over this channel have the potential to transform the quality of living in our villages. The need of the hour is to take valuable information inputs to farmers- directly to their ‘ears’ & ‘eyes’ using latest information media like mobile technologies, in addition, rural friendly technologies which are simple, affordable and can address the basic needs of our farmers need to be designed, developed and supplied in all the villages of our country. IFFCO was amongst the first in India to realize the importance and benefits of information and communication technology (ICT) for the development of rural India and applied the technology under 'ICT Initiatives for Farmers & Cooperatives'.
As the country witnessed a boom in Communication in the past decades, most of the developments had been limited to urban areas. It is well known that communication plays a vital role in overall growth in country. It has been proved that mobile telephony has a positive and significant impact on economic growth. But communication infrastructure is still lacking in rural areas.
'IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL)' is IFFCO's initiative tying up with telecom giant “Airtel”to take further the application of ICT to the benefit of Rural India through a mandate to design, develop, source and supply state of the art, economical & environmentally friendly rural communication & other technologies with value additions of content & services. The focus is to empower people living in villages by taking advantage of appropriate technology to address issues relating to farmers who are in need of communication, access to input from experts and services of reliable quality.
IFFCO has always been in the forefront in spreading the benefits of latest in science and technology for the upliftment of quality of life in rural India. Service to farmers is an integral part of the marketing in gaining trust of rural masses. IFFCO has distinction of floating institutions with focus on rural India like IFFCO- TOKIO General Insurance (ITGI), CORDET, IFFCO Foundation, Kisan Sewa Trust and IFFDC. Unique initiatives of ITGI like 'Sankat Haran Bima Yojna' and ‘Barish Bima Yojana’ have become very popular
IKSL is harnessing domain strength of vast resources of expertise both within and outside IKSL by leveraging organizations engaged in communications & rural friendly technologies. Partnerships have been forged with giant companies like Airtel and Freeplay. Innovation, dynamism & sense of purpose guide IKSL in its journey towards harnessing technology for the betterment of life in rural India.
Value added services are designed to disseminate through mobile channel five voice messages of current importance to farmers in local languages every day free of cost. The broad areas covered are: recommendation on best agricultural practices, nutrient management, animal husbandry, problems & possible solutions for the specific location, information on mandies, weather & climate and several other areas. In Karnataka IKSL is entering into an MOU with University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore & Dharwad for developing content in the form of message bank and helpline services which is enhanced and updated on a continuous basis.