ICT encloses all the telecommunication technologies such as the radio, television, mobile phone, computers, satellite technology; internet including email, instant messaging, video conferencing, social networking and other media applications which enable the users across the world to access, fetch, retrieve, share, transmit, store or modify the digital information. These telecommunication mediums have made the world smaller letting people of different communities and culture communicate among themselves and access each other’s ideas and experiences.
There is no definite definition of ICT, describing its concepts and features but it is much true that these are evolving each and every day getting better.
For India, Agriculture is an important sector as more than 50% of its population, majorly rural, is indulged in agriculture. With increasing population and food insecurity, the prosperity in the agricultural sector has slowly vanished facing dwindling situations in production and marketing.
Therefore, extension and advisory services are more relevant to small and marginal farmers, who remain the bedrock in addressing poverty and improving agricultural productivity.
In order to improve the situation, there are two tasks:
a) To empower farmers with information and communication services, thus increasing their productivity and incomes and protecting their food security and livelihoods
b) To harness ICTs effectively to compete in a complex, rapidly changing global markets (avoiding falling behind the technology curve).
The aspect of timely and relevant information, especially with the role of Information Communication and Technology to connect farmers with the information they need has received much attention in the last decade.
Information and communication technology in agriculture, signifying e-agriculture, is developing and evolving each day to apply the of use ICTs in the rural domain, with agriculture as its main focus. Notably, e-agriculture involves the conceptualization, design, and development of innovative ways to use ICTs. ICT in agriculture provides a huge range of hi-tech solutions to today’s agriculture facing challenges boosting it in a direction to develop. The impacts of ICT are diverse influencing market competitiveness in different ways. ICT has been witnessed as an emerging field enhancing the agricultural and rural development providing quick access to knowledge and information through improved information and communication processes. Thus, ICT can be described as an umbrella term uniting devices, networks, mobiles, services and applications which continues to evolve providing an opportunity to harness its application benefits. While the positive impacts of ICT are being cataloged and discussed, many rural farmers still do not have access to use ICT.
ICT in connecting the agricultural world:
- Understanding and addressing global agriculture developments and problems by giving quick access to knowledge and information.
- Letting in more smallholders into supply chains by integrating food markets with intensified competition through globalization and increasing agriculture sector efficacy.
ICT in enhancing Agriculture:
- Increasing efficiency, productivity and sustainability of small and marginal farmers.
- Strengthening agricultural sector and increasing agricultural productivity.
- Disseminating information, especially early warnings and control measures for pest and disease; weather forecast, early warning systems for disaster prevention and control.
- Providing timely and updated information of new varieties release, new ways to optimize production, new agricultural techniques and regulations for quality control.
- Better of markets resulting from informed decisions about future crops and commodities and best time and place to sell and buy goods.
- Providing up-to-date commodity, inputs, and stock market price information and consumer trends. Thus, strengthening capacities to negotiate input and output prices, land claims and resource rights.
- Transmitting global open data for agriculture and nutrition for development of solutions addressing issues of food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture.
- Reducing social isolation, widening the perspective of local communities by opening up new business opportunities and allowing easier communication with others to share knowledge, information, ideas and experiences.
Commonly applied technologies in Agricultural Extension Services
- Radio and Television have always played, and still continues to play, an important role in getting farmers in touch with key services through various audio-visual shows.
- Videos continue to be very useful in extension services, for example, Digital Green (in India) which trains rural communities to make videos by the farmers, of the farmers, and for the farmers to share best agricultural practices and improve farm productivity.
- Mobile phones either use voice, text or photos within the farmer/extensionists interaction.
A number of mobile apps are there which can be used. Some (in India) of them are:
KISAN SUVIDHA: Launched by the PM Narendra Modi in 2016. It provides information on current weather and also the forecast for the next five days, market prices of commodities/crops in the nearest town, knowledge on fertilizers, seeds, machinery etc. The option to use the app in different languages makes it more widely accessible.
IFFCO KISAN AGRICULTURE: Launched in 2015 and is managed by IFFCO Kisan. The user can access a variety of informative modules including agricultural advisory, weather, market prices, agriculture information library in the form of text, imagery, audio and videos in the selected language at profiling stage. The app also offers helpline numbers to get in touch with Kisan Call Centre Services.
PUSA KRISHI: Launched in 2016 by the Union Agriculture Minister and aims to help farmers to get information about technologies developed by Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), which will help in increasing returns to farmers
WHATS APP: It is the most widely used app for texting is bridging gaps between farmers. Departments of Agriculture of a few states are using this public platform to make groups called Progressive Farmers’ connecting farmers through their android devices.
AGRIMARKET: Keep the farmers abreast of crop prices and discourage them to go for distress sales. Farmers can get information related to prices of crops in markets within 50km of their own device location.
Internet connects the whole world in just one go. Many websites are there on the internet such as:
agricoop.nic.in: It deals with agriculture census and marketing, credit to farmers, crops and draught management, Horticulture, INM etc.
farmer.gov.in: Provides agricultural relevant information on specific subjects around a specific village, block, district or state through text, SMS, e-mail audio or video.
Agmarknet.nic.in: Shows latest prices and arrival of different agricultural commodities received from APMC’c of different states.