Volume 22, No. 3, November 2012
ICT Initiatives in Indian Agriculture
Research Scholar, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India
Senior Research Fellow, Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, Bangalore, India
Indian Agriculture contributes to 18.6 per cent of India’s GDP, and approximately 59 per cent Indians derive their livelihood from the agricultural sector. Today’s farmers not only want the two-time bread for their families, but also surplus food production that can be sold in the market to earn them sufficient money to fulfill their other needs. Along this line, private sector initiatives like contract farming have commercialized the Indian agricultural sector. Many new concepts and theories that substitute traditional methods have also been seen. One of them is the introduction of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), which enables the dissemination of requisite information at the right time. This revolution in information technology has made access to information easy and cost-effective. ICT includes computers and communication technology along with associated software. The activities of generating, processing, transmitting, disseminating, sorting, archiving and retrieving information constitute the information industry.
Need of ICT in Indian Agriculture
At present, the ratio of farmers to extension workers is as low as 1000:1. Although the appointed Village Local Workers (VLWs) disseminate information, there is lack of accountability. These two issues have created an urgency to effectively address the information needs of poor farmers. In addition, the cost involved in face-to-face information dissemination at the right time and the difficulties of reaching the target audiences have also created the urgency to introduce ICT for this purpose. It is only through the introduction of ICT that information can also be updated and extended at the lowest cost. There are several ICT models in Indian agriculture, which have made significant difference to agricultural operations (Meera, Jhamtani, & Rao, 2004).
ICT Initiatives for Agricultural Development in India by Various Agencies
Some initiatives in India that use ICT for agricultural development are:
Some exclusive agricultural portals are:
Barriers in ICT Implementation
Educating and catering to the information needs of farmers across nearly seven lakh villages in India indeed sounds unrealistic as this would require immense financial investment. A one-time major investment in establishing communication technologies in the required places restricts the government’s objective of covering more people regularly because of insufficient power availability in rural areas, poor ICT infrastructure, ICT illiteracy, non availability of timely relevant content, non-integration of services, poor advisory services and lack of localization, and in particular non availability of agricultural information kiosks/ knowledge centers at the grass root level.
Moreover, farmers sometimes become averse to adopting technology as they think that it might result in their losing their traditional methods of cropping practices. They simply do not want to use such systems, even if the cost incurred is negligible. Therefore, the attitude and mindset of farmers needs to be changed first. There is a need to win their confidence and create awareness about the benefits of ICT in agriculture.
Despite the huge potential of harnessing ICT for agricultural development, only a few isolated projects have been initiated in India and in other parts of the world. Interestingly, many of these projects were initiated by NGOs, private organizations, cooperative bodies and government organizations rather than by government-established agricultural departments. This shows the apathy of agricultural development departments towards incorporating ICT in their day-to-day activities. To formulate a strategy for overall agricultural development, isolated ICT projects need to be studied and the experience gained must be documented in order to draw lessons for the future. On the other hand, the need to market agricultural produce at competitive prices will also change the farmers’ attitude towards usage of ICT. ICT will thus help to sustain Indian agriculture.
It is necessary to develop ICT based agricultural services along with a communication backbone (such as a fiber optic network) in rural areas. Though the use of Information and Communication Technology in agriculture is in a nascent phase in India, ICT has immense potential to standardize and regulate agricultural processes and address the needs of farmers. It will therefore definitely serve as an important tool for agricultural development in the near future.
§ Meera, S.N., Jhamtani, A., & Rao, D.U.M. (2004). Information and Communication Technology in Agricultural Development: A Comparative Analysis of Three Projects from India. Agricultural Research and Extension Network, 135, 13-27.
§ Yogisha, G.M., Ramappa, K.B., Mahajanshetti, S.B., & Vijayakumar, H.S. (2008). Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in India: An insight into progress of rural economy. A National Journal of Agriculture and Rural Development, 40(1), 34-36.