Pervasive and extensive use of the ICT is a mandatory tool of agricultural extension. Under the National e-Governance Plan – Agriculture (NeGP-A), several modes of delivery of e-enabled services have been envisaged. These covers internet, touch screen kiosks, agriclinics, private kiosks, mass media, Common Service Centres, Kisan Call Centres, and integrated platforms in the departmental offices coupled with a physical outreach of extension personnel equipped with pico-projectors and handheld platforms. However, mobile telephony (with or without internet) is the most proper and omnipresent tool of agricultural extension. The programme conceptualized, designed and developed in-house within the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation has widened the outreach of scientists, experts and Government officers posted down to the Block level to disseminate information, give advisories and to provide advisories to farmers by their mobile telephones. SMS Portal was inaugurated by the Hon’ble President of India on July 16, 2013, and since its start, nearly 50 crore messages or more than 152 crores SMSs have been sent to farmers all over the length and breadth of the country. These messages are specific to farmers’ specific needs & relevance at a particular point in time. These messages create heavy inflow of calls in the Kisan Call Centres where people call up to get supplementary information.
Objectives of the Portal include:
- To make SMS and other mobile responsive services as a tool of 2 way agricultural extension in which not only information/advisory services are given to farmers as per his/her need in a broadcast mode (in keeping with selection of crop / agricultural practice, requirements and places) but they can also raise specific queries through Pull SMS or USSD.
- Generating use of a huge spread of mobile telephony in the rural areas to cover every farm household in the country to overcome the major impediment in bringing level playing field for small and marginal farmers. Presently, there are about 38 crore mobile telephones in rural areas as against nearly 9 crore farm households.
- Centralized system wherein different modes of information flow are channelized and flow to the farmers in their own mother tongue.
- Integrated Portal to ensure proper storage in previous advisories/messages and also effective monitoring at several levels.
- Integration of database of farmers from the State Governments, Universities, KVKs web-based registration, Kisan Call Centres etc.
- Since effective internet penetration in the rural areas is about 5% only, text messaging in the language of the farmer transcends the barriers of the digital divide.