Agriculture is the backbone of rural economy in India. The vast majority of poor people lives in rural areas and derives their livelihoods directly or indirectly from agriculture. Increasing the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of small scale farms is an area where digital technology can make a significant contribution. Farming involves risks and uncertainties, with farmers facing many threats from poor soils, drought, erosion and pests. Digital technology can deliver useful information to farmers about agriculture like crop care and animal husbandry, fertilizer and feedstock inputs, pest control, seed sourcing and market prices.

Quick dissemination of technological information from the research system to farmers in the field and reporting of farmers’ feedback to the research system is one of the critical inputs in transfer of technology. Digital technology is one of the means whose potential can be exploited to bridge the gap between research system and farming system.

Recent years have seen an increase in the use of Digital technology in almost all spheres of rural lives, despite persisting problems of access, connectivity, literacy, content, and costs. Dissemination of knowledge through appropriate delivery methods plays an important role and it can be multiplied manifold by modern digital technology applications such as Internet services and mobile phones etc. Information provided through modern information technology gadgets should be need-based, demand driven, site-specific and in local language. This development of communications infrastructure, especially in the area of telecommunications, brings with it both opportunities and challenges. Agricultural technology transfer, which depends to a large extent on information exchange between and among farmers on one hand, and a broad range of other actors on the other hand, has been identified as one area in which digital technology can have a particularly significant impact

Farmers need dynamic information relating to cultivation, management, meteorological and marketing factors as related to crops, livestock, fisheries, agro-forestry and agro-processing. It is also important to address the need for demand driven and value added information, which is time and location specific. Apart from information related to farming, farmers urgently need access to information about education, healthcare, Government policies, product prices, market-led entrepreneurship opportunities etc.

Digital technology is proving a boon to the farmers in realizing their needs effectively and empowering them with latest knowledge and global trend. Digital technology includes a converging spectrum of technologies that consist primarily of telecommunications (such as telephony, cable, satellite, and computer networks), computing (computers, Intranet, Internet, software and mobile phones) and broadcasting (Radio and TV technologies). Digital technology plays a major role in storage, process, retrieval and dissemination of information to farmers at distant places. It has shown its strength in implementing sustainable socio-economic development and poverty alleviation programs by providing ample job opportunities all over the world.

Harnessing the right technology available can offer multiple issues of governance in agriculture sector providing most needed timely relief to distressed farmers, cutting delays, inefficiencies, corruption and costs. One can create geotagged databank of all farmers’ fields as well as all water bodies village wise with actual volumes etc. Crop insurance schemes cover farmers who see huge delay in getting the payment when crop is damaged. By adopting the right technology, farmers can be paid back within a week. Use of smartphones, artificial intelligence and local weather data can be used to provide immediate relief to the farmers.

Some of the telecom companies have developed a platform for farmers offering access to real time market prices irrespective of distance.

Private sector-led Agriwatch (www. agriwatch.com) and e-Choupal programme (www. itcportal.com/rura/devp_phi/osophy/ echoupal. htm) support several million farmers with price information, tender and transaction facilities. Digital technology is making processes more efficient and transparent. It helps in making laws and land titles more accessible. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) linked to Geographical Information Systems (GIS),digital cameras and internet, help rural communities to document and communicate their situation. Rural communities benefit from better access to credit and rural banking facilities. Recent mobile banking initiatives offer further scope to reduce costs and stimulate local trade.

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