Indian Government plans to start spoken Agromet web service for farmers

Indian Government plans to start spoken Agromet web service for farmers

With close to 60 percent of the 1.21 billion population of India still dependant on agriculture for a living, a spoken web service can be a boon to farmers in distant areas, a sizeable portion of which is illiterate and almost all non-tech savvy.

Working on the same lines, the Indian Government is planning to start a Spoken web service for farmers across the country; so that they can soon get their agriculture and weather-related queries answered quickly.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India, has already approached IT giant IBM to design a dedicated agromet (agriculture meteorological) service for farmers. Notably, IBM has recently launched a similar service for farmers to connect them to Amul Dairy.

Agromet will be a step further in this direction. The Government via the ministry already provides SMS and an Integrated Voice Response System (IVRS) service to farmers, giving them farming information, weather and climatic details to help them meet agricultural targets.

What is dedicated agromet (agriculture meteorological) service?

Dedicated agromet (agriculture meteorological) service or Spoken web is a project where people/farmers can speak and interact with web information through voice (You are not using keyboard or touch, but your voice to navigate and act). Farmers can dial a toll-free number and ask questions and get them answered. See it just like the Answering machines used by telecom operators to handle subscriber complaints and queries like Bill enquiry, dead phone booking, faulty broadband, list of previous Bills paid etc. Questions which cannot be addressed via such answering machines would be recorded and later answered by experts.

It can be expected that once the service goes into working; it will be popular among farmers in India. Notably, the SMS and IVRS mode were launched in 2009 covering 5,000 farmers. It now covers 2.8 million growers and by 2017 the method would cover 20 million.

The SMS and IVRS mode of Agromet works this way. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) provides the weather report to the Integrated Agromet Advisory Service -- involving organisations like the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Ministry of Agriculture (Central and State) and State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) – which is then rendered in the form of weather-based agro advisories to the farming community. The SMSs are sent to farmers in their regional language on their mobile phones. The IVRS was also created keeping in mind illiterate people in the country, who can listen to an automated message more effectively, to get farming information. In money terms the short and timely alerts to farmers about the weather have led to benefits worth a whopping Rs.50,000 crore annually.

According to a National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) report, roughly 24 percent of farmers in over 550 districts are either aware or using the Agromet services, while two million farmers are availing themselves of the mobile SMS service which started in late 2009. This money benefit can reach up to Rs.2,11,000 crore if the entire farming community in the country comes under the umbrella of the Agromet information. --------

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