Information technology and agriculture, both were considered incongruous to each other a decade ago, but now the scenario has changed. Today, information system is being widely incorporated with agriculture. Information technology always had the potential to increase the quality of farming and farming products, but it demands efficiency and information in every area of agriculture. The world Trade Organization has recently made a laudable effort in promoting the information technology as an integral part of farming sector around the world.
Information Technology (IT) has a substantial role to play in all facets of Indian agriculture. In addition to facilitating and improving the efficiency of farmer’s productivity in agriculture and allied activities; bringing the potential of IT for the qualitative improvement of life of farmers by providing timely and data inputs for decision making is inevitable.
Those personnel who work for the welfare of Indian farmers such as extension workers, do not have access to the latest agricultural practices which hinders their ability to serve the farming community effectively. This manuscript focuses on the opportunity for people living in the e-powering India, as well as those peoples who work for their welfare. Latest developments and changing patterns of IT in rural India facilitate the effective penetration of IT for information requirements. Here the post-WTO necessarily systems environment with possible bottlenecks to be arisen in rural India along with e-powering solutions for them are examined.
Information and communication have been playing an important role in agriculture since antiquity. The farmers might have sought information from one another and they disseminated the information to others through communication thus evolved the methodologies. Most of the farmers still follow the traditional techniques in farming till today. In the machine era there emerged a lot of machines to help the farmer in his cultivation. The machineries have made the job of a farmer easier, its duty is to nullify the toil of farmers but has nothing to do in increasing the production and quality of the products in an effective way. Here lies the relevance of subsuming information technology with agriculture. In this era of technological advancements this idea has a lot to do in farming sector. Use of IT to improve decision making in agriculture sector has been regarded as an idea with immense potential. IT is connected to the global world and its dynamics is changing our lifestyle and social consciousness. In all phases of agriculture industry, information technology management is essential for success.
Role of IT in agriculture
The role of Information technology in agricultural sector is becoming more and more visible. We use IT to convey and spread information to people on matters relevant to crop production and crop protection. People must have a computer or a computing device like smartphone to avail use of information technology. Promulgation of information alone can’t sustain growth in agriculture; agricultural industry must have the ability to manipulate that information to make informed decisions. I.e. in the agriculture context, decisions which will have a positive impact on related activities are being made. Modern farming practices like satellite farming has already started getting popularity in foreign countries, this precision farming uses IT to make direct contribution to maximize the crops productivity. Satellite technology, geographic information systems, remote sensing, techniques of agronomy and soil science etc. can be used to increase agricultural production especially in large tracts of land where this approach is cost effective and useful. Big food chain retailers has started implementing this competing technological aide in their vast lands.
However in Indian context the potential of IT in farming sector seems unexploited. Lack of awareness about the technologies is a major constraint. Currently the farmers in India hesitate to come out of the entanglements of traditional source of inputs. Using information is not only useful but a requirement in these days. Studies shows that the use of modern technologies is capable of making remarkable hike in agricultural production.
Needs of the hour
Decision Support System (DSS) for Farmers
Farmers should be cautious in decision making which help them to avoid impending risks. The refined exporting rules proclaimed by WTO will make exports more competitive. Harvesting costs effective farming methods and the availability of data inputs against imports will facilitate the assessment of the market value of the indigenous products. Analyzing these kind of data will help the farmers to make necessary steps and corrective measures to face the market situations.
Fluctuations in the international market will directly affect the markets too, so it is necessary to be sharp-eyed to defend external shocks. The market watch is that important. Advance warning systems should be developed which would help farmers to make last minute strategy changes to avoid huge loss. Although periodic analytical reports are needed to enhance the warnings.
Indian farmers should seize the opportunities. They should equip their business with every possible technologies to cop up with the business. The whole agricultural sector is in the cusp of an impending revolution, thankfully central and state government departments are well aware about the scenario. Thus a wide range of awareness campaigns are on the go.
Significance of Awareness
In India farming with agricultural technologies is an unprecedented practice, so the foremost consideration of WTO should be given to unambiguous interpretation and implication of training methods. It is recommended that WTO should give an effort to publish printed, web journals targeting all segments of Indian agriculture and allied activities. This has to be addressed immediately as a priority item. The most sought after information like import tariffs, season wise and year wise phases of the mandatory changes in government policies and its impact on the various subsidy schemes are to be furnished to the beneficiaries. How to provide this analytical inputs will lead us to the advantage implementation of web/mobile applications for agriculture.
Removing restrictions to throw open the Indian agricultural markets, macro-economic situation, foreign exchange, inflation, the current tariff, etc. in the respective countries are likely to have a direct impact on Indian agriculture segments inside and outside.
IT and Agriculture in Future
As mentioned earlier it is possible to develop effective software systems using information technology to meet the needs of the Indian farmer. The availability of these kind of technologies can be ensured through efficacious internet tools and smart networks. For fulfilling the task the accumulation of the full spectrum of application packages and databases are imperative. Agriculture is an agglomeration of lot of tiny areas, an ocean of information inputs are necessary; amalgamating all these information is a strenuous task. So the practical option is to create technological solution for individual needs. It is recommended to frame the design of the system only after perusing the task, we have to step out from the traditional method of creating the system first before inputs to get practical results. A complete system is only possible after documenting the entire data to a single platform.
However many organizations have already developed systems globally that provide results in their area of specialization and it may be useful to get these programs in India from outsourcing software companies which will give a boost to India’s software industry and will facilitate the rapid deployment of applications. In order to avoid duplication of efforts and for evolving a comprehensive design, a standard interface for monitoring progress could be useful by promoting a coordinating agency which will have an advisory role to play in the post WTO regime. It is an undeniable competitive advantage for the export of some agricultural products to maintain focus on the more useful side.
India has made rapid progress in state of the art technology where to make a call for an action, plans can be laid out using remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), bioengineering, satellite technology etc. Using remote sensing and GIS applications effective agricultural exhibition is possible to keep an eye on. Crop stress, soil problems, challenges, natural disasters etc. can be effectively tackled using this technology. The export potential of precision farming can be tilted in favor of our country which can be motivated to span large tracts of land.
In spite of the awareness campaigns, the IT infrastructure development is imperative. The vital objective in fulfilling the idea is to avail the access of computers and its accessories to the targeted group, i.e. the farmers from remote rural areas across the country. The IT mission itself got an edge over other awareness programs. The advanced subsidiary accessories which comes with the computer made it easier for a layman to communicate with the information systems. Agricultural extension service can be carried out by employees in outdoor and remote areas using the lightweight, portable data projectors which will fetch a wide audience. Similarly loud speakers can be connected to the computer and incorporated for voice-based training. Significant processing of data on the client side based on the increased processing speed of computers makes it possible for the widespread distribution of information.
Computers with greater memory capacity is common now it has enhanced the document storing process. It enables quick storage and access of information at the local level. Similarly, high capacity portable drives that can be connected to any kind of devices makes possible the transfer of large volumes of information from locations to locations.
Softwares with regard to the various operating systems are available which act as an interface between the user and the machine. Graphical user interface (GUI) has become a prerequisite for end users is widely accepted. Office automation packages, groupware applications, complex DB solutions for storing data and information, communication products, solutions based on remote sensing and geographic information systems for the shelf solutions are also available. Developed at an affordable price had become a downward trend in the industry and the shift is towards providing a customized application. Rapid Application Development and Deployment (Radd) is a popular model for rapid development and deployment of applications as it quickens the pace of development for software specialists. Project management and monitoring software is necessary for rural India to facilitate efficient implementation of large and complex applications that are available.
The ability of a modem to convert data from digital to analog and vice versa is employed popularly and has increased in pace. Other networking devices like routers has the ability to make it easy and possible for large networks with data transmission.
The data transfer process has undergone a radical transformation, even though the main issues of reliability and low bandwidth telephone lines are yet still popular in India. High-capacity cables, optical fiber, radio, wireless local loops, satellite broadcasting or a combination of these different solutions are already in use in many parts of the country.
Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) devices ensures longevity of IT equipment and is crucial to provide backup methods. The country need to exploit the potential of solar power in rural areas to provide a possible solution to the shortage of power.
By combining and analyzing the previous findings together, it is possible to make a complete and efficient IT platform for agricultural sector. Farmers and IT professionals together could contribute to the development of user friendly systems which uses local languages. The positive attributes of the technology can be widely used in farming sector in the country.