Wednesday, August 11, 2010

e-Agriculture: the emerging face of Indian agriculture

Rapid innovations in Information Technology can be a gateway to social development. One such significant innovation is ‘e-Agriculture’ which has the potential to change the face of agriculture in modern times.

The term, 'e-Agriculture' refers to an emerging field that focuses on the use of Information Communication Technologies (in short ICTs) to improve information flow to farmers. This involves ingenious ways of conceptualizing, designing, developing and applying modern information and communication technologies in the rural arena with a focus on agriculture. The ‘ITC e-choupal’ model is an excellent example of e-agriculture in India.

But ‘e-Agriculture’ is not just an information technology; it promotes the integration of information technology with multimedia, knowledge and culture to improve communication and learning processes between various actors in agriculture locally, regionally and worldwide.

However there are challenges and the most important is to identify ways to make this technology accessible to the rural communities and to communicate technological advancements in local languages so that communities practice what they learn. For this to happen a constant process of dialogue and discussion is integral. One such endeavor is the ‘e-Agriculture Community of Practice’.

The e-Agriculture Community of Practice

The ‘e-Agriculture Community of Practice’( is a global initiative by FAO and its partners where people from all over the world exchange information, ideas, and resources related to the use of ICT for sustainable agriculture and rural development. With over 7,000 members from 150 countries and territories, the e-Agriculture Community comprises stakeholders such as development practitioners, policy makers, planners, and information and communication specialists. The overall aim is to enable members to exchange opinions, experiences, good practices and resources related to e-agriculture, and to ensure that the knowledge created is effectively shared and used worldwide.

How does the e-Agriculture Community of Practice function?

The e-Agriculture community initiates and encourages knowledge exchange - between ICT4D (Information Communication Technology for Development) practitioners, international agencies, governments, universities, research organizations, NGOs, private sector, and the wider development community. Discussion topics are demand-driven and led by partner institutions that specialize in different areas of e-agriculture. The e-Agriculture community also runs a platform which is a virtual meeting and sharing place where users can share experiences, opinions and good practices related to agriculture. The website uses several web2.0 tools to provide interactive, up to date and relevant information to the community. Being a community-driven initiative, much of this depends on the existing and future members of this website to carry forward the revolution and to bring together like-minded and enterprising people from around the world to work together.

e-Agriculture Community of Practice in India 2010

Recently the ‘e-Agriculture Community of Practice’ supported a 3 day conference on e-agriculture as part of e-India 2010, from 4-6 August in Hyderabad, India. The purpose of the event was to bring policy makers, development professionals, researchers, academicians, community stakeholders and corporate officers into a discussion to strengthen linkages through knowledge sharing. Mr. Gireesh Kumar Sanghi, MP, Rajya Sabha, Hyderabad chaired this discussion.

In the end

e-Agriculture has made a stronger start in India that in many other developing countries; but it still has a long way to go. For it to benefit rural communities, the rural digital divide must first be bridged. Locally relevant digital content has to be developed or adapted; and access to ICTs should be made affordable for rural populations. Otherwise e-agriculture applications will remain beyond the reach of rural communities and will merely exacerbate the existing rural digital divide - leading to an ever-widening knowledge gap between information “haves” and “have-nots”.

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