Introduction are isolated and living in closed, self

Introduction

Rural communities and small scale agricultural producers are
widely affected by global economic, environmental and political forces. This is
true to a greater extent beyond the common myth that communities of small scale
agricultural producers are isolated and living in closed, self sufficient
societies. Interest rates, global commodity situations, changing trade pattern,
transportation development, communication development and tariff structure, all
impact upon the small farm operation. Indian farming community is in crisis and
facing a multitude of problems for increasing the efficiency of farm production.
One of the reasons is that expert / scientific advice is not reaching farming
community in a timely manner. Due to several reasons the current extension
system in India is unable to deliver the advice to the farming community in an
efficient manner. Without having access to credible advice, the farmers are
following unscientific farming practices, thus facing severe crisis due to
reduced farm output or failure. Moreover, it is difficult to get high price for
such low quality products in both domestic and international markets. So we
have to use all the resources at our disposal to resolve these problems.

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Access to information and improved communication is a crucial
requirement for sustainable agricultural development. Modern communication
technologies when applied to conditions in rural areas can help improve
communication, increase participation, and disseminate information and share
knowledge and skills. However it is observed that the rural population still
has difficulty in accessing crucial information in order to make timely
decisions. It is essential that information availability is demand driven
rather than supply driven. The challenge is not only to improve the
accessibility of communication technology to the rural population but also to
improve its relevance to local development. The ongoing IT revolution has
opened huge opportunities for providing access to information as well as to
interactive distance learning in rural India. Computer aided knowledge
dissemination mechanism help to reach the un-reached and foster new voices and
new leaders. Any effort in this direction will be highly effective way to
empower the rural population with the most needed commodity that is Information.

 

 

 

Efforts made in the transfer
of technology

In independent
India rural development was taken on priority basis for systematic development.
Community Development Scheme initiated in 1952 and National Extension Service
(NES) initiated in 1953 encompassed the whole country into the realm of
activities in agriculture, animal husbandry and rural welfare. A field level
force of village level workers (VLWs) was put into service under subject matter
specialists (SMSs) for transfer of technology in their respective areas. The
Intensive Agricultural District Programme (IADP), Intensive Agricultural Area
Programme (IAAP), Intensive Cattle Development Programme (ICDP) and Integrated
Rural Development Programme (IRDP) were introduced to increase the production
and productivity. In order to give added attention to research based transfer
of technology, National Demonstration Programmes were launched in 1965 and Lab
to Land Programmes (LLPs) were introduced by Indian Council of Agricultural
Research (ICAR) in 1979. The Training and Visit (T&V) system, introduced in
1977 on pilot basis, later extended to all over the country by 1985, was the
first major programme which focussed on extension only. The trend thus, till
1980s, had been to focus on Agriculture and more specifically to important
crops of the concerned area. During the past two decades, the work of the
extension services has often become more diversified into areas other than
agriculture like animal husbandry, horticulture, fisheries etc. This requires
the Extension Worker at the cutting edge level to be master of so many trades,
which is well nigh impossible. The use of Information Technology can help the
extension workers to be more effective in meeting farmer’s information needs.

 

Limitations of
traditional extension methods

Before one can
appreciate the question of what really makes cyber extension necessary it may
be helpful to take look at some of the limitations of traditional extension
techniques and processes such as

1.     
Production and printing extension message brochures and
training a whole chain of extension personnel is expensive.

2.     
It takes many actors to understand the message and
deliver it to next layer. This process takes a lot of time and effort on part
of extension machinery of the state.

3.     
In Traditional
Extension the quality of messages gets eroded as it passes through different
layers.

4.     
The flow of the information from research to extension
tends to be top-down, rather than a two-way, interactive process and little use
of up-to-date communications technology lead to poor communication.

5.     
Neglect of extension in livestock development since
priority was given to crop production. The focus of animal husbandry is mainly
on animal health than o production aspect.

Thus it’s found that the capacity of
traditional extension system is very limited, and the challenge in terms of
reaching all the villages and all the farmers is becoming more and more
difficult to meet.

 

Potential advantages of Information
Technology (IT) in rural development

1.     
Saves money, time and effort

2.     
Cuts actors at various levels in the diffusion process

3.     
Information rich and interactive

4.     
Instant international reach

5.     
Continuous availability

 

Uses and Applications of IT

1.     
Personal Computer

Computer is one of the powerful tools which
can aid in processing information and communicating it. It can store and
display all kinds of information. It offers farmers many new opportunities to
obtain technical and economic information quickly and use it effectively for
decision making. Linked to a central information bank, farmers or extension
agents can continuously receive available information or interactively request
information. It can be used in planning, implementation and evaluation of
community development programmes, facilitate easy handling and storage of
written text and publishing special magazines for a small group at a cheaper
cost and greater speed. A computer system can be used to generate

·        
Personal
letters to cater to specific needs of the farmers viz., solution for a specific
problem, etc.

·        
Circular
letters by using mail merger facility to announce recent technological
developments, to inform the dates, venue of training, meetings etc.

·        
Prepare
report of studies / programmes conducted for the use of the decision makers and
the benefit of the end users / participants in the programme.

·        
Data
history of the animals of a farm as a whole to estimate, understand and inform
the current performance trend to compare the past and the present data and
assess the progress achieved and predict the future based on these data.

·        
Details
of a maintenance records in animal management, production details and represent
graphically the results for easy visual understanding.

 

2.     
CD ROM technology

            The
latest technology available for wide distribution of information in the Compact
Disk Read Only Memory (CD ROM) which helps in information storage and
retrieval. Advantages include storage potential, low cost, durability and easy
to use.

 

3.     
Desktop publishing

            It
can be used for printing and publishing books, literatures etc. this may be
combined with telecommunication to make production and distribution of
publication inexpensive. Also revision can also be easily done.

 

4.     
Expert system

It is an intelligence
computer programme that uses knowledge to solve problems that are difficult
enough to require human expertise for their solution. The advice is given to
farmers with alternatives chosen from a wide range of possible options by
processing data from a large number of variables according to certain decision
rules. Expert systems can be developed for disease diagnosis, farm planning,
feeding systems etc.

 

5.     
Geographic Information System (GIS)

            GIS
is a systematically designed, spatially indexed approach for organizing
information about places and regions in order to facilitate analysis of
relationships between different social, economic and environmental variables.
It is rapidly becoming and affordable technology with substantial, immediate
and long term benefit for developing countries. The main applications of GIS
include land use analysis, thematic mapping, site selection, socio economic
studies, demographic analysis, analysis of biodiversity, disease and health
studies, watershed planning, etc.

 

6.     
Networking

            We are familiar with networking of
railways, post and telegraphs, etc. they are all interconnected service
locations. A network is a means by which computers share and exchange
information and resources across shorts distances (LAN – Local Area Network) or
globally (WAN – Wide Area Network).  LAN
is a group of desktop computers located relatively close to one and another and
connected through cabling systems to enable them to share access to computing
resources. A LAN typically consists of PCs on the same floor of the building or
situated in different floors of the same building. It may even consist of
computer spread across various buildings. When computers are spread across
large geographical areas like intracity, intercity, etc. and still connected to
one another to share information, it is called WAN. Networking will enhance the
quality of communication by sharing of information among all extension wings
and between different veterinary departments would ensure that the farmer will
be provided with all latest information.

 

Internet

            The internet is a worldwide collection
of computer networks. It provides access to communication services and
information resources to millions of users around the globe. The machines of
one network can communicate with machines of other networks and send data files
and other information back and forth. The internet covers the globe and is not
owned by any individual, company or country. Through internet you could get
information about people, products, organization, research data, electronic
version of printed material, etc. For an organization or an institution,
setting up a home page is a good way to let the world know what its products
and services are. The crucial function that relate to provision of information
are

Publishing – including full text articles, reports,
illustrated articles, abstracts, computer programmes, demonstrations, etc.Extension – in which some of the delays of other
media can be reduced and disseminate information faster.Teaching – possibilities including both distance
learning and assistance for students.

Internet
provides for the compilation of information. Forms, email can be used for the
conduct of survey. They are discussion groups and list servers where one can
post a question and get it answered by hundreds of people of people who
participate in these discussions. Some of the fundamental capabilities of the
Internet are

International communication is a fundamental facet of
webInformation can be maintained centrally on the
network server and still be displayed, accessed and disseminated on an
individual is possible.Two way of multi channel communication is possible.Seamless access to shared data, project coordination,
coordinated information management resulting in enhanced opportunities for
innovative services.

To become
successful in the today’s competitive world one has to manage the future which
is achieved by managing information. Internet is a vast source of information.
It is the window to the information superhighway. Access to the internet will
bring the whole world under ones fingertip. Internet itself is a huge library
with plethora of backup and publication is all subjects under the nose. Scores
of information of the day-to-day affairs across the horizon would help the
extension agents to go global and his ability to act local would make him the most
sought after personal. The World Wide Web can help the extension world wide in
the following ways:

Providing interaction among research scientists,
extension workers , farmers and other rural people through e-mail; Providing up-to-date news and information services,
such as market prices and weather conditions; A question and answer service where experts respond
to queries on specialized subjects; Creation and maintenance of Statistical Databases on
critical agricultural and rural development parameters that can be queried
on demand; Providing the details of Poverty Alleviation Schemes
on the Internet; Providing status of various Government Programmes and
details about their implementation mechanism on demand basis; Hosting web sites by major institutions participating
in agricultural extension, putting latest packages of practices (with more
situation specific packages), for various agro-eco regions. These
institutions, particularly the Project Directorates may also place the
diagnostic and pre-emptive farm practices for the major crops particularly
the commercial crops, well in advance of the concerned crop season. This
can help the extension workers to access latest information on IPM
(Integrated Pest Management), INM (Integrated Nutrients Management) and
other such practices for high value important commercial crops. The
institutions will also be able to get direct customer feedback for their
packages. Launching online rural development and extension
journals, newsletters etc. (with or without print version); Providing Internet access at district and block level
agriculture and rural development offices. This service may also be open
for rural communities on fixed days. This connectivity can also be used to
download online publications on useful topics from anywhere in the world; Opening of cyber cafes to enable educated rural
people and extension workers at village level to have direct access to
world wide web for having market information etc.; Providing maps that display different features, such
as population density, crops planted, etc.; Providing video clips to demonstrate complex
procedures; and audio files for re-broadcast on local radio stations (FAO,
1999); Providing mechanism of user / beneficiary feed back
for the Public Sector Schemes.

 

e-Mail
(electronic mail)

e-Mail
or the electronic mail is one of the services provided by the Internet.
Computer users can interact using electronic mail network. Being cheaper than
voicemail, it overcomes the time zone difference that hinders that hinders the
real time communication. E-mail also offers to stay in touch with special
groups. A mailing list is a special and easy way to share information with many
people on a specific topic or for a specific purpose.  Once subscribed, you will receive regular
information via E-mail on a subject with minimum cost and effort. Sharing
knowledge with other subscribers and getting help in case of a problem are all
possible. E-mail facilitates, by their speed, immediate availability of
information and thereby empowers the extension would then be multifold. The
E-mail by itself would be a record for information shared.

 

9.     
Multimedia

            It
is a multi faceted instructional strategy that brings together text, graphics,
animation, video, still images audio and video. The computer integrates all
these media into a single platform and provides interactivity to the system. It
allows the users to navigate through the package on any path he wishes.
Understanding the vast capabilities of multimedia several software packages have
been developed which are used as a teaching tool by the instructor. It enable
the learners to actually hear and see what is actually happening in a given
problem situation. It is more simplified than making slides, transparencies and
the teacher can create an entire lesson and present a running commentary.

 

IT for Agriculture and Rural Development in India

Improved
communication and information access is directly related to social and economic
development.  There is a concern that the
gap between the information rich and information poor is getting wider. New
information and communication technologies are generating possibilities to
solve problems of rural poverty, inequality and giving an opportunity to bridge
the gap between information rich and information poor and support sustainable
development in rural agricultural communities. However remote rural communities
still lack basic communication infrastructure. The challenge is not only to
improve the accessibility of communication technology to the rural population
but also to improve the relevance of information to local development.

One
cannot expect poor farmers and food insecure residents to list computers and
digital communication services as high priority items for improving their
lives. However there exist various intermediaries that serve this population,
which together with small and medium enterprises in rural areas can take
advantage of these technologies to improve their work, improve communication
capacity, gain efficiency and reduce telecommunication costs. There are several
cases of application of information and communication technologies that have
made a difference in the delivery of services in rural India. Some of these
include Warna Wired Villages, M.S. Swaminathan Info Villages, ITC’s e-Choupal, KISSAN-Agriculture
Date Centre, AMCUS and DISK of AMUL, Gyandoot, AGMARKNET, Community Information
Centres (CICs), Village Information Centres, etc.

 

Role of extension staff and Conclusion

Person-to-person communication has traditionally been the most
important form of information transfer. Print media as well as radio and
television were of a supplementary nature because they frequently lacked target
group or location specificity and information was not up-to-date. Revolutionary
changes in communication technology have dramatically increased the speed and
quality of information transfer and changed the role of extension workers in
industrialized countries. Electronic communications systems may in part replace
personal visits, and one of the major tasks of any agent will be to link her or
his clients with other suppliers of information.

Today, the working conditions of extension personnel have deteriorated;
expectations with regard to their role are increasing. They are no longer to be
simply transmitters of technical knowledge. They are to practice participatory
methods, recognize and respect gender issues, identify indigenous needs and
problem solutions, and serve as a link to the world outside the village, to
name but a few of the present topics. The emerging role is closer to that of a
“socio-economic community worker” than a technical expert, but their
training is insufficient for either. For that matter computer wisdom is again
an indispensable qualification for them to pump up the information to the needy
in time at seasons and in emergencies. This would also lessen their burden on
transport facilities, staying in their office and networking their advices and
ideologies will bring a lot of change in the rural scenario. Insitu storage and
retrieval of information could reduce a lot of stress and burden of the
extension worker in their field visits. This would pave a way for them to
inculcate a sense of zeal to answer the queries of the farmer at any time.