The Indian miller and those who are working for their welfare need to be e-powered to face the emerging scenario of complete or partial deregulation & reduction in government protection, opening up of agricultural markets, fluctuations in rice industry environment and to exploit possible opportunities for exports.
Information of the required quality always has the potential of improving efficiency in all spheres of agriculture. The emerging scenario of a deregulated Agriculture, thanks to WTO, has brought in a greater ‘need’ and urgency to make it an integral part of decision making by Indian agricultural community.
Information Technology (IT) has a major role to play in all facets of Indian rice processing industry.. In addition to facilitating farmers in improving the efficiency and productivity of rice processing industry and allied activities. The potential of IT lies in bringing about an overall qualitative improvement in life by providing timely and quality Information inputs for decision making. The personnel who work for the welfare of Indian Millers, such as extension workers, do not have access to latest Information which hinders their ability to serve the farming community effectively.
This article focuses on the scope for e-powering people who live in Rural India as well as those who work for their welfare. The latest developments in IT that facilitate effective IT penetration to rural India, changing pattern of information requirements & role of IT, type of systems required in the post-WTO environment, the bottlenecks in e-powering rural India along with possible solutions are examined.
Role of IT in Agriculture
In the context of rice processing industry the potential of information technology (IT) can be assessed broadly under two heads : (a) as a tool for direct contribution to rice milling productivity and (b) as an indirect tool for empowering millers to take informed and quality decisions which will have positive impact on the way rice processing and allied activities are conducted. Precision milling, popular in developed countries, extensively uses IT to make direct contribution to rice milling productivity.
The techniques of remote sensing using satellite technologies, geographical information systems, agronomy and soil sciences are used to increase the rice output. This approach is capital intensive and useful where large tracts of land are involved. Consequently it is more suitable for milling taken up on corporate lines. The indirect benefit of IT in empowering Indian miller is significant and remains to be exploited. The Indian miller urgently requires timely and reliable sources of information inputs for taking decisions. At present, the miller depends on trickling down of decision inputs from conventional sources which are slow and unreliable. The changing environment faced by Indian MILLER makes information not merely useful, but necessary to remain competitive.
IT and Indian rice processing industry in the Future
Technologically it is possible to develop suitable systems, as outlined in the previous sections, to cater to the information needs of Indian rice miller. User friendly systems, particularly with content in local languages, can generate interest in the farmers and others working at the grassroots. It is possible to create dedicated networks or harness the power of Internet to make these services is available to all parts of the country.
The task of creating application packages and databases to cater to complete spectrum of Indian agriculture is a giant task. The long term rice processing policy provides an exhaustive list of all the areas that are to be covered. This can be taken as a guiding list to evolve design and develop suitable systems catering to each of the specified areas. Our country has the advantage of having a large number of specialized institutions in place catering to various aspects of Indian agriculture. These institutions can play a crucial role in designing the necessary applications & databases and services.
[hidepost] This will facilitate modularization of the task, better control and help in achieving quick results. As it is, several institutions have already developed systems related to their area of specialization. For quick results, it may be useful to get the applications outsourced to software companies in India. This will facilitate quick deployment of applications and provide boost to the software industry in India. In order to avoid duplication of efforts, it may be useful to consider promoting a coordinating agency which will have an advisory role to play in evolving standard interface for users, broad design and monitoring of the progress. In the post WTO regime, it is suggested that it is useful to focus more on some rice mill products to maintain an unquestionable competitive advantage for exports.
This will call for urgent measures to introduce state of the art technologies such as remote sensing, geographical information systems (GIS), bio-engineering, etc. India has made rapid strides in satellite technologies. It is possible to effectively monitor agricultural performance using remote sensing and GIS applications. This will not only help in planning, advising and monitoring the status of the crops but also will help in responding quickly to crop stress conditions and natural calamities. Challenges of crop stress, soil problems, natural disasters can be tackled effectively through these technologies. A beginning in precision farming can be encouraged in larger tracts of land in which export potential can be tilted in our country’s favour. While developing these systems it is necessary to appreciate that major audience that is targeted is not comfortable with computers. This places premium on user friendliness and it may be useful to consider touch screen technologies to improve user comfort levels. It is often observed that touch screen kiosks, with their intuitive approach, provide a means for quick learning and higher participation.
It is also necessary to provide as much content as possible in local languages. Once the required application packages & databases are in place, a major challenge is with respect to dissemination of the information. The Krishi Vigyan Kendras, NGOs and cooperative societies may be used to set up information kiosks. Private enterprise is also required to be drawn into these activities. These kiosks should provide information on other areas of interest such as education, information for which people have to travel distances such as those related to the government, courts, etc. Facilities for email, raising queries to experts, uploading digital clips to draw the attention of experts to location specific problems can be envisaged. Screen kiosks are required to be set up to encourage greater participation.
The quality of rural life can also be improved by quality information inputs which provide better decision making abilities. IT can play a major role in facilitating the process of transformation of rural India to meet these challenges and to remove the fast growing digital divide.
The rapid changes in the field of information technology make it possible to develop and disseminate required electronic services to rural India. The existing bottlenecks in undertaking the tasks need to be addressed immediately. A national strategy needs to be drawn for spearheading IT penetration to rural India. A national coordinating agency with an advisory role can act as a catalyst in the process. No single institution or organization alone can succeed in the task of e-powering MILLERS and rural India. At the same time, scattered and half hearted attempts can not be successful in meeting the objective. Industries with major stake in villages, such as fertilizer sector, should come together to provide the initial impetus.