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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 agriculture. In addition to facilitating farmers in improving the efficiency and productivity of agriculture 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 farmers, such as extension workers, do not have access to latest information which hinders their ability to serve the farming community effectively. This paper focusses 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.
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Information Technology and its Components
Induction of IT as a strategic tool for agricultural development and welfare of rural India requires that the necessary IT infrastructure is in place. The rapid changes and downward trend in prices in various components of IT makes it feasible to target at a large scale IT penetration into rural India. Some of the broad factors to be noted with respect to various components of IT are listed below :
1. Input devices : Radical improvements are witnessed with respect to the means of communication by human beings with computers such as key boards, mouse devices, scanners. The advent of touch screen monitors that allow users to give input to computers by touching on the appropriate location of the monitor has made it possible to develop user-friendly interface for farmers which is easy, intuitive, circumvents language barrier and at the same time provides a relaxed environment to the users. The present day digital cameras make it possible to capture and store good quality graphics and large video clips. The small size and low weight of these digital cameras, which are increasingly becoming affordable, open up the possibilities of providing computer based demonstration clips to educate the farmers. The digital cameras can also be used to upload plant stress related images, movie 1 General Manager, Management Services Division, Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited, 34, Nehru Place, New Delhi,110019
clips which can facilitate an expert residing at a far of location to quickly recommend a solution.
2. Output devices : Monitor screens, printers & plotters, data projectors support high resolution and good quality output. The quality of these output devices have the potential of generating renewed interest in the farmers in using IT based services. The light weight portable data projectors can be easily carried by the agricultural extension personnel for serving larger audience. Similarly, speakers can also be attached to the computers to incorporate voice based trainings for farmers.
3. Processors : The processing speeds of computers have gone up. At present, Intel P-IV based processors @ 1.5 Ghz are available in the PC range which makes it possible to undertake substantial processing of data at the client side.
4. Storage Devices : 40GB and even higher hard disk drives have become common in PC range of computers. This makes it possible to store substantial information at the local level which facilitates faster access. Similarly, high capacity floppy disk drives, CDs make it possible to transfer large volumes of...