Maharashtra clicks on IT for farmers

Tuesday, 25 February 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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MUMBAI: Maharashtra's own IT project to empower farmers with information on agriculture will go on stream shortly.

The project will go "live" Wednesday with noted scientist M.S. Swaminathan making a presentation before Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and other officials.

According to information available in the agriculture ministry, the Integrated Wireless in Local Loop Project will provide information via the Internet and videoconferencing to farmers.

A high-powered committee led by Swaminathan oversaw the project.

The committee has prepared an agricultural plan for Maharashtra by visualising the latter's requirement for the next two and a half decades.

As per the project proposal prepared by Maharashtra each communication centre will cover surrounding villages within a radius of 25 km.

Each communication centre will be equipped with hardware worth 52,700. The equipment would include a computer, multimedia kit, printer and Internet connection.

The infrastructure for each centre will be provided by n-Logue Communications Pvt. Ltd. under IIT, Madras, which has developed the WiLL Technology. At present, the pilot projects are functioning in Baramati and Pabal in Maharashtra.

The facility will be utilised to access global agriculture and marketing information for the farmers. Digital technical and marketing information with database is available with the agriculture department as well as private organisations.

This information and various websites will be accessed daily from the village kiosk.

According to government officials here, the centre will also be able to train farmers using interactive technical CDs, power point presentations and VCDs.

Farmers will also be able to access global and national market information, meteorological data, disaster management techniques, pest and disease control information.

Officials say educated unemployed rural youth would be encouraged to set up their own kiosks in their own villages in order to earn a living. The kiosk owners will be allowed to charge a marginal sum from farmers for printing land and revenue records, pest control and diagnostic services.

However, the owner of the kiosk is bound to provide free of charge services like display of market rates; offline training on agriculture by using materials like CDs/VCDs and providing information on government schemes.

State officials say such centres are operational in Tamil Nadu, where kiosk owners earn between 5,000 and 15,000 a month.

Source: IANS
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