Technology Adoption in Multilingual AudioVideo based Rural Information

By SC Mittal, Sr ED (MS&IT) & Group CTO, IFFCO

The rural society happens to be a tradition-bound community in which their traditions, cultures and religion play a strong role in influencing their behaviour. However, Information access is the right of every one. Right information at the right time improves the quality and efficiency of decision making. The transfer of knowledge and information is the basic need to change traditional society to knowledge society. It helps in increasing the productivity and wealth of the society, improves quality of life, and provides better educational, health and employment opportunities. However, there are lot of challenges in facilitating these objectives. The most challenging is creation of awareness that too when many of them are not educated enough to read even the local language. It means technology solution to be provided should be friendly enough to make them understand by way of Audio and video using navigational tools.

Information and communication technology can play an important role in empowering the rural community. However, the farmers are not supposed to be too tech savvy to use the ICT for their decision making. Realising this, IFFCO had provided the information to the Farmers in their local language by developing a rural community portal and installing the touch screen based information KIOSKs at some important locations throughout the country. The information provided in the Kiosk includes the “Best package of practices for the various crops”, weather information, market information / Mandi rates, plant d iseases, primary health education, soil nutrient related issues etc. The information in the Kiosk is placed in the form of intuitive graphics (pictures) so that any illiterate person can use the information by just touching the pictures. The audio summary is also being provided through these kiosks in local language so that the person who cannot read the information can listen to the audio. The Kiosk has been placed at the strategic locations where rural community visits frequently like Farmer service centres (FSCs), Cooperative societies etc. The portal has been developed in all Indian major languages with audio summaries in local language. This information can be accessed through mobile devices too.

The audio and video technology can be quite effective in facilitating the rural population with news, entertainment, email, Farmers Meetings and even video conferencing to connect them with their distant ones. The work has already started in this direction by many agencies. The farmers from one part of country can share their best agricultural practices with other part of country through the video conferencing. It can become a powerful media in empowering the farmers with latest development in agriculture, crop costing, alternative crops, early warning on crop potential, future and spot trading etc. It can help the state governments in crop monitoring and for casting. Once in place, it can further facilitate them with land records, various useful Government schemes and programmes, many useful application forms, online payments, ticketing, information on court case hearings and many more. The opportunities of technology inclusion both at national and international level are endless.

In fact many State Governments are already working in this direction and some of them have even empowered the public with many of these facilities. The opportunities exist in distance education by conducting virtual classes and knowledge enhancement of teaching staff, para medical staff, extension workers and many more communities.

With time, the use of Mobile Phone has become quite common in the rural segment. Hence it was thought to make these services available to Rural Community through Mobile Phones so that they do not have to visit the Kiosk Location and at the same time benefitted by the contents. IFFCO has promoted a Joint Venture known as IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL) to disseminate the advantage of technology to rural and farming community. Besides providing them mobile connectivity, the main objective is to provide value added services to the farmers. Initially five free audio messages related to farming and rural community were delivered daily free of cost to its subscribers in the local languages. It was soon realised that the response to listening of these messages were not very high. Soon the strategy was changed to develop communities in the country and deliver these value added services as per the need of the community. The experience had been quite satisfactory. For this purpose, IKSL has setup Contact and Dissemination Centres in most of state capitals. Services of expert groups have been hired to give information to its clients in agriculture and related areas like horticulture, fishing, animal husbandry etc. A data base is created to create the knowledge content.

The rural information by multilingual audio/video technology has been very well received by the rural community throughout India. It has immense potential to connect to the rural community in future too. IFFCO and IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited is continuously working for incorporation of more and more features in this portal to e-power the rural population, increase their productivity & wealth, improve quality of their life, provide better e-communication and employment creation through use of technology.

Apart from the ICT initiatives for rural community, IFFCO is providing information to farmers in traditional ways too. IFFCO as the promotional activities are conducting the farmers meeting in villages. The success stories of the farmers who are using balanced fertilisers etc. are being shared with the other farming community. This information is being shared by use of projectors/laptops. The audio visual impact is long lasting. 

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