ICTs for Rural Development

Dr. Banarsi Lal
Information communication technologies play an important role in all spheres of our life. It is widely used by academicians, corporate sector, NGOs and private organisations and business man. The development in ICT calls for immediate attention of its use in agriculture and allied fields. Extension scientists are not exception to it. ICT is helpful in seeking variety of information, quick transfer of information, fast feedback system and clarification of queries. It supersedes the traditional methods of dissemination information. Empirical studies show that some scientists still show resistance to use internet and e-services or work on computer which created a gap. This gap can be filled by motivating scientists through training interventions as it very easy to use the computer and internet. In present era, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become the developmental tools. The information and communication technologies applications in agriculture and rural development are very extensive and pervasive. Agricultural information systems have attracted much attention because of the importance of facilitating access to information and knowledge. The information and communication technologies have the capacity to empower the people of rural areas. Now we are in front of a major technological revolution that can significantly develop the society. The information systems themselves are in the process of profound transformation with the spectacular development of internet. Beyond information systems and data bases, the use of ICTs in agriculture and rural development are observed everywhere. Now the researchers, extension workers and farmers are involved in transforming extension services through the use of multimedia technologies. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are opening new approaches to manage the natural resources and regional planning. Now the electronic networks are changing the way of research and interaction between the scientist, extension personnel and farmer.
Knowledge plays a critical role in mitigating the challenges of food security, poverty eradication and sustainable development in any society. Information and communication technologies have played an important role in promoting the agricultural and rural development during the last many years. The role of television, radio and print media in rural development is well known and they will continue with the new information and technologies. The convergence of technological sectors namely telecommunication technology, computers and information processing technology ,data and image transfer technology and interactive multimedia have characterized the new information and communication technologies. The convergence of these sectors has created not only the new technological and production sector but also a new social and economic reality. Now improved information and communication technologies, increased information and management skills and decreasing communication costs are making quick information flows. The internet connectivity is still very limited in our country specially in rural areas. This problem can be solved through information and communication technologies that can be used even when the World Wide Web is not accessible. There are many technologies that do not require on line access e.g. CD-ROM technology and many other technologies. Now the internet use has also been started even in rural areas.
In India there is enormous potential of the ICTs that has to be harnessed for overall agricultural development in particular and hence societal transformation in general. Access to new information sources is a crucial requirement for the sustainable development of farming systems. The ICTs can enable an extension worker to gather, store, retrieve and disseminate a broad range of information needs of the farmers thus converting his nature as knowledge worker. Then the knowledge worker can realize the bottom up and demand driven technology generation, assessment, refinement and dissemination. Subsistence farmers have least access to information for improving the productivity. With ICTs services, small-scale farmers will not be isolated but self-sufficient. With proper knowledge small-scale farmers can even have a competitive edge over the larger operations. Information and communication technologies can also play the role in encouraging the sustainable agricultural development. The traditional knowledge can be documented with the organic farming practices.
The main objective of various ICT applications is to empower the people through knowledge. This means to develop the capacity in people to achieve their objective and goals through the acquisition and use of knowledge. ICTSs help people to solve their problems and improve their lives by increasing their knowledge and capacities. Through information and communication technologies we can eradicate poverty, secure food and sustain the development. The new type of research partnerships can be opened with the ICT revolution. Now there is need to feed the research results into Agricultural and Rural Knowledge and Information Systems constituted by the researchers, extension worker, development practitioners and farmers. The information and communication technologies can play the catalytic role in agricultural and rural development but they need to be complemented with the capacity of research team to produce the quality research, interested stakeholders, networking capacity that the stakeholders can develop by sharing the knowledge and information by people’s participation.
ICTs can act as the bridge between the traditional and modern systems. There is the need to pay attention on participatory research. These strategies place the farmers at the centre of research process and they can enrich their knowledge and share with one another through electronic distance education services. The online services can be provided through the information technologies. E-commerce can be used for linking the local commercial and production activities directly to the retailers. Through ICTs the farmers can ask the questions to the experts. The interaction among the researchers, extension workers and farmers is feasible with the information technology. The farmers can get the up to date knowledge such as weather forecasting, market information, credit availability etc. through the ICTs. The block and the district officials can increase their efficiency in dissemination of information to the farmers by using the ICTs. It can be used for the creation of databases of the villagers and villages. It also provides information regarding insect-pest and disease management in the crops, information regarding rural development programmes, post harvest technology, crop insurances etc. Marketing of milk and milk products can be improved with the information technologies. The cooperative societies efficiency can be increased by using the information technologies. The agricultural research institutes can launch the websites where the latest agricultural information can be made available for the farmers and extension workers. For the overall agricultural development, the information technologies projects need to be focussed and experience gained there must be documented to draw lessons for the future. ICTs can play a significant role in marketing the agro-products and thus assist the farmers to get the price of their farm produce.