[Answered]How can the ‘Digital India’ programme help farmers to improve farm productivity and income? What steps has the Government taken in this regard?

Demand of the question

Introduction. Contextual Introduction.

Body. Discuss how Digital India programmes can help to improve farm productivity and farmers’ income. Mention steps taken by the government in this regard.

Conclusion. Way forward.

Digital India was launched in 2015 to create digital infrastructure for empowering rural communities and promoting digital literacy. Given that 70%(2011 census) of India’s population is rural and agriculture is the main source of livelihood for 50% of the population, Digital India can play an important role in the agriculture sector.

How can the Digital India programme help to improve farm productivity and farmers’ income?

  1. Better prices: The greatest impact of Digital India is on realising better market pricing and reducing transaction costs. It has potential to connect each farmer to anywhere in the country. This would help farmers to cut the cost born to intermediaries and would help to realise better profits.
  2. Virtual ecosystem: Digital India is important to create a virtual ecosystem to support the delivery of timely, localised information and services to farmers, making agriculture profitable and sustainable. It can help in providing data regarding soil variability, moisture and nutrient levels, rainfall variability, timing of planting and harvesting and market price volatility to farmers.
  3. Tailored recommendations: Digital technology can be the key to increase agriculture productivity by delivering tailored recommendations to farmers based on crop sown, real time observed weather and projected market prices.
  4. Direct cash transfer: Digital India will help the government to reach the needy and poor farmers for the Direct cash transfers system replacing agricultural subsidies. This would help in increased agricultural productivity as well as reduce farmer’s debt burden. When combined with data infrastructure, subsidies can be validated and targeted to increase farm profitability that in turn give farmers confidence to invest in their farms to further increase productivity.
  5. Social media usage: Digital India will also leverage social media platforms to build human capacity. One of the best examples of this is Digital Green. It uses participatory videos that have farmers explain best management practices to other farmers. This approach is more cost effective than traditional extension services as farmers trust other farmers. Also, they better relate to someone like them who are building a livelihood under similar circumstances.
  6. Savings: Mobile money is the intervention that has unlocked tremendous opportunities for rural consumers in Africa. Similarly, initiatives like PM Jan Dhan Yojana, Bhim etc. can play an important role. Digital platformsallow farmers to bypass poor banking infrastructure and support savings and access credit digitally.

Steps taken by the government:

  1. e-NAM: National Agriculture Market or eNAM is an online trading platform for agricultural commodities in India. The market facilitates farmers, traders and buyers with online trading in commodities. The market is helping in better price discovery and provide facilities for smooth marketing of their produce.
  2. BharatNet: BharatNet, also known as Bharat Broadband Network Limited, is a set up by the under the Department of Telecommunications for the establishment, management, and operation of the National Optical Fibre Network. It aims to provide connectivity to all 250,000 gram panchayats in the country, to improve communication in India and reach the campaign goal of Digital India.
  3. National mission on agricultural extension and Technology: The aim of the Mission is to strengthen agricultural extension to enable delivery of appropriate technology and improved agronomic practices to farmers. This is envisaged to be achieved by interactive methods of information dissemination, use of ICT, popularisation of modern technologies, capacity building etc.
  4. AgriMarket app: The mobile application has been developed with an aim to keep farmers updated with the crop prices and discourage them to carry-out distress sale. Farmers can get information related to prices of crops in markets within 50km of their own device location using the AgriMarket Mobile App.
  5. Bharat Nirman: Bharat Nirman is an effort for creating and augmenting basic rural infrastructure. This plan aims to supply telecommunication facilities to remote areas of rural areas. It aims to increase the rural telecommunication facilities by 40%. Under Bharat Nirman, has registered the increased tele-density in rural areas.
  6. e-governance efforts: Government has put in operation 3 portals viz. farmer portal, kisan call centre and mKisan portal to help farmers take informed decisions for efficient farming under varying agro-climatic conditions. Under the eGovernance program, soil health card software has been standardised and web-based software developed to provide integrated nutrient management recommendations using soil test crop response method for eight states.

There is much promise in digital applications to improve farmer livelihoods. Indian agriculture needs to be made more market-oriented through reform in existing policies, even as the government provides enabling environments for digital innovation. Rural connectivity is important for providing low cost data and access to information. It would empower rural youth to realise their full potential and farmers to increase their profitability by accessing equitable markets.

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