Situational Analysis of the Status of E-Agriculture in Tamil Nadu, India

Situational Analysis of the Status of E-Agriculture in Tamil Nadu, India

P Senthil Priya (PSG College of Arts and Science, India) and N. Mathiyalagan (PSG College of Arts and Science, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2655-3.ch011


In recent years, there is scarcely any field in the various sectors of the world economy that has not been influenced by the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT), and the field of agriculture is no exception. Within the past decade, many projects have been implemented by governments, private sector, and NGOs in developing countries to streamline the production, storage, selection of markets, and commercialization of agricultural commodities. These new ICT have opened up numerous opportunities for the farmers to increase the timeliness, quality, relevance, availability, and accessibility of critical agricultural information. The UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates that one billion people worldwide – most of whom depend in some way on agriculture for their livelihoods – still lack connection to any kind of ICT. Indian farmers face competition from global forces and the usage of ICT tools. Advances in ICT help farmers to access accurate, timely, relevant information and services, thereby facilitating an environment for more remunerative agricultural practices to meet the new challenges. This chapter provides an in-depth analysis of the existing rural agrarian digital divide in Tamilnadu, India. The chapter describes the information needs, ICT access, and new opportunities for farmers in rural Tamilnadu. The chapter also examines the status of E-Agriculture in Tamilnadu and the ICT interventions that are available to Tamilnadu farmers. The study outlines the emerging opportunities for rural farmer’ participation in the knowledge society and offers some guidance on how the farmers can take advantage of ICT and utilize the information management system to derive maximum benefit out of the technology.
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1. Introduction

Agriculture is the main source of income for around 2.5 billion people in the developing world (FAO, 2003). In most of the semi-peripheral nations, the agricultural sector is the largest and most critical economic sector. The Indian agricultural sector provides employment for about 65% of the total labor force, accounts for 27% of the GDP growth, contributes 21% of total exports and also provides raw materials to several industries (Malhan,2007). The impact of the agricultural sector is wide-ranging and extends to economic growth, food security, poverty reduction, livelihoods, rural development and the environment. Moreover, the poorest half of the population benefits significantly more from agricultural growth than growth in other sectors of the economy (UN, 2008; World Bank, 2007).

ICT can be defined as the combination of hardware, software and any other means of production that enables the exchange, processing and management of pertinent information and knowledge. ICT’s include a broad array of new media technologies and methods that can effectively store, manage and process information.

Any kind of information becomes knowledge only when the relevant content is widely disseminated through a channel of communication at the right time. Thus, the information has to be streamlined and disseminated to wider audience which makes it imminent to use new media communication channels. Various new media channels of communication such as email, cell phones, pagers, instant messaging, fax and the Internet are available and these channels can be used for mass dissemination of information. ICT communication channels have become the imperative as such communications have no boundaries, no physical barriers of time and its accessibility is almost instant at a basic cost.

Information and communication technologies are rapidly transforming the face of agriculture in industrialized countries. ICT infrastructures are very strong in such countries and e-commerce, e-business, e-procurement, e-auction activities have been in practice for the past several years. High speed Internet access in rural areas enables the farmers to access credit linkages, government programs and technical assistance to farmers through direct access. Many of the activities in the agricultural marketplace are mediated by web-linked to a database that specifies prices, qualities and quantities of essential agricultural commodities. Laser technology has replaced the tractors and ancient ploughing mechanism and this new technology helps in optimizing the use of various inputs such as water, seeds, fertilizers, etc.

Agricultural business development services can be located, bought and paid for over the Internet. Often many of these services are delivered at the doorsteps of farmers. In short, the face of agriculture in developed nations has changed as ICT have become increasingly critical to farmers and agricultural planners in such countries. These nations are the predecessors of new technologies and with effective usage of ICT tools in land planning and management, their production efficiency has increased triple fold in the recent decade.

In economic terms, ICT usage in information dissemination has become so critical that it needs to be recognized explicitly as a fourth production factor in agriculture (USAID, 2003). As only 5-6% of the population is involved in agriculture and farming activities in developed nations and the supply chain is short, the economic feasibility and liberty is more for farmers. There are almost no resource poor farmers as many farmers own undivided large hectares of individual land holding. This transformation of agriculture in developed countries has taken place in a context of high literacy rates, well-functioning telecommunication systems, readily available electricity, an established and regulated credit and banking system, well-developed transportation networks, high labor costs relative to the cost of computing equipment and reasonably easy access to ICT (USAID, 2003).

Contrary to this status, in most developing countries like India, the agricultural sector is the largest employer and it effectively employs over 60% of the population. More than half of the population lives in rural areas and they are economically dependent on the performance of agricultural production. Agriculture sector remains as the largest market for labor. It provides tradable goods for foreign exchange, accelerates the national economy and contributes to government budgets through taxation.

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