Experts thrash out plans for e-enabled Smart villages

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Panchkula, Feb 8 (UNI) Smart villages could well become a reality if the lead players in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) diverted their focus to the six lakh villages for the benefit of 850 million rural populace, observed the majority of panelists who congregated at the 11th national e-governance conference here.

While debating on the theme of ''Enhanced developmental impact through ICT- Empowering the farmers'' on the last day of the two-day tconference, the policy planners and technocrats said the farmers must graduate to become e-farmers for the ''real success of the e-governance.'' The debate was set in motion by Additional Agriculture Secretary N K Das who said that the country had for the first time, brought out a national policy on farmers and the 11th Plan document envisaged top priority to deal with agriculture crisis and bridging the rural-urban gap.

The experts rued the fact that the GDP contribution of agriculture sector had come down to 19 per cent from the earlier 61 per cent while it still sustained two-third of country's population. They felt the agriculture was getting less remunerative for the farmers and their plight had worsened due to distress sales.

Among the major problems cited by the experts in the way of the ICTs reaching the farmers included low availability of power, poor ICT infrastructure in villages, poor ICT literacy and the challenge of localization of user applications in 22 languages.

However, gradually a change in the scenario can be achieved as portrayed by Srinivas Rao from the ITC, which had pioneered the concept of e-choupal covering 40,000 villages.

Moreover, an ambitious project has been set in motion to design a comprehensive agriculture portal, AGROPEDIA, which would be a repository of agriculture knowledge and provide every kind of grassroots information to the farmers in the country.

Six agriculture universities along with IIT Kanpur and the NIC have been involved in constructing the comprehensive site likely to become operational within four years.

UNI JN VD HT2114

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