Saturday 21 March 2015mKisan Portal
As part of agricultural extension (extending research from lab to the field), under the National e-Governance Plan - Agriculture (NeGP-A), various modes of delivery of services have been envisaged. These include internet, touch screen kiosks, agri-clinics, private kiosks, mass media, Common Service Centres, Kisan Call Centres, and integrated platforms in the departmental offices coupled with physical outreach of extension personnel equipped with pico-projectors and hand held devices. However, mobile telephony (with or without internet) is the most potent and omnipresent tool of agricultural extension.
The project conceptualized, designed and developed in-house within the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation USSD has widened the outreach of scientists, experts and Government officers posted down to the Block level to disseminate information, give advisories and to provide advisories to farmers through their mobile telephones. SMS Portal was inaugurated by the Hon'ble President of India on July 16, 2013 and since its inception nearly 327 crore messages or more than 1044 crore SMSs have been sent to farmers throughout the length and breadth of the country. These messages are specific to farmers' specific needs and relevance at a particular point of time and generate heavy inflow of calls in the Kisan Call Centres where people call up to get supplementary information.
SMS Portal for Farmers has empowered all Central and State Government Organizations in Agriculture & Allied sectors (including State Agriculture Universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, Agromet Forecasts Units of India Meteorological Department, ICAR Institutes, Organization in Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries etc.) to give information/services/advisories to farmers by SMS in their language, preference of agricultural practices and locations. USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data), IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System) and Pull SMS are value added services which have enabled farmers and other stakeholders not only to receive broadcast messages but also to get web based services on their mobile without having internet. Semi-literate and illiterate farmers have also been targeted to be reached through voice messages.
A centralized knowledge base was first created purely from the farmers’ perspective and was termed Farmers’ Portal (farmer.gov.in). While over 800 websites of various departments and organizations related to agriculture and allied sectors in the Central and State Governments and 80 applications/portals of the Department pertained to agriculture and allied sectors from organizational and schematic view-point, not even one portal existed for the farmers and that was the genesis of the Farmers’ Portal: of which SMS Portal was an integral part. Considering popularity of the portal as reflected from tens of thousands of hits being received by SMS Portal everyday by the user department / organizations as well as farmers and other stakeholders, a new third level domain has now been created for all mobile based services for farmers on a Unified mKisan Portal (mkisan.gov.in).
Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD)
This is a service as old as mobile telephony itself. This can be accessed through any GSM handset – even good old Nokia 3115. There is no special application or internet access required on mobile handset to access USSD. A user dials a short code from his/her handset and chooses among various options provided in a set of response menus during a session of up to 3 minutes in case of mKisan. The progress of one session into the next depends on the user's response. USSD messages in English are 150 alphanumeric characters in length and up to 45 to 60 characters in Unicode (for local language). Local language support depends on type of handset.
Pull SMS is used by farmers and various stakeholders to extract information from databases by sending SMS in a particular format to any of the following two numbers: 51969 or 7738299899. Pull SMS Service has been currently made available in English script only as all phones have English keyboards. Response will nevertheless be in the language of the State. Gradually all regional languages will be enabled for pull requests also. In case of 7738299899, Pull SMS will be charged as per the rental or special-pack plan of the subscriber.
Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS)
IVRS is an automated telephony system that interacts with callers, gathers information and routes calls to the appropriate recipient. An IVR application provides pre-recorded voice responses for appropriate situations, keypad signal logic, access to relevant data and potentially the ability to record voice input for later handling. Using computer telephony integration (CTI), IVR applications bring in efficiency in terms of call handling. Generally an IVR system consists of telephony equipment, software applications, a database and the supporting infrastructure.
Types of IVRS calls in mKisan:
- Outbound Calls - These are used for obtaining feedback of farmers regarding the advisories they are receiving from experts and also on the quality of information being given to them by KCC agents. A farmer can rate the advisory or answer given by KCC agent on the scale of 1 to 5. This service is available in 12 different Indian Languages.
- Inbound Calls - Farmers or all other stakeholders can call this number (022-67870177) for giving useful feedback on the services or for obtaining any information from a predefined menu.
Although there are about 38 crore mobile telephone connections in rural areas, however internet penetration in the countryside is still very low. Mobile messaging is still the most effective tool so far having pervasive outreach to nearly nine crore farm families. mKisan SMS Portal for farmers enables all Central and State government organizations in agriculture and allied sectors to give information/services/advisories to farmers by SMS in their language, preference of agricultural practices and location. Push SMS portal was inaugurated by the Hon’ble President of India and since then nearly 49 crore messages or more than 152 crore SMSs have been sent to farmers throughout the length and breadth of the country.
Officers from different departments and organizations of Central and State Governments can register themselves for sending advisories to farmers through this portal. On approval of registration request by superior/designated officer of the intended user, he can commence using this application for reaching out to the farmers under his/her jurisdiction. Farmers can register themselves for receiving these messages on their mobiles as per their specific needs & relevance at a particular point of time.
They can register themselves for this service through any of these channels:
- Web Registration at this link;
- Kisan Call Centers (KCC) - by calling on Toll free number - 1800-180-1551;
- Sending SMS at 51969 or 9212357123; and
- Common Service Centers (CSCs) - State/District or block agriculture offices.
Integration of Services with Kisaan SMS Portal SMS Portal for farmers was inaugurated on July 16, 2013, by the Hon'ble President of India. Till date, more than 152 crore SMSs have been sent to farmers by different departments/organizations of the Government of India and State Governments in agriculture and allied sector. So far, these messages have consisted primarily of advisories to farmers based on his / her location & selection of crops or practices in agriculture and allied sector. A large number of web-based transactional services are being provided to farmers in various States & also by organisations/departments of the Government of India. These range from issuance of soil health cards, provision of subsidized agricultural inputs and analysis of pests/diseases etc.
Quite a few such services are in pipe-line under National e-Governance Plan-Agriculture or otherwise. However, in most of the existing services, result or outcome of service is provided to the farmer either through the internet or as a printed document. Because of abysmally low internet penetration in rural areas the farmers have to personally visit office or these reports are sent by post to them. All these result in delays & involve expenditure. Considering deep penetration of mobile telephony in rural areas, SMS mode of delivery is most effective.
Although this is being used in some cases but huge expenditure is being incurred in sending these messages through private gateways. Since most of these services are web-based, an interface has been developed to send the results/reports of various services on mobile phone of the farmers with a 6 digit short code KRISHI. The service can be easily integrated with the existing national Kisaan SMS Portal. With this all SMSs will be sent to the farmers without any cost to the department concerned. These transactions will also be included in the e-Taal portal of Department of Electronics and information Technology (DeitY), Government of India, which counts electronic transactions happening through various online services of both State and Central Government applications.
Kisan Call Center
In order to harness the potential of ICT in Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture launched the scheme "Kisan Call Centres (KCCs)" on January 21, 2004. Main aim of the project is to answer farmers' queries on a telephone call in their own dialect. These call Centres are working in 14 different locations covering all the States and UTs. A countrywide common eleven digit Toll Free number 1800-180-1551 has been allotted for Kisan Call Centre. This number is accessible through mobile phones and landlines of all telecom networks including private service providers. Replies to the farmers' queries are given in 22 local languages. Call center services are available from 6am to 10pm on all seven days of the week at each KCC location.
Kisan Call Centre agents known as Farm Tele Advisor (FTAs), are graduates or above (i.e. PG or Doctorate) in Agriculture or allied (Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, Fisheries, Poultry, Bee-keeping, Sericulture, Aquaculture, Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural Marketing, Bio-technology, Home Science etc. and possess excellent communication skills in respective local language. Queries which cannot be answered by Farm Tele Advisor (FTAs) are transferred to higher level experts in a call conferencing mode. These experts are subject matter specialists of State Agriculture Departments, ICAR and State Agricultural Universities.
A Kisan Knowledge Management System (KKMS) to facilitate correct, consistent and quick replies to the queries of farmers and capture all the details of their calls, has been developed . Kisan Knowledge Management System (KKMS) has its independent website http://dackkms.gov.in. The Kisan Call Centre (KCC) Agents working at various KCC locations throughout the country have access to this web site through their specific IDs & password provided to them.
Buyer Seller Platform is to connect farmers with the buyers (FPOs, Exporters, Traders, and Processors). Buyer registers on this platform and chooses the area from where he wants to buy the product. He can offer the price at which he wants to buy the product. Farmers of that selected location get the SMS on their mobile set. SMS contains name and mobile number of all buyers and the price which they are offering to buy a commodity. Thus a farmer gets the negotiating power and he can sell the product at better price.
All applications and services listed in other sections of mKisan Portal are accessible on any kind of mobile phone including basic feature phone. Even today, feature phones (as against smart phones) constitute maximum share of mobile phone in India. However, with increasing penetration of smart phones in India and affordable prices (likely to go down further with the introduction of Android One by Google), it has been considered necessary to create mobile Apps. Android Operating System has the largest share among the smart phones in India. Therefore, initially Apps are being developed for Android and gradually other operating system such as Windows and iOS will also be worked upon.
The Apps are not only useful for remote location data entry where desktop PCs are not available, but would also be available to farmers and all other stakeholders for extracting information from the web. The mobile Apps to be listed on mKisan Portal are some good applications which are free of cost and do not have any royalty or Intellectual Property Right (IPR) issue. These applications are being developed through C-DAC, NIC, in-house in DAC and independent Android enthusiasts / private firms. Description of each Apps and download link is available after clicking the App name. Direct links to either .apk files, Google Play Store or other relevant web-based resources have been provided. The apps have been listed on As Is basis and the end users may go through all the permissions required and compatibility issues (though most apps are compatible with Gingerbread and above).
Developers are encouraged to use the publicly available data on the website of Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (http://agricoop.nic.in), Farmers' Portal (http://farmer.gov.in) and other Portals (e.g. RKVY, Hortnet, Seednet, Extension Reforms etc.). Subject to constraint of human resources required to do the job, every attempt will be made to provide data in open format.