In 2013, the Indian government had launched an SMS Portal – mKisan – for the country’s farmers. The app enables all Central and State government organisations in agriculture and allied sectors to give information/services/advisories to farmers by SMS in their language, preference of agricultural practices, and location. Crores of money are spent on developing these mobile apps.
A US-based Indian, Suresh Ediga recently examined various mobile applications listed in the mKisan portal for weeks and posted a review on his blog.
Mobile application Kisan Suvidha
Dealers: This feature is meant to provide dealers of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and farm machinery.
The category ‘seeds’ does not have information on all districts and should at least show the nearest dealer to a particular district, said the report. Furthermore, the categories ‘fertilizers’, ‘pesticides’, and ‘farm machinery’ consist of various duplicated information.
Suggestion: “all this information could have been simply displayed in a tabular form with options to filter.”
Market Price: “This is probably the most useful category. Unfortunately, the way the information is displayed makes it very tedious to access the data,” claims the report. “For example, when the user selects the State, District, Mandal and Market, all the commodities being sold should be displayed in a simple table with the minimum, maximum and average price.”
“Getting access to this data on a real-time basis is incredible,” said Ediga. However, the low prices should be used to understand the market dynamics and further extrapolated to connect the dots to stabilize prices, he added.
Agro Advisory: As this category contains valuable information, it should be shared with farmers across the nation and not only those who have access to the mobile application, said Ediga.
He further suggests that the alerts should be sent to the local cable television and other FM-based radio channels for their widespread reach in rural areas.
Call to KCC (Kisan Call Centres): This gives an option to call an 1800 number. However, voicemail and the automated system prompts in only three languages – Hindi, English and Bengali. The government mKisan portal says that “Replies to the farmers’ queries are given in 22 local languages,”
Other mobile applications in mKisan
Pusa Krishi: Ediga termed this is a “glorified version of a brochure” as it only displays static information with no user interaction whatsoever.
Farm-o-pedia: This app has four categories, namely – Get Suitable Crops, Crop Information, Weather, and Manage Your Cattle.
The category ‘Get Suitable Crop’ is blank, claims Ediga. The reason he speculated for the lack of information is his location – New Jersey, US – however, the app did not show any message indicating the same.
No information was shown in the second category as well, while the ‘Manage Your Cattle’ category which has four option – Cow, Buffalo, Goat, and Other – only shows Vaccination schedule for Buffalo regardless of the option selected.
Crop insurance: Supposed to calculate the premium and provide the sum insured details, the first step to use this application is to set the location, i.e., the State, District, Mandal, Sub-Mandal, Panchayat, and Village. The next step is to choose either the premium calculator or the sum insured details.
“However, no matter which option one selects, one is greeted with the ‘No Crop insurance details found’ and it doesn’t allow the user to change the year and/or the crop. They are somehow selected automatically with no option to override,”said Ediga.
“Mobile applications under mKisan portal should be top-notch,” said Ediga. “The reason I say this is because of extremely demanding and volatile conditions in which these apps needs to operate.”
Rural areas have poor and no internet connectivity and it’s population is mostly uneducated. Therefore, any government support through mobile applications needs to keep these shortcomings in mind and create a platform which supports an interactive, multi-language, peer-to-peer networking, and real-time model.
“Applications should be built on resilience given the intermittent connection and the lack of consistent power supply,” said Ediga.
Intercommunication with other agencies is equally important because applications cannot function in isolation. Furthermore, they should use more visuals than text and voice-enabled services should be incorporated as literacy or the lack of it is a major concern in villages.
The Logical Indian urges the government to take note of his report and overhaul the areas where improvement is possible.
Suresh Ediga is a US-based Indian originally from Hyderabad who has been actively in not-for-profit work for the last 14 years. Earlier, he had raised Rs 19 lakh to help farmers’ families in the country.