Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) is an overarching concept by which communication technology know-how and solutions are applied to the task of developing economies and reducing poverty. In September of 2000 the Millennium Development Goals
agreed upon by the United Nations set forth to address, among over issues, the end of extreme poverty and hunger, enabling global development partnerships, and offering a baseline of education to all the children of the world. Although the concept of developing the communications infrastructures of less economically or politically fortunate areas began long before the Millennium Development Goals, the UN Declaration brought new vigor to the exercise of enabling the poor of the world access to ICT
In agriculture, the development of efficient ICT mechanisms to enable poor (and often remotely located) rural farmers to grow their businesses as well as their crops helps not only the individual farmers, but also the agricultural community as a whole. Numerous ICT4D projects and initiatives all over the world seek to address the economic concerns, educational access, and technical deficits among rural agricultural workers. Chiefly among these concerns is the difficulty that farmers and farm workers have in communicating with their buyers, sellers, governmental agencies and each other. Many schemes exist to try to connect farmers of the developing world, often in countries with moderate to severe food shortages, to efficient input and supply chains.
Perhaps the most well known and studied of these corporate initiatives was begun by ITC Ltd. and its subsidiary, ITC Infotech India Limited. The e-Choupal initiative in rural India utilizes kiosk-based information technology consisting of the PC kiosk, connectivity equipment, power supply (frequently with a solar-powered backup), and a printer. Of the connectivity equipment, 75% of e-Choupal kiosks use VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminals; satellite ground stations) for connection to the Internet. These kiosks are at the forefront of developing new supply chains and encouraging discourse among India’s agricultural classes.
The e-Choupal network, begun in 2000, currently has 6,500 operating kiosk centers in 10 Indian states; serving 40,000 villages. Over 4 million farmers are members of the initiative and benefit from the coordinated supply and information chains. The raw ratio of “e-empowered” villagers-to-kiosk in the e-Choupal network is over 600-to-1, suggesting that these kiosk information centers are not only gathering points for the sharing of raw commercial data but also might fulfill secondary valuable social functions at a miniscule variable cost (cost-per-participant). This face-to-face socializing and information sharing can occur around the activity of the community kiosk; the solipsism of the mobile phone cannot replicate this.
Other examples of successful kiosk-based corporate information networks exist for the rural Indian agricultural market, such as the Hindustan Lever Limited’s e-Shakti program, and the EID-Parry network in the Tamil Nadu region that supplies sugarcane farmers with agricultural information.
Gaye, C., Hamrick, C. and Hewlett, I. (2009) ICT Integration with Agriculture in India – Kiosks or Mobile,, Michigan State University