Reforming farm sector through broadband

THE BARRIERS of time and distance are easily broken down through availability of high speed internet facility to people at their doorstep allowing them to have a chance to participate in the civic and economic life that lies far beyond their territorial boundaries. Where almost all sectors are steadily reaping the benefits of this IT revolution, the farming sector especially in remote and rural areas can get developed, as it can eradicate the logistical restrictions of business models based within a particular region, permitting the businesses to contend with their urban counterparts despite functioning within isolated areas. Africa has emerged as an exemplary case where communication has been made possible through the technology of broadband providing numerous social, economic and agriculture benefits to the whole region. Now rural population of that country is regularly having internet-related advantages like provision more opportunities for learning at local level, accelerated economic activities, saving of time as well as reducing distance, easy farming through raising awareness, easy marketing of agricultural products, regular inter-connectivity of locals as well as other areas of the country and the world at large, frequent and fast update of weather conditions, information access and latest information about the agriculture development in the world. Pakistan during the last about over four years registered a steep growth in the telecom sector. Having more than 120 million cell phone users besides around 71 per cent teledensity, the country has the potential to expand the fast broadband services particularly in rural areas. If the telecom authorities, like Pakistan Telecommunication Authority in collaboration with the Universal Support Fund (USF) take initiatives to ensure broadband service to farmers community, it would contribute a lot in revolutionising the agriculture sector within few years. Some critics may raise a point that broadband service has some limitations arguing since most of the farmers community in Pakistan is illiterate or sub-literate they would not be in a position to read most of the messages. And also, when there is no face-to-face contact, it becomes difficult for farmers to raise questions. However, it is not a big issue at a time when efforts are being made to send messages and other contents in Urdu language. Besides, local languages could be used for effective communication, even the possibility of establishing a voice-activated advice hotline can be explored to help farmers to call with specific questions. Pakistan is regularly facing food security issue since the last many years and this situation may further get aggravated in the wake of water crisis, seed quality and floods issues. However, the provision of fast broadband in rural areas could have an instrumental role in resolving these issues on a permanent basis.

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