Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) organized a workshop on “What Can Telecommunications Do for Agriculture” at Serena Hotel, Islamabad yesterday. The event was organized in collaboration with LIRNEasia, a regional ICT Policy Think Tank, based in Sri Lanka.
The main theme of this joint initiative of PTA and LIRNEasia was to share international experiences and research with Pakistan, and to learn from successful telecom-agriculture models and improving agriculture productivity through increased usage of ICT.
The event was well attended by representatives from agriculture organizations, international experts, agriculture consultants, policy makers, government officials, farmers associations, telecom operators, value added service providers, agriculture credit departments and donor agencies including World Bank, ADB, USAID, DFID working in the agriculture sector.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Mohammed Yaseen, Chairman PTA said that Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy as it accounts for 21% of national income, employs 45% of the country’s total workforce and provides livelihood to 60% of our rural community. He said that farmer’s access to relevant information and adoption of ICT and telecom value added services by rural community can bring revolution in the agriculture production.
Similarly, Pakistan telecom sector is considered as an exemplary growth model around the globe and our agriculture sector can also be a model by adopting telecom and getting its benefits. Today, we have total teledensity of more than 72% with 119.9 million mobile subscribers.
The Chairman said that after success in e-commerce and Branchless Banking initiatives, PTA is now encouraging the development of local content based mobile/ICT applications and willing to extend all sort of support to help the farmers through the provision of reliable and timely information, local content based applications, automation of agriculture production processes using specialised applications of mobile phones and ICT. The Chairman also thanked LIRNEasia for collaborating with PTA on this important aspect of Pakistan’s economy.
Dr. Rohan Samarjiva, CEO & Chair LIRNEasia presented a research carried out by the organization on the subject how the underprivileged make use of ICTs and findings from worldwide studies of Teleuse at the bottom of the pyramid. He recommended that mobiles are the pre-eminent communication technology among the poor, among smallholders and those who interact with them. Yet, the use of mobiles for livelihood-related purposes is moderate in agriculture sector. He said that more mobile-based applications are needed for better diffusion of telecom in agriculture.
Dr. Kevin Callagher, representative of Food and Agriculture (FAO) of the UN stressed on the need for ICT access for emergency and disaster management, use of interactive media, automated data collection and an “out-of-box” approach for telecom usage in Agriculture sector.
Other speakers at the workshop included research work on knowledge and information needs of small growers and non-growers by Ms. Nilusha Kapugama Research Manager LIRNEasia, an ICT model for Agriculture extension by Ms. Mahrukh Siraj CABI-South Asia, an overview of ICT role in agriculture sector of Pakistan by Mr. Shahid Uddin Akbar CEO Bangladesh Institute of ICT 4 Development, Mobile Agricultural Information Systems by Mr. Sriganesh Lokanathan Research Manager LIRNEasia, Telecom Role in Agriculture by Mr. Rohaan Ali, Four Brothers Group, An introduction to Agriculture Commodity Trade by Mr. Tughral Turab Ali Telenor and Role of Communications in Agriculture by Mr. Saif Ur Rehman Director Marketing and Sales Sohni Dharti TV.
It is pertinent to mention here that the workshop provided a platform for organizations working in agriculture sector to discuss in detail, the ways and means of generating benefits for agriculture by using telecommunication.