In a radical move aimed at farmers, the Indian Government will soon launch Speech-driven web service to address weather & farming related queries. Tech giant IBM, has been roped in by the Govt. to develop & deploy this first-of-its-kind interactive technology for farmers.
In 2009 an SMS & IVR based system was launched to initially serve 5000 farmers & now currently caters to @ 2.8 Million. The SMSs are in regional languages, IVR provides verbal updates. However, these services are limited to just that, updates. The unique queries raised by farmers cannot be answered. Still, the ministry has records that show the short and timely alerts to farmers about the weather have led to economic benefits worth a whopping Rs.50,000 Crores annually! This could rise to 211,000 Crores if the entire farming community adopts the system judiciously. The project christened AgroMet (Agriculture Meteorological) service for farmers is a delayed-response model. That means, the questions asked by farmers will be analyzed by experts & answered in a comprehensive & easily understandable manner.
In an agriculture-driven country like India, any service for farmers is a welcome sign, however, the model should be such that the response should be fast, accurate, usable & simple to understand. While IBM has surprisingly denied any involvement, it will be interesting to see how it designs the service in order to achieve the afore-mentioned parameters.
While SMS & IVR system is quite easy to design & deploy as there’s very little “interaction”, how will a question-answer system work where, over 70 Million farmers depend on agriculture for a living?