While several digital platforms and applications developed for farmers collect data and information, more is needed to know about their use by the Extension and Advisory Services (EAS) to provide more relevant advice or design a data-informed extension. This report discusses what needs to be done to enhance the capacities of EAS based on in-depth reviews of farmers’ use of three digital farmer services available in Odisha and interactions with select stakeholders who are familiar with and are part of these services. We found that EAS stakeholders needed to be fully aware of the types of data and information available or how best they could be used. We identified that four specific types of capacities need to be strengthened coherently and systematically.
“There are no two opinions about the potentiality of the digital agriculture in taking quality decisions on the farm. The policy brief has brought out the empirical evidence that the EAS agents are not fully aware of the existing data bases and the ways and means of using them. The main reason for this lack of awareness is that these EAS agents neither feel its need nor understand its vast potentiality as a very important tool for decision making.
No technology including digital technologies can replace the Extension agents. Hence the capacities of the EAS agents in understanding the importance and use of these technologies must be enhanced to put them digital solutions into proper use.
To realize the potentiality of the digital agriculture, the authors rightly suggested to constitute a consultative group of stakeholders in each state to develop a uniform system of data collection and to have a shared view on management of the data. This is necessary to save the scant resources and improve the quality of data and its management protocols for the better use by the EAS agents and farmers.
Although this study is conducted in Odisha, I am sure a similar situation must be prevailing in other states of India. Hence, the policy implications drawn are as relevant to Odisha as for other states.
Congratulations to the authors for coming out with a very good policy brief on digital agriculture”
We are moving albeit slowly towards data driven agricultural development. But, I wonder, in first instance, if we have right kind of data collected and stored by the state departments of agriculture in India, who are primary stakeholders of agricultural development, it being a state subject. Further to this, do they appreciate data management, digital tools and their use, in particular for extension and advisory services? It’s appreciable that IRRI has realized the need well on time by taking this initiative with State Department of Agriculture in Odisha. I liked it, when authors say, big data does not always mean better data. Duplicity, inadequacy, and inaccuracy are major issues in big data that causes poor data quality. This poses a great challenge in the analysis of big data. So very well said, poor data gives poor insights! The extension functionaries operating at the field level, like the AAOs, VAWs, and CSCs, need to be exposed to the importance of databases and ways to make use of them, since they lack capacities related to data management and analysis. Going by the work being done by IRRI, we can expect that in near future they will be able to make use of available data bases to design specific extension interventions. We know that the potential of using the data for advanced and tailor-made advisories is high, which is not being exploited at the moment. Also, this is true that there are no incentives to scale up available digital applications, and as most of the services including the IRRI interventions in this case are parts of projects with a specific duration. Once the project is over, everything gets windup-staff, funds, infrastructure, motivation, enthusiasm etc. for the want of the real ownership. I wish, Odisha state department of agriculture under the able leadership would continue to march on its good work towards setting good example of digitalized Extension & Advisory Services in the state to be followed up by other states. I congratulate the authors for this well written policy brief, which gives direction how the stakeholders in agricultural sector can be drawn towards digitalization and in particular for enhancing digital capacities of Extension & Advisory Services.