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Legislator and agri-experts see digital future for the Philippines

Government officials and e-commerce specialists in the Philippines are looking at technology and innovation as primary drivers of growth in various sectors of the nation, particularly in the agriculture industry.

In his speech during the Techno Gabay Program 2020 Summit held in the Agricultural Training Institute-Regional Training Center in the CALABARZON area, Senator Francis Pangilinan highlighted the essence of banking on digital technology which could help farmers and fishers upgrade their livelihood and mitigate potential risks and losses.

The senator went on to emphasise the imperative to resort to digital means at a time when most industries have taken a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic and when farmers were left with less options on how to dispose of their harvests due to lower demand and travel restrictions. He added, “Technology has been crucial in reconnecting the broken food supply chain. In many parts of the country, farmers in rural areas have been linked directly to consumers in the urban centres”.

The senator also made a clear message that everything can be upgraded through innovation, even in sectors like agriculture which usually employ traditional techniques.

One of the legislations enacted by Congress to assist farmers and fishers is the Sagip Saka Act. Under this law, government agencies have been able to purchase products directly from farms and fisheries. These products constituted part of relief goods given to the public during the enhanced community quarantine.

Meanwhile, Antonieta Arceo, Information Services Division Chief of Agricultural Training Institute, shared some of the innovations that can be used by farmers fueled by what she referred to as a re-emerging interest in agricultural methods. These are e-learning webinars, rice crop management and the DIgital Farmers’ Program.

The Division Chief said that in an industry that is led by ageing farmers, the future for agriculture would be bleak if today’s youth would not be persuaded to take an interest in farming and in fishing. This, she said, must be resolved by injecting innovations that the youth can operate. She added, “the only way is for [the youth] to see agriculture as a business and that there is ICT that can cater to their interests”.

The role of e-commerce platforms

The online session was in itself a part of efforts to underscore the importance of technology in assisting the key players in the agriculture sector. The event was attended by various experts who talked about e-commerce and social media as modern platforms that can be included in agricultural strategies.

Apart from this, the online session paved the way to recognize the accomplishments of the Farmers Information Technology Services or FITS Centers in the areas of weather and climate advisory, Rice Crop Management services and social media presence.

Some of the speakers present during the event include vloggers and e-commerce experts. One speaker talked about the recent trends in e-commerce which was spurred by the pandemic. The realization now, as pointed out during the session, is that it has become more convenient today to do a lot of things online and along the way, support local products.

The Department of Agriculture has been actively ramping up its initiatives aimed at modernising agricultural processes. One of these is, as reported earlier by OpenGov Asia, the development of a web-based information support system called the Agri-Information Support Portal. This program is now used to fast-track reporting of programs and projects and in the long-term, enhance decision support mechanisms.

The Portal is part of a department-wide policy model that adheres to what has been referred to as a “new thinking for agriculture”.

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