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India’s mission towards digital agriculture: National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture

Realising the significance of new digital and emerging technologies, the Committee on Doubling Farmers’ Income (DFI) has recommended further expanding and augmenting the digital agriculture initiatives of the Government of India. The report focused on the modern management of agriculture, i.e.  Remote Sensing; Geographical Information System; Data Analytics and Cloud Computing; Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning; Internet of Things; Robotics, Drones & Sensors and Block-chain.

India’s National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture (NeGPA) aims to foster rapid development in the Indian Agriculture Sector by adopting and adapting Information & Communication Technology (ICT) comprehensively across the board. A centrally sponsored scheme, the National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture, was initially launched over a decade ago as a pilot in seven states. The initiative aimed to achieve rapid deployment of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in India for timely access to agriculture-related information by farmers. The scheme was further expanded a few years later to encompass all the remaining states and Union Territories and now has been extended up to March of this year.

As part of these set-up protocols, each state has to form a State Project Management Unit (SPMU) and is responsible for hiring manpower on a contract basis. Under Phase-II of the scheme, funds were released to states to procure all the equipment and establish all the basic necessary infrastructure.

In a bid to infuse modern information technologies in the farm sector, the NeGPA guidelines were amended in 2020-21 and funds were released for sanctioning projects for customisation and shifting of web and mobile applications that had already been developed by individual states to the platform to be developed using digital/emerging technologies. Several states have come forward to utilise this amended policy and accordingly pilot projects have been sanctioned in various States to make use of emerging technologies.

Besides, the new initiatives of creating Farmers’ Database, the Unified Farmers Service Platform (UFSP) would bring a paradigm change in accessing the data relating to farmers. It could also be used to develop customised solutions, make better plans and monitor their implementation.

The Unified Farmer Service Platform (UFSP) is a combination of Core Infrastructure, Data, Applications and Tools that enable seamless interoperability of various public and private IT systems in the agriculture ecosystem across the country.

Apart from acting as a medium of data exchange among various schemes and services to enable comprehensive delivery of services to the farmer, the UFSP is envisaged to play the following roles:

  • Act as a central agency in the agri-ecosystem (like UPI in e-Payments)
  • Enable Registration of the Service Providers, public and private
  • Enable Registration of the Farmer Services G2F, G2B, B2F and B2B
  • Enforce various rules and validations required during the service delivery process
  • Acts as a Repository of all the applicable standards, API’s and formats

The Farmers Database has been designed for better planning, monitoring, policy-making, strategy formulation and smooth implementation of schemes for the farmers nationwide. The Farmers Database has verified the data of 43 million farmers which has been linked with land records. The database which is to be unveiled shortly has been designed to:

  • Develop a nationwide database of farmers
  • Keep a record of unique farmers.
  • Unique farmer ID (FID) to uniquely identify a farmer
  • To know benefits availed by a farmer under various schemes

This Centralised Farmers Database would be useful for various activities like issuing soil health cards, dissemination of crop advisories to the farmers, precision farming, smart cards for farmers to facilitate e-governance, crop insurance, settlement of compensation- claims, grants of agricultural subsidies, community/village resource centres, etc.

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