ICTs for Indian farmers
A 2009 Deloitte Assocham Report on mobile VAS as a means of inclusion speaks about the sheer enormity of the problem of reaching out to a billion plus population to ensure provision of “basic hygiene and sanitation, clean drinking water, basic healthcare, primary education to adequate housing, roads, higher education, banking facilities, disease control, and disease management. Each problem is exacerbated by its sheer magnitude. (Refer Table 1).”
Thus, India is a country where rural areas in particular are financially excluded. The RBI has officially directed banks to explore ICTs based solutions through the business correspondent model whereby a village can be covered even in the absence of a brick and mortar branch.
Recently, the Mint carried an article about RuPay a card payment network like Visa and masterCard that is revolutionizing how Indian farmers handle money. Through RuPay Kisan (farmer) cards farmers can make electronic payments at lower transaction costs. It is a domestic system launched in 2012 by the National Payment Corporation of India and many banks (national, private, cooperative and rural) provide vards affiliated to it for population in small towns and villages. While RuPay cards are usable at all ATMs, only 25-30% of the point of sale(PoS) machines are compatible and this is being tacked. Nevertheless, such facilities are empowering farmers through ICT enabled financial inclusion.
The Indian USOF had also initiated a scheme for ICT enabled banking services in rural India on pilot basis in collaboration with BSNL as an adjunct to the Rural Wire Line Scheme. It dis not succeed due to various stakeholder coordination issues but USOF should in my view continue to strive to support such services.