For some, it’s something they are used to. But for others it’s a new experience. They carefully touch the icons on the smart phone with tentative fingers and say “Puthalata, duvalata nang meva pulavan” (Our sons and daughters can easily do this)
The group of farmers who gathered last week in Dambulla came from different areas in the Matale and Anuradhapura districts. Some had travelled long distances. They were a diverse group – ranging in age from twenties to fifties. All were curious about what this meeting was about and how this ‘phone thing’ worked.
The gathering was part of the ‘Inclusive information societies’ project currently being implemented by LIRNEasia. The project aims to assess the impact of opening up government data and making crop advisory information available to farmers through a mobile application. Initially the app targets farmers who grow cucurbits for export. The app is currently being introduced on an experimental basis to a test group of farmers in six districts in Sri Lanka.
For H. Jayaweera,*a farmer in his fifties from Dambulla, everything was new. It was the first time he was using a smart phone and his fingers were still getting used to pressing the small green ‘crop advisor’ icon that would lead him to the app. He listens as one of the researchers shows the pages of the app and says “apey duvata nang meva okkama puluvan.” He will go home, he says, and get his daughter to help him use the app.
For others, specially young farmers who use smart phones, this is all routine. They listen as another researcher explains how a photograph and query can be sent to the Department of Agriculture using the app. One farmer is already taking a photograph. Questions are asked. Can information on other crops be included? What language does the app work in? A researcher explains how messages can be recorded or typed in Sinhala text. There is silence for a few moments as the farmers try this out.
Similar sessions are being carried out by LIRNEasia in the six districts where the project is being implemented. The farmers will be use the app for approximately four months after which an endline survey will be carried out to assess impact.
More information on the project here.