Dam Information System to Farmers via SMS
The term inclusive growth is finding increasing usage in the lexicon of Government leaders, economists, planners and academicians globally. This has emerged from increasing consciousness that growth, which is an increase in some quantity over time, does not by itself indicate that people are better off. Growth, as has been the experience, is often lopsided, leaving out a good majority of the population from its benefits. Inclusive growth arrives as a plausible solution to this, by which all sections of the people can benefit from the growth process. The accent on inclusive growth comes from the fact that inclusiveness is a pre-condition to sustainability. Nations cannot hope to have sustainable development without catering to inclusiveness. While there can be no doubt inclusive growth calls for concentration in infrastructure, especially rural infrastructure, agriculture, education and healthcare, technology can be achieved as a means to achieve the above. Making available updated and state-of-the-art technology solutions to the have-nots of the population at affordable prices can help to foster inclusive growth. In this regard, Information and Communication Technologies can provide solutions at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions and reduce public spend in areas like healthcare, education, financial services and public services. The 21st century brought with multitude possibilities of promoting inclusiveness through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). With the spread of ICT, the concept of inclusive e-government also started to take form. It means the employment of ICT to reach out to the underprivileged/digitally excluded and to provide citizenry services. The advantage of e-governance is that it adopts technology to increase citizen’s knowledge of Government related services, thereby enhancing transparency and citizen satisfaction. E-governance thus informs, educates and empowers citizens through a host of services under the label ‘Government to Citizens’ (G2C). Besides being a powerful solution by itself, IT also created very citizen-friendly applications in sectors including agriculture, health and education, to name a few. The growth and appeal of ICT also saw a communication boom via the mobile phone. The features of mobile phones like low-cost, portability, mobility and electricity independent, made it a much more viable communication device. The high penetration of mobile phones as a medium of communication has served to set right the phenomenon of ‘digital divide’, which has created two distinct groups of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. The State of Kerala in India has been a front-runner when it comes to implementing and driving solutions to achieve citizen welfare. With the ‘e’ and ‘m’ waves gripping Kerala, the Government thought it prudent to harness these technologies to improve the quality of life of its citizens. Initiatives were planned for people in various sectors including agriculture. With a view to invigorate the agricultural sector, Kerala Government came out with sector-specific ICT based solutions. Kerala’s attempt at harnessing ICT for the agricultural sector resulted gave rise to projects including e-krishi (www.e-krishi.org) and Karshaka Information Systems Services and Networking (KISSAN, http://www.kissankerala.net). To put briefly, these projects aimed at providing qualitative information to the farming community. Dam Information to the Farmers through SMS One of the problems identified for the declining levels of agricultural productivity has been the general shortfall in monsoons. Irrigation systems thus have a major role to play to provide year-round supply of water to the crops. The Water Resources Department of the Government of Kerala, recognizing this system, has set up several irrigation systems. While there is no doubt that irrigation systems are pertinent, there is also the need to provide timely information to the community, especially the main stakeholder group of farmers, on the water levels in the dams, schedule of opening of reservoirs etc. to facilitate planning and action. The Dam Information to the Farmers through SMS, a project conceived by Kerala State IT Mission (www.itmission.kerala.gov.in, the nodal IT implementing agency of the Government of Kerala), has been made operational as a pilot in the Malampuzha dam in the Northern district of Palakkad, Kerala. The main objective of the project is to develop an integrated system as information delivery tool to the citizen, farmers in particular, and the decision makers of the Water Resources Department and to create a novel, easy to use, affordable and accessible, two-way communication channel for the farming community residing in the banks of the canals to interact with the Irrigation Department for receiving timely information about the availability of water in the dam and for the farmer cooperatives to interact with the irrigation department, demanding the release of water for agriculture, using mobile phones and SMS channel. The scope of the project includes: • Collection and maintenance of water level at periodic intervals • Maintenance of opening of the canals • Updation of change in water distribution time tables and informing the farmers. • To Serve as an early warning system to notify the citizens about an impending natural calamity or disaster As part of this project, a portal for dams for the Irrigation Department has been set up, in which the data collected at the dam site is updated to the portal directly from the location using mobile phones given to the dam monitoring personnel. This information is then passed on to the farmers, Department and the Government directly from the location. The mobile web technology ensures the updation of the data directly into the database and helps in providing timely and accurate information about the water levels to the farmers through SMS. The project has been piloted in the Malampuzha Dam of Palakkad district in Kerala. The dam is built across Malampuzha, a tributary of Bharathapuzha, with a network of canal systems. It has an ayacut of 42,090 hectares. The catchment area of 145 sq.kms and the reservoir has a capacity of 8000 m.e.ft.of water. There are two canal systems. The left back canal traverses a distance of 32 kms to irrigate cultivable areas in the taluks of Palakkad, Chittur and Alathur. The right bank canal with a length of 32 kms and irrigates areas in Palakkad taluk. The reservoir also provides drinking water to Palakkad town.
What we deliver?
The following information is provided to the farmers through SMS both in Pull and Push Mode. • The availability of water in the dam (In Volume) • Next opening schedule of shutters • The Schedule of opening of shutters at any particular day The following alert services are also provided through SMS alerts and e-mail • Natural calamities for registered users • Change in distribution to registered users Service Delivery The water availability, schedules of opening and closing of shutters, emergency alerts, warning notification etc can be provided through the following services. SMS Pull Services To avail this service, the farmer has to send an SMS to a predesignated Number in the following format SMS WATER, the system will reply “Malamphuzha Dam: water availability as on 6:00 am on DATE is: 823567 Cubic Feet”. SMS Alerts Push Service Registered mobile users receive alerts as to when the dam shutters will be opened. Registration is done through mobiles by sending an SMS to a pre-designated number in a pre-defined format. E-mail Alerts Another touch-point for disseminating information is through E-mail. Farmers with Internet access or can access the net through Akshaya – CSC centres can receive reservoir information via email after registration. Registration in this case can also be done through the Internet. Disaster Warning Systems Another significant feature of the project is its in-built mechanism for providing timely disaster warning to the farming community, especially those on the banks of the canal. This facility provides greater security to the live, crop and livestock of the farmers by facilitating timely evacuation, if needed. This feature is also a great help during times of flooding and torrential rains, largely attributed to global climatic changes.
Why is the project unique?
The Dam Information System for farmers via SMS is the first-of-its-kind service that leverages mobile phones and the low cost SMS service. Thanks to the mobile boom in the country and the State, the costs of short messages have reduced to a few paisas, making it an affordable-to-all communication media. Another highlight of the facility is that it provides dam related information to three different stakeholders. Though the main and primary beneficiary is the farming community, the Water Resources Department and the Government stand to have equal benefits through this system.
Kerala State IT Mission
URL/Website – www.keralaitmission.org