The Digitisation of Agricultural Data is a Wonderful IDEA, but it needs protections

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admin November 5, 2021
Updated 2021/11/05 at 6:53 AM

The government has announced a programme called India Digital Ecosystem for Agricultural (IDEA), which would use open digital technology to put the farmer at the centre of the agriculture ecosystem.

IDEA’s Key Features

It will include a National Farmers Database, which would function as a kind of “super Aadhaar” for farmers. Farmers’ digitised land records will be included in the database, which will be cross-linked with the Aadhaar database to generate a unique FID, or farmer’s ID. By September 2021, the national database would have included the data of over 8.5 crore farmers. It would also take data from ongoing programmes like as PM Kisan, soil health cards, and the national crop insurance plan PM Fasal Bima Yojna, among others. Microsoft is creating the database under the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare’s supervision (DoAFW) Anyone with access to this database will be able to uniquely identify a landowner, as well as learn about the size of his holding, the condition of the soil, cropping patterns, typical yields, and other pertinent information at a granular level.

What is IDEA’s overarching goal?

Agri-Stack: The FID is just one component of a larger IDEA. The goal is to develop an agriculture-specific version of the ‘India Stack,’ which is a collection of APIs (Application Programming Interface). These applications allow stakeholders to provide proactive and personalised services to farmers while also increasing the agricultural sector’s efficiency.

Collaboration as a Source of Innovation: This Agricultural India Stack will enable governments, companies, start-ups, and developers to use a unique digital infrastructure to address India’s toughest issues, such as delivering services without the need for physical presence, paper, or currency.

Governance: The FID – would allow farmers to use a single sign-on to access all government services available to them.

Evidence-based policymaking: A database like this for the agriculture sector allows authorities to provide seamless credit and insurance services, as well as information on seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, market information, and price forecasts, among other things, using big data and analytics and information technology. The government hopes that the ‘agristack’ would ultimately help them accomplish their aim of tripling farmers’ income.

Challenges

The digitization of India’s more than 14 million working farms is a difficult task. Land records in India, in general, and rural, agricultural land records in particular, are complicated and lack uniformity. Approximately 12% of agricultural families were tenant farmers, meaning they worked on rented land. In India, however, land tenancy agreements are not legally recognised, and most such arrangements are informal and verbal in character. In this scenario, FID will deny these farmers rewards since they will not appear in the database. Then there’s the issue of women farmers, since the overwhelming majority of land titles are still owned by males. There is fear that the agristack would pave the way for a full privatisation of government services, including agriculture. There’s also the issue of data privacy, which is a major worry. Giving out this sort of personal, financial, and landholding data in the absence of a data privacy legislation raises a number of issues about possible abuse.

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