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Pramit Maakoday And Srikanta Bhaskara Help Launch E-Kisaan Program

Press Release

On January 24th, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah launched eKisaan initiative in which free tablets are distributed to farmer clubs in Bagalkot and Bijapur districts.

As many as 1500 farmer clubs each consisting 15 to 20 members, have been formed in the twin districts. eKisaan software platform named Namma Raitha in Kannada, is built in these tabs, and each club is provided with one such tablet.

Symbolically distributing eKisaan Tablets to representatives from some of these farmer clubs at his home office (Krishna) in Bengaluru, Mr. Siddaramaiah called upon the farmers to utilise the technology to full extent to maximise the productivity.

Some enthusiastic techies based in USA have initiated the program through their eKisaan Foundation to serve their farmers back home in India. While S R Patil, Minister for ITBT, Planning, S&T is the chief patron, big names like Biocon Foundation, Infosys Foundation, ELCITA, Airtel and a few other organisations, and individuals have contributed to
the initiative.

Speaking to reporters on the occasion, IT Minister of Karnataka Mr. Patil said “we are introducing IT enabled cultivation for the first time in the country. It is a time for us to feel proud of the development”. IT can change the dynamics of farming.

Mr. Patil said the concept of eKisaan tool is to enhance farmers’ connectivity with the sea of useful information available in the technology driven world. The broad vision of this tool is to “Educate, Engage & Empower” farming community. Making them tech savvy is key to their success in this age of digital literacy, he added.

Gouri Shankar, a trustee of eKisaan Foundation said “being born in a farming family in Bagalkot district, I have seen and experienced the challenges faced by farmers. Spending a decade or so in USA and looking at the global trends, I believe that the access to relevant and timely information will immensely help our farmers economy and living standard. We would like to bring in a positive change in our society”

NRI from Boston, Pramit Maakoday, who is an expert on Digital India initiatives, also a trustee of the foundation, said “Information Technology” has served the people of classes so far and time has come to serve the masses. The eKisaan platform is the beginning in that direction. eKisaan will be carried out to be a model project for Karnataka. Further, it can be replicated in rest of India and other developing countries”.

According to Srikanta Bhaskara, another trustee, “eKisaan is designed as a farmers’ platform much more than a mobile app. This program tries to address one of the key challenges - last mile connectivity and actively engaging the farming community.  Most challenges are local, this program is designed to address local problems with a global solution and we have optimized our solution around local constraints.

Chief Minister felicitated the sponsors of the project on the occasion. Home Minister K J George, legislators Govind Karjol, Arun Shapur, Mahantesh Koujalagi and Ivan D’souza were present.

eKisaan (Namma Raitha) Feeatures:
Namma Raitha is a customised Kannada platform. So even those not knowing English can operate the tab. Content is dynamic. New content can be pushed over. The idea is to keep the farmers engaged. The platform is built to have a two way conversation with the farmer.  This is a very key feature and probably one of the firsts in India. The feature like “Ask an Expert” is very handy and farmer can take a picture and record in his own voice the question he has and request for information.

Another innovative feature is – a Digital TV turner is built into the tablet, as soon as Digital transmission starts, farmers can see all farmer’s program on the tablet.  This is the first of its kind in India to be launched.
Airtel has sponsored and provided an excellent plan to support the feature for farmers to call among each other via these tabs

Next phase of eKisaan will provide a feature for famers to create their own content and upload so that their knowledge can be shared by entire eKisaan community.

eKisaan software enabled tablets were launched in Mar 2014 on pilot base. Since then we have got numerous feedbacks from farmers, which were subsequently incorporated in the latest version of eKisaan.
As part of the program, family members of farmers including women and kids will also have useful information and learning.

eKisaan team has tied up with content providers to teach math for 8th, 9th, 10th standard students in Kannada via the tablet – bringing supplemental education to their home apart from their main school teaching.

eKisaan can be used to provide info on healthcare so that health condition can be improved in rural area.

eKisaan is a non-profit Foundation launched by young techies under the guidance of Hon. IT Minister Sri S R Patil.
ICT (Information communication & technology) benefits in eKisaan
•    Share relevant information on Crops
•    Share relevant real time info on weather and soil
•    Emergency alert information system
•    Fertilizers, Pesticides – Composition, Usage and Compatibility
•    Educate farmers with available benefits / policies for farming community.
•    Facilitating interaction among farmers which is the key to sustained engagement
•    Best Practices – Sharing from other Agri Universities and agencies

Additional info feedback from farmers
•    Tablets have been termed relevant and useful by the farming community
•    Initial video based content has been successful in educating farmers
•    Localized language content (in Kannada) has been appreciated
•    Online and offline access appreciated
•    Good form factor

Based on the feedback from farmers, the developers have incorporated the following
•    Thick protective case to withstand constant usage
•    Customized Tablet OS to ensure Tablet is used only for eKisaan purpose
•    TV and FM tuner to be integrated within Tablet so as to leverage new Kisaan TV and radio channels.  TV tuner will work only after Digital transimission is started.
•    Updated centralized software and content update platform

A dedicated team has been set up to interact continuously with the farming community.  A working model is currently available and continuously being refined with valuable inputs we are receiving. The key would be to provide appropriate content by region in a user friendly form. And it is accessible almost everywhere.

(eKisaan Foundation Trustees, Designer and Developers

1) Pramit Maakoday -- Westborough, (Greater Boston), MA
2) Srikanta Bhaskara -- Westborough, (Greater Boston), MA
3) GouriShankar -- Frisco, Texas)

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