Search site

Establishing a unified understanding of digital interventions for inclusive agriculture

NEW DELHI, INDIA, December 4, 2023 — In a significant step towards fostering digital innovation and inclusion in agriculture, the CGIAR Digital Innovation (DI) Initiative team from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and International Water Management Institute (IWMI) organized a one-day National Stakeholder Consultation workshop which garnered active participation from key stakeholders within India's evolving digital ecosystem.

The workshop brought together practitioners, experts, and delegates from renowned non-profit organizations, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, and agri-tech companies that have been instrumental in propelling the digital agriculture revolution in India in varying capacities.

Digitalization is increasingly influencing the way agri-food systems operate. However, the digital transformation process continues to remain uneven in both geographic and socioeconomic contexts. To deal with the issue and reduce digital divide, the DI Initiative has developed a Digital Inclusion Index (DII) as its flagship output that aims to provide standard metrics and guidelines for enabling and evaluating digital inclusiveness. ​Increased awareness for the (DII) was among the  primary goals for the conduct of the stakeholder consultation.

Researchers from IWMI presented a preliminary version of the index to the participants for feedback, validation, and potential revisions that could help in developing its beta version, in preparation for its rollout. The workshop served as a platform to gauge stakeholders' receptiveness to the index and assess the inclusivity of the digital solutions and innovations they are currently involved in. Based on the degrees of engagement and types of innovations and services provided by these organizations, the idea of inclusion is extensive and varied. Deliberations during the workshop highlighted the sporadic and scattered nature of on-going efforts in optimizing the innovations for better reach and adoption. It reinforced the necessity for a unified and high-level evaluation approach exemplified by the DII that could guide donors and practitioners in streamlining efforts to shape an inclusive and enhanced adoption of digital solutions.

The workshop also aimed at identifying the potential partners in India for pilot testing of the index and expanding its database for better modeling. Stakeholders were receptive and affirmative in adopting the inclusivity approach and learning more about the best practices for promoting digital inclusion. Currently, in their on-going innovations, inclusion parameters are conceptualized in terms of language, gender, region, age, literacy, landholding and ethnic considerations in socio-economic terms. While on the technical aspect, organizations are being considerate to develop Unicode applications that could work across operating systems, create phygital delivery models, work towards interoperability of services platforms and customize user experience by utilizing large language models for designing digital solutions. Collectively these efforts remain crucial in creating an inclusive space to harness the potential of digital technologies for timely decision-making across food, land, and water systems.

Another noteworthy session by the IRRI scientists on the development and delivery of Rice Crop Manager (RCM) also provided insights into the positive impacts that reiterative and inclusive application models can have on the lives of farmers. The discussion also emphasized the potential of underutilized data assets to deliver enabling data and analytics, not only in rice crops but also across other domains in agriculture. The agricultural sector generates a vast amount of data through various processes, but not all of this data is utilized effectively. Recognizing the untapped potential within existing datasets is of paramount importance for several reasons, spanning various industries and sectors. The session emphasized on use of artificial intelligence to generate the valuable insights from the treasure trove of data.

In conclusion, the workshop successfully achieved its objectives by drawing attention to the Digital Inclusion Index, generating valuable insights for its improvement, and delineating the key goals of the Digital Innovation Initiative. This event paved a way forward in leveraging technology and aligning stakeholders for a more digitally empowered and inclusive future in agriculture.

Participating organizations included SEWA, MSSRF, WOTR, TAC, PRADAN, FARMS.IO, SRIJAN, Precision Development, Sumarth, BAIF, CEEW, Dvara E-registry, Gram Vaani, Digital Green Nasscom, and NAFPO.