National e-Governance Seminar ‘Health-Farm IT’ was held at Hotel Taj, Hyderabad (Indian city in the state of Andhra Pradesh) on the 12th January 2006. Mr. P. Raghuveer, IFS Additional Secretary (egov), Government of Andhra Pradesh, gave a brief introduction about the seminar, its purpose and theme. In his Keynote address Prof. Raj Reddy, Carnegie Mellon University, USA, emphasised on the role of Information Techno- logy (IT) in agriculture and health care.
Inaugural session was followed by paper presentations by eminent experts from all over India on the twin topics: IT in Farm Sector and IT in Health Sector. Mr. Vikas Nath, Digital Governance, Geneva and Ranjan Dwivedi, UNIAIDS, New Delhi moderated the sessions.
Session on ICT and Agriculture sector
The major issues discussed in the session on ICT and its role in agriculture sector are as follows:
• ‘AGMARKET’, the practice of market led agriculture in India, was discu-ssed. Here inter-linkages and intra- linkages offering diffusion of ICT for sustainable development right from grassroots level was reiterated.
• ‘Knowledge Empowerment of Agriculture through ICT’ was deliberated through some exemplary case studies such as KISSAN-Kerela.
• ‘E-Sagu’ – meaning e-cultivation, was elaborated as a three-tier system with farmers as end users.
Session on ICT and Health sector
The major issues discussed in the session on ICT and its role in health are:
• National Initiatives in Healthcare using ICT, the promises of tele-medicine and the achievements of Media Lab Asia projects were informed.
• ‘Technology Enabling Rural
Health Care’ with emphasis on standardisation of information for effective transmission of data and information, integration of initiatives and three Bs (Biology, Broadband and Bytes) were discussed.
• Connectivity was termed as the ‘lifeblood of telemedicine’.
Panel discussion: ‘Where to go from here’
The seminar concluded with the panel discussion on ‘Where to go from here’. The panelists included: Dr. S.R. Rao, Gopikrishnan, Vikas Nath, Ranjan Dwivedi, P. Raghuveer and Sukhbilas Barman. The role of government as public service provider and public involvement in the process was emphasized.
The important point that came up in the panel discussion was regarding the variation that is there in the value factor in agriculture sector. A lot of employment is actually disguised employment in the agriculture sector, which needs to be taken care of. ICT can be utilized to create more employment opportunities in the developing countries like India. The problem lies in lack of information- gap between projects and beneficiaries.
Panelists shared their information and knowledge in health and agriculture sectors. They stressed on integration of all the domains – health agriculture and technology. Creation, dissemination and application of knowledge in this direction was emphasised.
An interesting discussion by the participants followed the panel discussion. The issues raised by them included social sector initiatives, target group identification, initiatives taken so far for preventing the diseases like Diabetes, centralization and decentralization of the activities, customization of software, emphasis on HIV/AIDS and GIS application in the field of land resource and natural resource information.
In the concluding remarks the seminar was described as the beginning of the discussion, and not an end.