April 2006

Sixth Annual Baramati Initiative, 9-11 March 2006, Maharashtra, India

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The Sixth Annual Baramati Initiative on Information Communication Technologies (ICT) and Development was held in Vidya Prathishthan’s Institute of Information Technology (VIIT), Baramati from 9th to 11th March, 2006. This year, the focus of the conference was on ICTs in agriculture.

In the inaugural session, VIIT Governing Council Chairman,  Sharad Kulkarni said that the process of exploring avenues is in progress, through which governments, NGOs, and entrepreneurs can focus on e-Agriculture. In his speech he mentioned the history of establishing the engineering college in Baramati. In 1992, Sharad Pawar, who is at present the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, dared to dream of translating 128 acres of barren land into a prominent centre of education. He mentioned some of the initiatives taken by this institution in terms of IT-enabled ‘affordable’ services.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Deputy Chairman of the Indian Planning Commission was the keynote speaker. He threw some hard challenges to the 6th annual Baramati Initiative on ICT and Development. He pointed to the importance of the agriculture field in India and termed IT one of those ‘defining technologies’ that bring about a drastic change. He mentioned that India has done extraordinarily well as supplier of IT to the world, this nation has responded incredibly rapidly, as part of the global supply chain of IT, but our record of applying IT to our own society back home has actually been quite poor.

The first technical session was on Innovative Practices showcasing the Benefits of ICT for the Agriculture Sector’.  Krithi Ramamrutham, of IIT-Bombay, described aAQUA, a corpus of quickly-updated, demand-driven agricultural information, translations repository. ‘Aaqua’ stands for ‘almost all questions answered’.

It aims to make online forum allowing ‘questions from the grassroots to be answered by experts in the field’.  Peter Smeets, Alterra Landscape Centre in the Wageningen UR in the Netherlands spoke on e-Agroparks in the Netherlands. The paper of  Amol Goje, Director of VIIT was presented by his colleague which focused on the importance of community FM radio in agriculture. Helmut ewes from Agrista, Durban discussed about the prospect of technology in agriculture sector.  S.P.Wani from ICRISAT, Hyderabad discussed the organisational activities of ICRISAT in agriculture using ICT as a major tool.

The second session was on ‘Role of ICT in Facilitating Agri-finance and Agri-insurance.  R.Balakrishnan, Executive Director, NABARD described the activities of NABARD in micro credit and also described its ICT based services in rural areas in India. Edwin Moyo of Zimbabwe, the CEO of the Trans Zambezi Industries Ltd, shared his views and experiences in using ICT in agriculture.

Suresh Sethi, Country Head

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