Reaching farmers through mobile phones

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Accurate and timely information is essential for making right decisions. It is widely acceptable that information plays a significant role in the new economy standards, where success mainly depends on having access to the right information at the right time. Digital divide makes access to information sources a difficult and time consuming process for rural people. Additionally, the problem is bigger for mobile workers such as farmers, cattle raisers and agriculturalists. The distance between the information sources and the rural areas together with possible geographical obstacles prevents the propagation of communication facilities as well as the effective information diffusion. That situation expands the digital divide and the need for bridging that gap is more urgent than ever. The Ypaithros information platform fills this need by putting together traditional information means with new communication technologies.

Ypaithros is a service that aims to supply information to people that live and work in rural areas. Information provided concerns business opportunities, important news, national or European Union funded programmes and news about critical sectors of the economy.

The first attempt of developing an information platform like Ypaithros started a few years ago, as an ICT tool for informing the farmers. This service was implemented with the active co-operation of the Federation of Agricultural Associations of the Heraklio Prefecture and was given the name “Agro-Message”. Its main operation was the transmission of informative short text messages to farmers and cattle raisers on their mobile phones. Since the early stages of the Agro-Message, the idea to develop an integrated information platform started to be considered. The evolution of the Agro-Message is, the European Union supported programme Ypaithros, started at the spring of 2003 and co-financed by the Regional Program of Innovative Actions (DG/Regio).

Ypaithros aspires to evolve into an easy to use, information source for every businessman who requires accurate and up to date information but does not have the time or the means to look for it.

Ypaithros is a pioneer service considering the nature of the audience that it targets. It is unusual for information technology novelties to first be applied on rural areas. Communication technologies are quite limited in rural areas and the rural population usually ranges from technology-unfamiliar to techno-phobic when it comes to new technologies.

However, that is why services like Ypaithros are even more necessary and useful for the less technologically developed areas. The evolution of mobile phone networks and wireless internet, together with the development of new standards for information dissemination by conventional means like normal mobile phones, open new perspectives for the development on innovative services.

Usually, most of the rural businessmen are mobile workers. This means that they are away from fixed-line phones or computers. For this reason, Ypaithros was designed to distribute information via widely used mobile communication media such as mobile phones. The information supplied by Ypaithros concerns mainly tourist, agriculture, cattle-raising, and cottage industry. Business or single businessmen may register to receive properly filtered and sorted information. Information is available as voice messages on fixed-line and mobile phones and text messages (SMS) or picture messages (MMS) on mobile phones. The World Wide Web (WWW) is also used to disseminate information to registered users of Ypaithros.

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