Asia Minute: Smart Phones Helping Farmers in Asia

Aug 31, 2016

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More than two-thirds of Americans now own smartphones. The Pew Research Center says that’s up from 35% just four years ago. Starting next month, five million smart phones will be going to a group of consumers in Pakistan with an unusual story. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The government of Pakistan is giving away hundreds of thousands of smart phones—to farmers.  Dunya News reports the government of Punjab has begun sending the phones to 600,000 farmers across the province.  Government officials say the immediate goal is to give agricultural workers access to updated information about weather.

It’s part of a broader effort funded by Pakistan’s federal government, which has more ambitious plans.  The BBC reports those plans include connecting farmers with agricultural experts….eventually distributing some five million smart phones.

The connection between farming and phoning has grown—both in advanced economies and in the developing world.  The Missouri Farm Bureau says smart phones are popular for tasks from calculating acreage figures to storing machinery serial numbers, as well as hosting a number of specialized apps.  In the Philippines, the proposed 2017 budget for the Agriculture Department funds a program allowing farmers to use their smart phones to send complaints and questions to the department.  They can attach photos to illustrate crop problems—or point out issues such as damaged canals.  Similar programs matching farmers and smart phones are being explored from India to Myanmar.