The Digital India programme banks on a digital transformation of the country and, in concert with this effort, the ministry of agriculture has launched an app to help farmers adopt better cropping practices. The Crop Manager for Rice-based Systems (CMRS) app—rolled out in Bihar—ties in well with the government’s focus on improving soil health to improve agricultural productivity. CMRS is available for mobile devices, personal computers and tablets, and is designed to provide farmers with nutrient management guidelines. Addressing individual needs, the system is designed to automatically generate suggestions on the basis of questions the farmer asks. The app was rolled out after it proved successful in evaluations by top-rung institutions, including the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Given the technology’s potential, its rollout in the rice-growing states of Punjab and Haryana—where poor farming practices like overuse of fertilisers have caused significant deterioration in soil quality—could help prevent overuse of fertilisers.
However, ubiquitous adoption of the application will be no walk in the park. According to a 2013 report by CIMMYT, while 99.35% of a surveyed sample of Bihar’s farmers used mobile phones—of which smartphones are likely to be a small proportion—only 4.51% could access the internet. Although appropriate technology may be provided through efforts of a determined administration, 56.15% of the state’s rural population is still illiterate and is thus unlikely to gain from measures like this programme. The government must focus on increasing tech literacy if it wants CMRS and other such efforts to yield desired results.