The government may be spending crores of money on developing these mobile apps, but when it comes to their usefulness, they are pretty much all worthless. The farmers cannot use these apps because they just don’t meet certain standards of excellence. I say this after spending a week or more in evaluating these so-called (im)mobile apps. I highlight a few of my evaluations, the remaining apps don’t deserve to be even written about.
Now the reason I say the apps to be used by the farmers should be top notch is because of the conditions in which these apps need to operate under, conditions which are extremely demanding and extremely volatile. Here are my top 10 reasons why these apps have to be the best in their business.
- Poor or no internet connection – All the apps must support an offline mode and should support intelligent data sharing capabilities that can help them deal with large sets of data, if and when required
- Interactive – Farming is no less than an art or a science where careful execution of several steps is required for one single successful crop. And these steps have to be customized based on so many variable factors. If the app cannot take this feedback and build on it further, the app will be rendered useless overtime.
- Multi-language support – Its important the app supports multi-language so the farmer can also learn about other regions and other markets
- Peer to Peer networking – Farmer and the community cannot be separated. The farmer is an integral part of the community and as such has to be part of the echo system with other farmers and resources available in the community
- Resilience – Given the intermittent connections and the lack of consistent power supply, the app should resume from where it got interrupted.
- Real time – The apps should provide access to data as close to real time as possible
- Intercommunication with other agencies – The apps cannot operate in isolation. They are part of the system constantly relaying and communication information with other agencies who may take decisions based on the data available.
- More visuals less text – Since literacy or the lack of it, is still a major concern, visual images should be used to convey the information
- Voice enabled – Since reading could still be a problem, voice should also be an option made available
- Support for multimedia – Interactions and communications can involve pictures, videos or voice sms
If the government cannot do this, then should stop making this half baked solutions and worst even waste public money. The bottom line is we as regular middle class customers can afford to have the occasional glitches with our mobile apps i.e. apps for banking, apps for buying movie tickets etc. etc, the farmer apps (also including other life critical apps which are far fewer in number) cannot afford to fail for its a question of life and death
Below is the evaluation of the mobile apps as listed on the mkisan.gov.in
Weather: Provides basic weather info includes temperature and rainfall. There is a weather alert as well, presumably to warn about extreme weather conditions. All this information is available in abundance in every single media out there.
Improvement: The weather could provide additional information regarding what crops are suitable to the current weather conditions, what is the best time of the day to be out in the fields and other weather advisories to help protect the farmers from exposure to extreme weather conditions.
Dealers: This feature is supposed to provide the dealers in the following categories
- Seeds – Doesn’t have information available for all the districts. It should at the least show the nearest dealers to that location. Showing no data found is of no use
- Fertilizers – There are lots of duplicate information. This is totally unacceptable. Moreover there is no provision for
- Pesticides – There are lots of duplicate information. There is a license info for each of these dealers which is incomplete or worse completely missing.
- Farm Machinery – same as above
All this information could have been simply displayed in a tabular form with options to filter. Of course if this is like letting the cat out of the bag i.e. it will be easy to spot these data quality issues
Market Price: This is probably the most useful category. Unfortunately the way this information is displayed makes it very tedious to access the data. For e.g. when the user selects the state, district, Mandal and market, all the commodities being sold should be displayed in a simple table with the min, max and average price.
Getting access to this data on a real time basis is incredible from so many mandals across so many districts coming from different states. This data points to the different highs and lows of the price fluctuations. The low prices should be used to understand the market dynamics and should be further extrapolated to connect the dots, so these prices can be stabilized. At a minimum, when there is a price drop for e.g. in a market near Hyderabad, tomatoes were available at Rs1 per kg, alerts should be sent to the respective district authorities. This should not be a big deal since for every tom, dick and harry reason, an SMS is sent, so getting these alerts out should not be a big deal.
I’ve reviewed advisories being sent (see an example below) and they do have very valuable information. I think this will be only sent to the users who have these apps. This advisory should in fact be sent to all the farmers in that region irrespective of whether they have these apps or not. If possible they should be sent as alerts to the local cable television and other FM based radio channels given their reach in the rural villages.
Call to KCC: This gives an option to call a 1800 number. Whenever I called this, I could only get the voicemail and the automated system prompts in Bengali, Hindi and English. Its hard to conclude whether this is fully implemented and/or supported.
Mobile App #2:
Pusa Krishi – This is just a glorified version of a brochure. There is absolutely no need for a mobile app to display all static information with no user interaction whatsoever.
MKisan – This is just the mKisan website on the mobile. Not much to review here
Was not able to evaluate the mobile app since this was not available for download in the US. Based on the description, this appears to be a monthly magazine.
Get Suitable Crops – This never returns any useful information, it’s all blank. Not sure if this is using my location (New Jersey, US) to drive any logic behind the scenes, but there is not message indicating in either case.
Crop Information – Its just an empty page
Weather – Simply provides the temperature temperature, humidity and wind
Manage your cattle – It has 4 options
No matter which option is selected, it shows the vacation schedule for the Buffalo.
Bhuvan Hailstorm App – This is supposed to be capture crop loss happened due to a hailstorm and to be used by the Agriculture officer. All the below fields are mandatory. The data for some of the fields are not easily accessible i.e. Field or Site ID or the Date of Sowing
Crop Insurance – The app is supposed to calculate the premium and provide the sum insured details. The first step in the app is to set the location i.e the State, District, Mandal, Sub-Mandal, Panchayat, Village. The next step is to chose either the premium calculator or the sum insured details. However, no matter which option one selects, one is greeted with the “No Crop insurance details found” and it doesn’t allow to change the year and/or the crop. They are somehow selected automatically with no option to override.