Digital farming

By | Business
Farmers in Vietnam. credit@flickr

Based on statistics, nearly 50% of Vietnam’s citizens – the equivalent of about 45 million people – are farmers and rely on working the land for employment and their livelihoods. However, like in many places around the world, income from agriculture is connected with the efficiency and efficacy of how farming is done, and in Vietnam’s case, the country’s GDP coming from this sector is around 20%. This appears to demonstrate there is room for more to be done in order to improve the productivity in this sector and offer farmers more return for their work. For example, technology combined with basic digital literacy may have the potential to transform lives and give rise to new opportunities.

Building on the idea digital skills may be essential for the future of farming, Google aims to help the Vietnam Farmers’ Union (VNFU) deliver digital skills training to about 30,000 farmers over the next three years, using a grant and technical expertise from volunteers. Through online and offline training programs on how to find information on the internet, use basic productivity tools, and navigate agricultural apps, Google aims to empower more farmers across Vietnam to boost productivity and their overall quality of life. Google plans to scale the program through VNFU’s broad network – considering 4 out of 5 households in Vietnam have someone who’s a member of the VNFU – and to help the beneficiaries gain valuable digital experience. Some people in Vietnam seem to have worked as farmers their entire life, generally relying on their neighbors for information about the weather and market conditions, however with Google’s support, they now have the option to search for the weather forecast online and find out when to cover and protect the crops from the elements, in order to harvest and sell more vegetables, even after heavy rains.

Speaking at the program’s launch workshop in Hanoi, Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Alphabet said: “Information and technology is making a difference in the lives of millions everyday. By equipping Vietnam’s farmers with skills to navigate the Internet and find useful information online, we hope they’ll be able to enhance their farming techniques to boost productivity, and access other information valuable in their daily lives.”

Google representatives have conducted research and several pilot trainings since the end of 2016. Some of the benefits reported by the farmers who use the internet to improve efficiency are the ability to compare crop prices or the cost of farming equipment online, rather than having to travel for miles to far away markets, the possibility to search for information on treating common ailments afflicting their animals, saving them a visit to a veterinarian several villages away, etc. Numerous farmers in Vietnam seem to already have internet access at home or even their own smart devices. Google aims to train them to use internet to its full potential and to also include the farmers’ children or grandchildren in the training. Through this “buddy” system, pairing farmer and child, the training program may have longer-lasting and more wide-ranging impact.

While the program presently reaches a limited number of farmers across Vietnam, the newfound digital literacy skills may lead to incremental improvements in the ways and lives of numerous farmers and contribute to better outcomes for their communities. The farmers may potentially manage to improve cultivation and farming techniques, increase productivity and access useful information in their daily lives through the internet. In the long term, Google’s support may contribute towards accelerating the use of scientific and advanced technology in agricultural production and business and help in the agricultural sector restructuring.

How may digital skills make farming for productive?

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