Role of Information Technology in Agriculture
By Ainsley Wirekoon

Information Technology (IT) has long been viewed as having great potential for improving decision making in agriculture. IT has connected the world globally and is now changing our life style and social consciousness dynamically. In all phases of the agricultural industry, information technologies are vital to the management and success of a business. Agriculture has also been greatly influenced by IT.

Information Technology is rapidly becoming more and more visible in society and agriculture. IT refers to how we use information, how we compute information, and how we communicate information to people. People must have computer and information technology. To participate and make informed decisions in the agricultural industry a person must have ability to gather, process, and manipulate data.

The Internet is a standing topic in newspapers and on television, and the number of users doubles every year. People who use information technology creatively are pioneering careers in agriculture today. Jobs in today's agricultural workforce require greater use of technological skills than ever before.

IT supports new methods for precision agriculture like computerized farm machinery that applies for fertilizers and pesticides. Farm animals are fed and monitored by electronic sensors and identification systems. Selling or buying online began to become popular in the world. However, it's most important role remains communication, and the Internet has provided us with an ideal opportunity to do so. One such communication tool is the Web Site, which simply replaces the newspaper as a communication tool. Presently, almost every company has its own web site
The following are specific ways information technologies being applied through agricultural

  • Basic Internet Applications
  • PowerPoint Presentations
  • Global Position-ing Systems (GPS)
  • E-Commerce

Preservice Teacher Education:
4Applications in Teaching Methods - Anyone who will be involved in teaching, whether in a formal setting like the public schools or in an informal setting like an extension workshop, needs to know how to incorporate information technology into their daily teaching.

4 Student Teaching - In some instances, it can be difficult to visit student teachers. With fewer faculties available to supervise interns and added responsibilities, sometimes supervision needs to be done in an alternative way.

Professional Development:
4Alternative Certification Programs - In many countries, there is a shortage of teachers. These "beginning" teachers have no training in program planning or teaching methods, yet countries are willing to place them in classroom situations.

4 Graduate Education - Many teachers want to earn higher degrees, but have difficulty in finding the time to complete degrees. With the wide array of information technologies available, teachers can complete courses from the convenience of their office or home and never have to set foot on campus again.
4Technical Updates - Individuals who need to get updated about technical information in agriculture can easily look at information if it is placed on a web-site.

In order to take the real status of agricultural production and marketing, there is an urgent need to develop the following items:

4Farmers' crop database must be managed. The database includes the kinds of crops, the size of cultivated area, time of harvest and yield. Farmers or the extension personnel transmit those data via the Internet to a database server.

4Crops information service system should be created.
There are many ways in which Information Technology can be used to exchange the information rather effectively through communication like information kiosks which provide not only the basic services like email, helps in education, health services, Agriculture and Irrigation, online trading, community services etc., expert systems which helps in determining marketing alternatives and optimal strategies for producers, integrated crop management systems for different crops.

The use of IT in agribusiness in some countries is quite advanced. The situation in Sri Lanka is quite different, with low levels of computer literacy and usage in the farm sector, with technology transfer 'across the last mile' remaining the weakest link in the Sri Lanka. But farmers often go to great efforts to obtain better information, and much attention is being given by the Government and NGOs to the development of wireless networks, tele centers and other methods for promoting IT access and knowledge diffusion in the rural sector in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, IT is likely to become increasingly important in innovation diffusion in agriculture, in both developed countries and in developing economies such as Sri Lanka. In implementing policies to this end, Sri Lanka must give due attention to the complex interactions between the many players to the role of tacit knowledge and social actors, and to the low level of the IT literacy in the rural sector.

Lack of information at the proper time causes a huge loss to farmers. This gap in communication may be bridged by information technology. Information of the required quality always has the potential of improving efficiency in all spheres of agriculture.

In the context of rice processing industry the potential of information technology can be assessed broadly under two heads: (a) as a tool for direct contribution to rice milling productivity and (b) as an indirect tool for empowering millers to take informed and quality decisions which will have positive impact on the way rice processing and allied activities are conducted.

The techniques of remote sensing using satellite technologies, geographical information systems, and agronomy and soil sciences are used to increase the rice output. This approach is capital intensive and useful where large tracts of land are involved.

The use of IT in agriculture has grown rapidly in the past few years. It is increasingly being used to help managers make better decisions. However, IT and the problem facing decision makers are constantly changing. Thus, future information systems for research purposes will be significantly different than current systems because of these changes. IT has been one of the most aspired fields in today's world. Integrating IT with agriculture will help any country to regulate its overall economy and trade. The different Information Technologies like Expert System in Decision Support System and Remote Sensing have brought revolution in world agriculture.

Future Prospects
www technology is expanding rapidly and touches almost all areas of human activity. It is therefore essential that farmers can participate in the creation of web sites for their farms.
Agricultural universities must prepare not only students to use new IT, but must also help farmers in better use of the web by different means, e.g., extension services, and creating new specific websites.

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