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Last week I wrote about how mobile internet is expected to bring millions of Indians into the digital fold. Not surprisingly, there has been a spurt of tech startups focusing on the huge rural market of some 270 million, of whom about 200 million depend upon agriculture for their livelihood.
Even today, Indian agriculture is plagued by problems such as drought, floods, pests and disease, sub-optimal soil conditions, poor irrigation practices, to name a few. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) may prove to be game-changing for Indian agriculture. This report says that of nearly 300 IoT start-ups in India, 40 are focused on smart agriculture.
Here are some interesting examples of technology startups focused on agriculture:
Agriculture is not the only area that can benefit from technology.
Though Telemedicine has been in practice for many years, with the advent of advanced technology it now encompasses much more than just consultation – there is also tele-monitoring, tele-mentoring for both patients and doctors, and even tele-presence (remote assistance in surgery). For example, Forus Health has developed an innovative technology called “3nethra” that helps screen people’s eyes for problems that could potentially cause blindness. Its portable and rugged devices can be operated with minimal training and problems detected by ophthalmologists sitting far away (read cities) for preventive treatment. They even have a version for newborns. So far, 3nethra retinal imaging technology has over 1300 installations in 26 countries and has screened over 200,000 individuals.
There are countless examples of innovative uses of technology in education. To take just one - in Wankaner district in Gujarat, young Prateeksha Tewari’s, SBI Youth for India Fellow, introduced "Microsoft Mouse Mischief" as an answer to defunct computer labs in rural schools. According to Prateeksha, “Microsoft Mouse Mischief [is a] low-cost technology-based teaching model that requires minimal additional hardware and is used to engage every student in the class in the classroom sessions digitally. The teachers combine their regular classroom lecture with video materials. These videos are shown using a single computer. After the lesson is completed, each student is given a mouse with which they participate in a computer-based quiz.” You can read more about the model here.
Rural areas are grossly untapped in banking. Given that the mobile phone is ubiquitous, using technology could bring millions of Indians into the fold of financial institutions. Considering that the costs of setting up banking facilities are high, technology can come to the rescue.
One example is ICICI Bank’s mobile banking app for rural customers called “Mera iMobile”. This app brings a mind-boggling 135 services to rural India at the click of a button, so to speak. The app is available in 11 different languages, and this will help enable penetration in more rural areas. It can even work with low-speed internet connectivity, a common phenomenon in rural areas.