2009-12-22 14:13:51

Sri Lanka’s flagship telecommunications service provider, Dialog Telekom, together with Govi Gnana Seva (GGS) launched a service to deliver spot and forward agricultural commodity price information via mobile phones.

The service is based on Dialog’s TradeNet platform – and derives on-line agri-produce price information from three Dedicated Economic Centres at Dambulla, Meegoda and Narahenpita. These three markets are just the first step in this programme, with more sites and sectors identified to be added in the future. GGS has hitherto played the lead role in collecting and disseminating spot prices of agricultural produce at the Dambulla Dedicated Economic Centre operated under the aegis of the Ministry of Trade, Marketing Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs. In partnership with Dialog’s TradeNet platform this benchmark price information will now be available to farmers scattered around the island.

Dialog Tradenet is a repository for national-level market information built on a suite of digital technologies. TradeNet encompasses the collation, comparison, qualification and subsequent dissemination of trade enablement information to large numbers of stakeholders minimising information arbitrage. The service is immediately available to Dialog’s 6 million-plus subscriber base from across all nine provinces of Sri Lanka. Affordable and inclusive access price information from all three economic centres is set to provide a robust information bridge providing parity empowerment to farmers, traders and consumers alike. Information on the TradeNet platform is disseminated via multiple digital communication technologies such as SMS, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) via mobile phones, web and Interactive Voice Response (IVR).

GGS is a pioneering initiative under the aegis of the eSri Lanka initiative of the Government of Sri Lanka. GGS was originally funded by the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka and subsequently by private donations. With the new partnership, Dialog Telekom will assume the primary responsibility of funding the operation with the objective of creating sustainable business models for the agricultural sector in Sri Lanka. Chronic volatility of vegetable prices due to unplanned cultivation leading to farmer poverty, demonstrated the critical importance of linking cultivation with sale, and the initiative to provide forward bids and offer prices is the first step in infusing to bridge this gap. GGS will also be supported by LIRNEasia, a regional ICT think tank and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) who will work towards improving data collection systems and expand the outreach to ensure that farmers receive accurate, timely and actionable price information thereby enabling them to make better decisions and build more successful agri-business operations.

Minister of Trade, Marketing Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs, Bandula Gunawardena, speaking at the launch said: “it brings us a great sense of pleasure and pride to be part of this pioneering endeavour that would no doubt transform the lives and future of the country’s agriculture sector. Through the partnership between Tradenet and GGS we are in effect connecting the end consumer and the major dedicated economic centres with the farmer, and we are presenting them real-time, actual information that would serve to boost trade opportunities and remove the numerous obstacles that have continued to protract their growth. Agricultural development and farmer empowerment is an integral part of our government’s national economic agenda, and we welcome this technology innovation as a key means to achieve that end.”

Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, Group Chief Executive of Dialog Telekom PLC, said: “we are proud to partner GGS in this initiative of significant importance to the Agriculture Sector in Sri Lanka. Dialog is committed to the overarching paradigm of positioning ICT in general, and the mobile phone in particular, as pervasive enablers of sustainable development, and economic and social expansion. We are confident that the Dialog TradeNet will deliver on these objectives and make a positive contribution to the lives of consumers and producers from across Sri Lanka.”

Dr Harsha de Silva, Founding Director of GGS, said “We have spent many years working towards this day as it has been our firm belief that eliminating poverty among agricultural households requires moving farmers from purely subsistence agriculture to some level of agri-business. The first step in this endeavour is to have efficient agricultural markets. The research we conducted at LIRNEasia helped us in understanding how to do this by bringing in ICTs to eliminate information asymmetries and thereby reduce transaction costs along the farmer value chain. Now this system is live, we hope to see large numbers of farmers using the actionable information to move themselves from subsistence to some form of agribusiness. Our ultimate objective is to create an inclusive yet distributed agriculture exchange that will help the millions of small farmers move out of poverty. We wish to acknowledge the support of all who have helped GGS for the last seven years and look forward to the support of others who share this vision.

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