Informatics Dvision - M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation

The M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) – a non-profit research organization, has been setting up and managing the Village Resource Centres (VRCs) and Village Knowledge Centres (VKCs) since 1992. These VRCs and VKCs mainly provide need-based locale-specific, demand-driven information content (both dynamic and static) based on the collection of several secondary data and a well-planned need assessment. The centres also periodically organise appropriate training and awareness programmes and establish linkages with several leading institutions/organisations for translating the content into field-based applications.

In 2003, the VRC and VKC programmes were further strengthened by the creation of the Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy (NVA) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)-VRC programme. These programmes involve collaboration with several international and national partners for the development of content and capacity to embark on sustainable rural development.

Communication Tools

At present, the VRCs and VKCs are using a number of communication tools such as notice boards, flash cards, CDs, GSM/Wired/Wireless based Public Address System, Community Radios, Mobiles – text based menu, icon based menu, audio and SMS, VSAT based video conferencing, Fixed Wireless Group Audio Conferencing, Mobile vans, etc.

MSSRF has expertise in setting up several other dissemination modes such as electronic notice boards with GSM, GSM/Wired/Wireless based Public Address System, mobiles, community newspaper, Fixed Wireless Group Audio Conferencing within selected rural communities.

Present Programmes

At present, the programmes of the VRCs and VKCs are quite dynamic in the districts of Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Pudukkottai, Dindigul, Ramanathapuram and Nagercoil in Tamilnadu (since 2004), Puducherry and Karaikal in the Union Territory of Puducherry (since 1998), Wardha, Yavatmal, Amaravati and Washim in Maharashtra (since 2007).

Fisheries Advisories through Mobile

Since 2007, the coastal VRCs of Tamilnadu and Puducherry, are providing advisories essential for the safety and livelihood security to fisher folk related advisories in the local language through mobile with the support of QUALCOMM, Tata Teleserivces and Asture Systems. The information is provided in “Tamil” and it is menu based. The advisories encompass a wide range of issues such as sea wave height, weather, wind speed and direction, potential fishing zone, tsunami and cyclone warnings, Government Schemes, details of different training programmes, important telephone numbers, etc. For this application, the telecom platform is CDMA and programme platform is “BREW”.

Agricultural Advisories through Mobile

MSSRF is also disseminating agricultural and animal husbandry advisories through IKSL (IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited) – AirTel “GREEN SIM CARD” to approximately 1,80,000 subscribers of Tamilnadu and Puducherry. These subscribers have been divided into 5 clusters based on cropping pattern and agro-ecological zone. Under this programme, VRCs are disseminating 5 audio advisories on daily basis for each cluster (two related to agriculture; one is related to health; one is related to animal husbandry and one is related to government schemes). For the follow up, MSSRF is also having help line, to provide necessary clarifications and advisories to the subscribers queries, conducting phone-in-programme in different thematic areas on weekly basis, conducting quiz programmes, getting feed back on regular basis from at least 10 subscribers and conducting video conferencing programmes involving subscribers and experts.

With the generous support of NABARD, a few VRCs are sending two audio advisories daily to the NABARD Farmers Club Members based on the need based crop specific information. This also includes Help line, Phone-in-Programme and district level meetings.

Knowledge on Wheels

In August 2007, the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation initiated Mobile Soil and Water Testing Laboratory under the title, “Knowledge on Wheels”. The above mobile laboratory has facilities for testing various physical and chemical characteristics of the soil as also the quality of the irrigation water.

It provides advisories on soil fertility management to the farmers particularly on how to improve the soil nutrients by analyzing the chemical composition of the soil in terms of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, micro-nutrients, Residual Sodium Chloride (RSC) and Sodium Adsorption Ratio (SAR), etc. The mobile laboratory has pH meter, colorimeter, flame photometer, atomic absorption spectrometer, magnetic stirrer, electrical weighing machine, Oxygen cylinder, glasswares and other requisite instruments and gadgets. This laboratory is helping to test the different soil parameters such as pH of the soil and the irrigation water, electrical conductivity of the soil and the irrigation water, soil organic carbon, available phosphorus (Olsen method for neutral and alkali soils and brine method for acid soils), available potassium and available micro-nutrients (zinc, manganese, iron, copper, magnesium and calcium). This van has also computers, LCD projector, solar backup and generator. In addition it has a few video documentaries and audio documents related to Soil Nutrient Management, Crop Cultivation Practices, Integrated Pest Management, Post Harvest Technologies, etc.

ICT-based curricula

Apart from these services the VRCs/VKCs are looking into ICT-based curricula such as Microsoft Unlimited Potential Programme (MUPP),which consists of Computer Fundamentals, Digital Media Fundamentals, Internet and World Wide Fundamentals, Web Design Fundamentals, Word Processing Fundamentals, Presentation Fundamentals, Database Fundamentals and Spreadsheet Fundamentals. Computer Aided Learning Programme (CALP) and Intel Learn Programme (ILP) are the other two ICT-based curricula offered by the VRCs and VKCs. The target audiences for these ICT-based curricula are SHG members, women and men from farming and fishing community, unemployed youth, school teachers, employers from different organisations and school children.

Rural Fellowship

Rural women and men are rich in traditional knowledge and wisdom derived from experience of working with nature and natural resources. If rural transformation is to take place, the contributions of these grassroots academicians are essential since they know the problems of rural communities and also the solutions. It will be important to identify and select suitable rural women and men who have shown leadership qualities, so that they would become role models in their respective villages. In this background, since 2005, Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy (NVA), M S Swaminathan Research Foundation has been awarding the fellowship to the grassroots primer movers. This Fellowship does not contain any monetary benefits and it is in recognition of the SOCIAL COMMITMENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL TO ‘PUBLIC GOOD’.

Based on this concept, 1449 NVA Fellows (M:892; F:557) have been selected from 21 States and One Union Territory (Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkand, Bihar and West Bengal). NVA has also selected 31 International Fellows from Afghanistan, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Philippines, Nepal, Kenya, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.

Nationwide Multi-Stakeholder Network

Based on MSSRF’s ICT-enabled development activities, MSSRF initiated a network called “Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Centre” in 2003. In 2007, this network was renamed as “Grameen Gyan Abhiyan – Rural Knowledge Centre Movement”. This network makes several policy recommendations to take the ICT-benefits to the entire rural India in a consortium mode.