Farmer¿s friend on the web

BY ranjan| IN Digital Media | 06/10/2006
aAqua is a platform where farmers post their questions and get appropriate answers from experts within 24 to 48 hours.

Ranjan Srivastava 

Have you ever thought about an Indian farmer being helped through the Internet? It is happening. IIT Mumbai,  KVK Baramati and Vigyan Ashram have developed a website that is helping Indian farmers to solve their problems. This is aAqua( a 24X7 friend of Indian farmers.  

aAqua is a platform where farmers post their questions and get appropriate answers from experts within 24 to 48 hours. It is a multilingual online question and answer forum, which provides online answers to questions asked by farmers and agri-professionals over the Internet. Started in Pune district(Maharashtra) in December 2003, it receives questions from all over the country.  The aAqua service is available in English, Hindi and Marathi. It is a unique platform where a farmer and agri-professional can get answer to almost every question - from agriculture to husbandry, market prices to government policies.          

Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is available in local languages and is free for all. One can visit the site, register and ask questions. These questions reach the related expert and the farmer gets answer in 24 to 48 hours. aAqua has created an archive, where all answers get accumulated and anyone can search them. Till now, aAqua has answered more than 6000 questions. 

Another important feature of this service is its fast speed and availability in remote areas, where internet connections are very slow. It has created topic-wise forums.  aAqua is designed in a way that it can run smoothly at the slowest speed of 10kbps. The site is mostly text based and has been tested on connections of 10 kilobits per second. Experts and users can also attach photos if it helps illustrate their question. One can even use a post to advertise his business by putting his details and photos on the forum. aAqua moderators and administrators always keep eye on the quality and time factor.  

It has opened many kiosks, where operators help farmers to ask their questions. The charges are very low at 5-10 rupees. If one is not satisfied with the answers, aAqua provides him details of experts and farmers, so that he can contact and meet them to solve his problem. aAQUA users have grown so far by word of mouth publicity including articles in regional newspapers written by some of its users. Till date it has 2361 members.  

If you visit the site  you will be surprised to see the variety and range of questions posted there. Someone is asking about his sick cow, another has a problem with his cashew plant, another one wants help regarding a land dispute, and another wants to know about govt. schemes for Jatropha plantation.   

aAQUA acts as a two-way conduit between layman and expert. It has successfully completed three years and is now developing its services. Many new services are planned, including crop diagnosis via images, crop recommendations, translated Q&A, an  aAQUA keyword browser and  an  aAQUA experts¿ search assistant.


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