Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Vietnam's rural lie beyond reach of the Internet

Most Delta farmers fall outside WWW loop

Internet users in the Mekong Delta’s Can Tho City. Farmers in the delta have very limited access to modern communications.
Despite its high potential for helping farmers, the Internet lies beyond the reach of most rural households in Vietnam’s rice basket.

Farmers and rural residents are being left behind as the knowledge-based economy surges ahead in urban Vietnam.

This is happening despite the huge potential that the Internet presents to help farmers garner information on cultivation and market conditions.

A recent study conducted in the nation’s rice basket, the Mekong Delta, found that only 2 percent of farmers in rural areas access information about crop cultivation and disease prevention from the Internet.

The Mekong Delta Development Research Institute (MDDRI) found that most farming households, almost 75 percent, get their information from television programs.

The Mekong Delta encompasses 12 provinces and a city covering nearly 40,000 square kilometers, or four million hectares. According to the latest official statistics, the region has a population of more than 18 million.

The MDDRI study found that while one in 18 Delta families has a computer; and every 86 an Internet connection, these were mostly in urban areas.

More than 29 percent of surveyed farmers said low education and economic conditions had deterred them from accessing the Net, while 37.1 percent said that, given their low incomes, they could not afford computers, installment fees, and monthly Internet-access charges.

As many as 76 percent of farmers said lack of knowledge about the Internet left them uninterested in information technology (IT).

Dr. Le Quyet Thang, head of the IT department in Can Tho University, says that in a knowledge-based economy, farmers are the most vulnerable and likely to lose out.

He notes that in Vietnam, there are diverse sources of information for farmers, but access is still limited.

The MDDRI feels state and local authorities should draft policies to encourage Internet use among farmers, including the provision of favorable loans for computer purchase, and reduced Internet fees.

Free training courses on how to use computers and navigate the Internet should also be provided.

Tran Cong Yen of the Informatics Center under the Ministry of Science and Technology says foreign languages like English are still a barrier for farmers to access IT technology.

He suggests boosting the usage of open-source software with Vietnamese interface.

Facilitating IT access

The Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) recently set up a website titled “The Vietnamese Rice Knowledge Bank” – www.caylua.vn – for farmers.

Academy head Nguyen Van Bo says data has been systemized to help farmers easily find information about cultivation, and about import and export of their products.

The site also updates the information it carries on rice cultivation and preventive measures against diseases.

In 2006, MARD helped set up two information centers with Internet connection in Binh Phuc Nhut and Thanh Binh communes in Tien Giang Province.

Each center was equipped with three PCs, one laptop, a projector and a camera, among other things.

In An Giang, Dong Thap provinces and Can Tho City, it is not unusual to come upon farmers completely wrapped up in searching information from the Internet.

Dr. Thang from the University of Can Tho says IT can clearly help farmers improve crop yields and prevent diseases.

MARD and other related agencies have previously established some websites to popularize knowledge on agricultural production and management, but most information is contained in specialized documents, making it hard for the majority of farmers to understand.

This limits their ability to absorb the knowledge and apply them in the fields.

The Mekong Delta region contributes up to 90 percent of Vietnam’s rice exports.

Farmers in the region produce 50 percent of rice and 70 percent of fruits in the nation, but it has a much lower per capita GDP than the national figure.

In 2006, per capita GDP in the delta was US$493, much lower than the nationwide figure of $729.

Source: TBKTSG

Story from Thanh Nien News
Published: 01 September, 2008, 16:39:14 (GMT+7)
Copyright Thanh Nien News