The gap between India's rich and poor is growing. With 70 per cent of poor people living in rural areas — and government spending on rural infrastructure steadily declining — the urban-rural divide is only set to increase.
To combat this, M. S. Swaminathan, famed for introducing new varieties of high-yield rice to India in the 1960s and 70s, is promoting information and communication technology (ICT) to put important information directly into rural farmers' hands.
He believes that researchers have a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that their knowledge makes it to the people who need it most. The disconnect between farmers and researchers can be overcome by bringing Internet and telecommunications to rural villages, he argues.
Swaminathan's research foundation aims to set up at least one village telecom kiosk for every six villages. Farmers will be able to go to the kiosks for information about livestock management and crop diseases.
One of the keys to this scheme is training villagers to become advocates for ICT in their communities. Many past ICT projects have failed in India, largely because they failed to listen to the villagers themselves.