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News : Agriculture Call Centre to Open Next Month
March 29, 2014 -- The government is going to introduce a free 'agriculture call centre' from next month under public-private partnership (PPP), officials said.
Officials also said the farmers' help line will be the first of its kind, benefitting nearly 20 million farmers across Bangladesh.
Farmers will get agricultural information and suggestions free of cost by dialing a short code from mobile phone.
"The Agriculture Information Service (AIS) under the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) will operate the 'agriculture call centre' jointly with the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), Practical Action (NGO) and mobile-phone operators Teletalk, Banglalink, Grameenphone, Robi, CityCell and Airtel, a DAE official said.
However, the mobile operators are taking part in the project as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR).
The official said, a consultation meeting was held on March 20 last with different stakeholders including farmers, their representatives and agricultural officials where different aspects of the upcoming service were discussed.
The Agriculture Secretary, the Fisheries and Livestock Secretary, key officials of the DAE, the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC), the BTRC, mobile phone companies, teachers and students from agricultural universities attended the consultation workshop, he said.
Initially, 10 trained call centre executives, who are agriculture graduates, will answer the farmers' queries by using a database, Mohammad Maroof Masum, agriculture information and communication specialist of the AIS told the FE.
There will be also an expert panel consisting of 10 agriculture experts who will assist the call centre executives if any complex query comes up, he said.
He informed that the AIS has already completed the test run of the service successfully.
"We already got a short code number from the BTRC on February 4," he said.
The helpline will be launched next month from where the farmers will receive necessary information related to farming and agriculture by making phone calls, he said.
All the mobile operators will offer toll-free calls to the short code number as per the BTRC directive, he added.
When contacted, Director General of the DAE Md Abu Hanif Mian told the FE: "We have been working to launch the call centre to help 20 million farmers with agricultural information".
The country's farmers can also share their knowledge through the helpline which will further enrich the database, he said.
He expressed his optimism that cropping intensity could be increased through the proper use of the helpline.
Farmers with any issues or queries related to agriculture, fisheries and livestock can get suggestions and information by contacting the helpline, according to the AIS.
The DAE has already made a database of possible queries of farmers after collecting more than 2,500 questions, AIS officials said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, March 31, 2014