The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare has entered into an MoU with Microsoft Corporation to start a pilot project in 100 villages to create a ‘Unified Farmer Service Interface’ through its cloud computing services.
- The AgriStack is a collection of technologies and digital databases proposed by the Central Government focusing on India’s farmers and the agricultural sector.
- The digital repository will aid precise targeting of subsidies, services and policies, the officials added.
- The central government has claimed that these new databases are being built to primarily tackle issues such as poor access to credit and wastage in the agricultural supply chain.
- Alongside, the government is also developing a unified farmer service platform that will help digitise agricultural services delivery by the public and private sectors
- Under AgriStack’, the government aims to provide ‘required data sets’ of farmers’ personal information to Microsoft to develop a farmer interface for ‘smart and well-organized agriculture’.
- Under the programme, each farmer of the country will get what is being called an FID, or a farmers’ ID, linked to land records to uniquely identify them. India has 140 million operational farm-land holdings.
Issues with the move
- Agriculture has become the latest sector getting a boost of ‘techno solutionism’ by the government.
- But it has, since then, also become the latest sector to enter the whole debate about data privacy and surveillance.
- In all the MoUs, there are provisions under which the agriculture ministry will enter into a data sharing agreement with the private companies of the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Patanjali.
- Since the signing of the MoUs, several concerns related to sharing farmers’ data with private companies the major one being Microsoft whose owner Bill Gates is said to be the largest private farmland owner in the US.
- The development has raised serious concerns about information asymmetry, data privacy and consent, profiling of farmers, mismanaged land records and corporatization of agriculture.
- The formation of ‘Agristack’ also implies commercialization of agriculture extension activities as they will shift into a digital and private sphere.