The government of India will launch an SMS portal, the Kisaan SMS Portal, for farmers on www.farmer.gov.in tomorrow (July 16, 2013). The portal will allow sending information, advisories and services through SMS to more than 12 crore farmers across the country.

The government will group farmers based on their location and their preferred crop/activity. These farmers will receive timely updates  in their local language from officers of various departments, experts, and scientists in research institution and in field.

To use the service, farmers need to register by calling Kisaan Call Center on the toll free number 1800-180-1551 or through the web portal. Farmers will also be able to opt for SMSes customized to their specific requirements. It’s not clear whether the service is free of cost for farmers or it’s a subscription based service.

The government says that the SMS sent to farmers will include information on crop production & marketing, animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, weather conditions, advisories on disease/pest outbreak, advisories on best practices, among others.

The Kisaan SMS Portal competes with Behtar Zindagi, a mobile based service launched by Bharti Airtel which leverages interactive voice response (IVR) to communicate information such as weather updates, mandi rates, live stocks, agriculture, fisheries, health, education and finance. IMI Mobile also has a competing voice based rural information service called Cell Shakti. Previously, Tata communications offered its subscribers Nano Ganesh, a product which allows farmers to use mobile phones to remotely monitor and switch on irrigation pumps used for watering crops in remote locations. TCS has also developed MKrishi, a mobile based service delivery platform that aimed to provide farmers with information on their produce, weather, rainfall, etc., via IVR based system and GPRS handsets.

Nokia also has Nokia Life Tools service that provides an agriculture pack providing information on horticulture, dairy farming,  fisheries, among others. In September 2013, the company had launched Nokia Life+ an Internet based Nokia Life tools service. Intuit has deployed a pilot project called Fasal, which is a free SMS based platform offering real time price information to farmers about their crops. Thomson Reuters group also runs Reuters Market Light (RML), a mobile based information service for farmers.

***

All India Radio (AIR) news is planning to send news updates via SMS  to registered users across the country, reports The Hindu. The publication reports that every SMS will have 3 to 4 news headlines along with an advertisement. The news update will occupy 100 characters in an SMS while the advertisement will occupy 160 characters.

Currently, AIR is finalizing the firm to maintain the registered user database. It’s unclear how one can subscribe to the SMS service, however, the publication hints that one can register themselves through an Internet-based application, which is ridiculous on multiple levels.

If anyone has Internet connection on their devices, why would they opt for an SMS based news update instead of downloading AIR’s news app? In March 2013, AIR had launched an application on Android which is available for download from the Google Play Store. The app provided national and regional news from Prasar Bharati, and regional news bulletins in audio forms.

AIR has already received permission from TRAI to send bulk news messages under transactional messages category. Note that in May 2013, TRAI had hiked the SMS termination charges to 5 paise per SMS on each transactional SMS on operators from whom the SMS originates, indicating that the AIR’s SMS based news service might cost more after the hike.