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For farmers, SMS remains king of communication


In the age of 5G internet, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) intends to use short messaging service (SMS) to send crop production advisories to farmers who mostly rely on “dumbphones” — or basic mobile phones with keypads that are incapable of running touchscreen applications.

“Lack of access to telecom infrastructures in many rural settings, resulting in poor connectivity, is a challenge in agriculture,” said Angela Jenny V. Medez, a senior market analyst at International Data Corporation (IDC) Philippines, a market intelligence provider to technology vendors and investors. This, Ms. Medez said in an Oct. 19 email, leads to reduced yields, lower profitability, and missed opportunities to digitize operations.  

PhilRice identified “digital agriculture” as a core division in the development of its 2023–2028 strategic plan, to be released this December.

“We have to interconnect [our data sets] first so we can come up with a proper, site-specific technology recommendation for our farmers,” said Arturo C. Arocena, Jr., an information systems analyst at PhilRice and the lead developer of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF)-Seed Program Information System under the Department of Agriculture.

In a summit organized by IDC earlier this month, the United Overseas Bank (UOB) (Thai) shared its digital transformation journey.

“First, you need to have a strategic foresight, which is the long-term plan to make the outcome you want — to see the landscape not only internally … but also externally,” said Kacha Chotchaisatit, senior vice president of strategy and business intelligences, channel and digitalization at UOB (Thai).

The next step, he said, is “processing what is more important in your organization.” 

“Adopt the agile method, starting small, and then learning along the way,” Mr. Chotchaisatit added. “Organizations do not need to wait for a big plan. … We started bit by bit [at UOB] as well. We adopted the agile method and then slowly transformed.”  

IDC projects that information technology (IT) spending — including hardware, software, and IT services, but excluding telecommunications and business services — in the Philippines to grow by$ 3.9 billion, or by as much as 40% from 2020 to 2025.  

One-fifth (18.7%) of Philippine respondents in an IDC survey said they will invest in technology projects that address business continuity issues exposed by the pandemic as a crisis response. A further 17.5% also said they will have projects that support new business operational requirements triggered by the pandemic as an adoptive response. 

The Philippines is investing in digital infrastructure to ensure food security amid global headwinds, Ms. Medez said: “The same entities have launched different campaigns for capacity building to improve knowledge and awareness among farmers.” 

These, she added, are needed “due to the lack or inaccessibility to continuous learning programs and models that exhibit modern farming technologies.” — Patricia B. Mirasol

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