The Punjab government will begin the distribution of 110,000 smartphones to farmers across Punjab today. Each smartphone will cost Rs. 500 for a tenant/landless farmer and Rs. 1000 for a landowner. As part of the Khadim-e-Punjab Kissan Program, the initiative will help modernize agriculture at an individual level. The program is part of a larger initiative announced in 2016 by the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), in conjunction with Telenor Pakistan, that will provide five million smartphones to individual farmers.
The smartphones will be equipped with a custom applications and services in Urdu that give information on subsidies of agricultural inputs, commodity market prices and the latest research pertaining to their crops. Basic information such as the weather, introduction of new pesticides and the presence of weeds will also be provided. Farmers will also be able to apply for agricultural loans and circumvent the bank agent and ‘patwari’, thereby decreasing the chances of embezzlement, fraud and corruption at a basic level. The smartphones will come with 1GB of free 3G/4G data per month, which is more than enough for fetching information from apps and sending messages online through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
The rollout of smartphones was supposed to begin by October of 2016 according to the PITB website and contemporary news reports, yet Dr. Umar Saif, Chairman PITB, also mentioned the possibility of delays.
The PITB hopes these smartphones equipped with a ‘Cognitive System’ will advance the livelihood of farmers in the province, a phenomenon that may eventually spread throughout the country, making a positive impact on the economy as a whole.