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New ICTs for Rural Areas

Chile’s extended, mountainous geography results in vast agricultural areas that until recently have had little access to communications technology. Today Chilean Agriculture Minister Marigen Hornkohl announced a new USD$4.5 million program that will allow rural producers to connect to Internet, receive text messages via cellular phones, and access a variety of on-line services pertinent to their sector.

“The incorporation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the productive systems is a determining factor in the development of Chile’s agricultural sector, and ICTs for rural areas is a priority,” Hornkohl said, adding that the initiative “seeks to strengthen the small and micro companies, which are responsible for 80% of the country’s labor force.”

The Rural Connectivity and Information Services Program includes the installation of six pilot programs for Local Level Rural Wireless Networks in the Valparaíso and O’Higgins Regions. These will provide broad band internet to rural areas and will particularly benefit areas that produce table grapes, wine, corn, berries, and other fruits.

An Information Services Platform called I+D+i (Research+Development+innovation) is available at www.innovacionagraria.cl, integrates specialized data bases with market, legislative, technical, productive, and meteorological information and will also participate in the Agro-climatic Information System with 114 automatic stations to register temperature, relative humidity, and precipitation primarily in sectors dedicated to fruit production. By the end of the year, the pilot program, which benefits 8,000 producers, will also include a web site that joins virtual rural communities in productive chains such as wine, berries, honey, and corn.

Digital training is a key element of the program and as such, two pilot schools have been established in Valparaíso and the Araucanía to teach small farmers to effectively use the new system.

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