Leading Dialog’s digital inclusion strategy is Govi Mithuru (Farmer’s Friend or Uzhavar Thozhan), which was launched in October 2015, with a vision to help smallholder farmers to “secure crop and family health” at the grassroot level. This was achieved by sharing agricultural advice for each stage of the farming cycle from land preparation to post-harvest support. Users receive regular customised voice recordings regarding changes on their farms based on their location, covering aspects such as seed selection, pest and disease control, home gardening and improving family nutrition.
This service was initiated as a result of a partnership between the GSMA and Dialog, working with the Department of Agriculture, Ministries of Agriculture and Health of the Government of Sri Lanka, facilitated CABI South Asia, supported by human-cantered design expertise and funded by DFID, the UK’s international development agency. The project is part of the mAgri Challenge Fund, an initiative by the GSMA targeting improved livelihoods of small holder farmers in African and South Asian countries using mobile services. Dialog is among the six operators worldwide who successfully completed the application process to win the challenge fund from among all mobile network operators in the 13 countries who were eligible for the programme.
The unique feature of this product is that the information provided to farmers are customized per the farmer’s need (customized by stage of cultivation, location, irrigation type, seed type and other relevant information). Registered farmers receive around 4 to 5 Calls every week with timely information regarding land preparation, sowing, fertilizer management and pest control as well as information on family nutrition and healthy living. The service was launched in October 2015 with paddy and currently features 20 crops with 2 more that were added by the first quarter of the year 2019. As of the end of 2019, the Govi Mithuru initiative had 650,000 registered users, boasting a wide range of indirect economic impacts that benefit subscribers and the country’s agricultural community.
Farmers can register to the service by simply dialling the short code 616 on Dialog Sri Lanka’s network and following the instructions or through Govi Mithuru agents trained to provide awareness to farmers and help register for the service. Farmers are charged Rs 1+tax per day per crop for daily calls and unlimited access to the 616 Interactive Voice Response service.