Government ICT Models in Rural Areas

The Chinese government has formulated policies and tried several approaches in delivering information services to rural areas for agricultural and rural economy development. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Information Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture had researched the approaches that produced important achievements. Below are the three successful information service models derived from the analysis.

1. Service Station Model

The service station model refers to an information service center that is government driven and provides information on a wide range of topics - everything that is considered locally relevant. Accordingly, the support of the government is critical, and human resources of related departments here are integrated to maximize the advantages of resources as well. In addition, service stations are located in rural areas close to farmers and convenient to farmers seeking assistance, so the network links government offices at three levels - county, township and village:
county level station relies on agricultural departments for funding, content development and management.
township level station is set up with the support of the township rural economic management, agricultural and technological extension and cultural service centres.
village level station is established in villages where the production of a specific agricultural product or a group of products has reached a certain scale following with strong demand for information. Furthermore, the village “spots”, or mini stations, rely on the village committee and large farmer households of crop farming, animal raising and business operations for staff. As well, specialized farmer associations and dragonhead enterprises f agricultural industrialization and other intermediate organizations and businesses that can provide services to farmers also contribute to the village spots.
Since township and village service stations and spots are widely distributed in rural areas, they resolve the problem of the "last mile of connectivity" of information by providing service to farmers through multiple approaches.
The typical users of the service station model tend to be producers and agro-business operators of agricultural products from the local community.
Service Offered
With its three-level information service network, the service station model has more advantages than the other two models (such as the county information center updates and the information collecting tasks carried out by specialized agencies). Essentially the service station model has a large network that can be directly commanded by government so its reach in terms of gathering information is wider. However, the service station model usually provides only advisory information services while the content involves various agricultural production technologies, market detail, demand and supply of products and policy information.


2. Farmers' Home Model

Government backing in the form of policy support and funding is the first needed step in setting up a farmers' home. A farmers' home is located in an area with a large number of people passing by and easy transportation access, preferably close to a parking area.
As in the service station model, here also the human resources of different fields is consolidated. This type of one-stop open facility integrating agro-technological consultation, information service and business operations provides great convenience to farmers. Therefore, farmers' station model has become a popular resource for information and is a practical and easily applicable model for many rural areas in China.
The farmers' home model has the relatively broader reach to users, which includes local farmers, enterprises and specialized farmer associations as well as producers and agro-business operators outside the area. In other words, the service of the farmers' home has no geographic limitation.
Service Offered
At the farmers' home, farmers can get advisory information on agricultural production and management and purchase agro- production materials as well. While shopping for their farming needs, farmers can at the same time speak with sales representatives for the correct application methods of their purchases or any other product. Relevant technical materials are also distributed to farmers for free at the counters. When farmers have technical questions or want to know market information about certain agricultural products, they can turn to the consultation desk for assistance.


3. Association Model

This model works in counties where there is one major produce.
Because of similar interests, the farmers could form a specialized association on a voluntary basis. There must be volunteer who is enthusiastic about providing services to others.
The association offers its member’s information about their common interest but still the information can cover a wide range of technical, market, and policy issues. As the association must operate as a business, an understanding of business management is crucial among at least a few
of the organizing farmers.