BALER, AURORA, March 11, 2006
 (MALAYA) By JOJO DE GUZMAN - Some 13,000 farmers from this capital town will soon benefit from the digital village that is being set up at a five-hectare site in Barangay Buhangin which used to house the submarine cable center of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.

The digital village, the first of its kind, will aid farmer to pre-determine weather conditions and prices of agricultural products through the use of the Internet.

Sen. Edgardo Angara told newsmen that he had allotted P20 million as initial venture capital to the digital village that will also involve the upgrading of existing facilities such as warehouse, dormitory and training center.

He said the main facility includes the setting up of very small satellite telephones (VSST), a well-known technological facility in far-flung areas where phone connections are unavailable.

"What is important is the data base where you can know what kind of weather you’ll be having in the next five days," Angara said, adding that farmers would also be able to know the prices of inputs and would no longer fall prey to the machinations of traders.

Angara disclosed that he is eyeing Samsung, the top electronics company in the world for the installation of computers in the digital village.

The idea of putting up a digital village was made after Angara’s recent visit to Bangalor, India where rural farmers were able to pre-determine the weather as well as prices of goods simply with the use of computers in a smattering of digital villages. The senator said that digital villages are also common in Brazil. Angara said that Indian experts have brought the magic of information technology to their rural farmers. "But here in the Philippines, it is only in urban areas. There should be a catalyst and I want this digital village to be the example in the rural areas," he said.

Angara observed that Filipino farmers have an excellent chance of learning based on the experience of Indian farmers who are mostly illiterate but were able to adopt to modern technology and have become rich in the process. In the Philippines, he said, the middle-class should come from the farming community.

"This is genuine empowerment of the farmers and fishermen. This is knowledge," Angara said, adding that lack of information leads to low productivity.

Angara described Bangalor as India’s version of the Silicon Valley, the center of scientific and technological innovation with hundreds of companies operating from the Stanford Industrial Park to San Jose and beyond.

He said that Silicon Valley’s symbolic beginnings date back to 1909 when Stanford University president David Starr Jordan put up the first venture capital of $500 for work on an investigation.

The center has seen important legacies in the form of the rapid growth of high-technology industries with equally significant strides in lasers, micro-processing, aerospace, office automation, high-energy physics and biotechnology.

Angara added that in the US, for decades, satellites have monitored crops conditions around the globe, helping traders predict future prices in commodities markets and enabling the government to anticipate crop shortages.

Satellite technology, which takes images at roughly eight-day intervals, can be used to monitor when a farmer plants his acreage, how he irrigates it and what crops he grows.

The technology is also being used in monitoring forest and mining industries, in water rights litigation and in prosecution of environmental cases such as a high-density hog confinement facility’s violations of waste discharge regulations to injury damage lawsuits stemming from herbicide applications.

It was learned that in Wichita, Kansas, the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency which administers credit and farm programs, also uses satellite imaging to monitor compliance with its programs.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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