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The Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) celebrated successful registration of 3.5 million users and 38 million calls from farmers and pastoralists through its 8020 hotline at the international ICT Expo. Representatives from Ethio-telecom and the Ministry of Agriculture attended the event.
(Phd), CEO of Ethio-telecom, said infrastructure must be well utilized to help the community.
“We only build the infrastructure, utilizing it is up to different governmental and nongovernmental intuitions,” he said.
“ATA is a good example of an agency which has pushed telecom to develop service and utilize technology,” he added.
Andualem said that seeing technology help people in practical ways makes people more familiar with technology.
The Agency was established to help spur agricultural growth. For the past eight years it has been reaching out to both commercial and subsistence farmers. The hotline was developed and launched by the ATA in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Resources, Ethio-telecom, and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research.
Khalid Bomba, CEO of ATA, said they are working to retain subscribers; often many join during their radio campaigns but this number declines over time so they want to do more to maintain consistency.
“Farmers are becoming more attracted to engage in their business and produce based on the market,” Eyasu Abreha (Phd), State Minister of Natural Resources, said. “ICT is making that possible.”
The interactive helpdesk feature allows smallholders to get customized information from woreda experts by calling in and leaving voice messages with questions on content not covered by the prerecorded menu options.
“The change and modernization we seek in agriculture is going to be achieved by collaborative efforts across sectors,” said Mirafe Gebriel Marcos, senior director at the ATA. “Logistics, trade and telecom are just an example”.
The Agency hired an independent organization to evaluate its impact and to proceed to the next level. After the evaluation is complete multiple uses of the hotline will be explored with other stake holders said Mirafe. He also stressed that the system has the personal information of every user which can help policy makers and other participants in agriculture to get better information.
“We have to work more on informing the farmers how to use the hotline in appropriate and more productive ways,” he added.
The hotline service, which is said to be the largest one in Africa, was used by the farmers both to resolve their problems and also to get alerts about different environmental situations from the government.