Integrated service platform of information and communication technology (ICT) application in rural areas of Shandong province

Abstract: The paper introduces an integrated service platform of information and communication technology (ICT) application in rural areas of Shandong province. The 12396-hotline service and the program of “12396, Voice of the Green” jointly with the rural channel of the Shandong Broadcast and TV Station have been described. Since farmers are the targeted customers, their needs are the main tasks of ICT research and development. It also refers to future development of the integrated systems and more effective services. Background The Integrated Service Platform of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Application in Rural Areas and Agriculture of Shandong (hereafter as “the Platform”) has been the foundation and key of the provincial government’s effort to be the leader in developing ICT in agriculture and rural areas. It’s a critical part of the work of Science and Technology Information Institute, Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences. The Platform has been upgraded, such as the 12396-hotline service, the live broadcast for farmers, the remote video system, the mobile phone service, the official website (http://www.qlsn.cn/), the large-screen presentation system, and the network system. The operation of the Platform has been redesigned and improved; the Platform has been elevated to a higher level. On Nov.27th, 2013, Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, the President of the People's Republic of China visited the Platform in person. Xi’s visit brought us much pride and encouragement. We will continue our efforts of improving the service systems and operations and aim to provide comprehensive information service for the solution of ‘three rural issues’, which are agriculture, rural areas and farmers, especially farmers at basic levels. We will provide customized service for farmers at basic levels regardless of the time, location or the terminal they use. In this way, we can really contribute to the development of agriculture, rural areas and farmers, help farmers to get rich by ICT application and realize the prospect of “experts joining farmers in farming”. Since last year, our work in developing the Platform has been focused on the following two aspects and progress has been made. One is the on-the-job training for information workers at grassroots service sites; the other is the improvement of the 12396-hotline service system. 1. On-the-job training for information staff at basic level 1.1 Establishment of demonstration bases In order to bring the provincial-level integrated service platform into full play, we’ve established information service sites at village level, introduced high-tech equipment such as computers, offered remote video service, and organized experts to provide long-distance training sessions and diagnoses through the remote video system. We have established demonstration bases of ICT application in agriculture and rural areas in prefectural cities, such as Liaocheng, Linyi and Binzhou, as well as in municipal cities, such as Yucheng and Zhanhua. We have delivered frequent guidance at these demonstration bases, provided on-the-job training for information workers there and actively participated in their activities. 1.2 On-the-job training for information staff We have organized experts at all levels and information staff at basic level all around the province to provide science and technology trainings and information service for entities related to ‘three rural issues’, which are combined with the implementation of the goal of being a leader in ICT application in agriculture and rural areas and bringing the integrated service platform into full play. We have followed the directives of the superior departments and provided over 20 training sessions in cities such as Zibo, Linyi, Jining, Yongfang, which covered more than 1,000 technical personnel. Information workers that received trainings have mastered basic computer skills, learned how to collect and report information, operate and manage the service site. They can consult with the experts directly through remote video about problems farmers faced with in farming practice so that farmers will develop the awareness of applying science in planting and breeding gradually as information workers provide IT support for farmers. 2 Improvement of the 12396-hotline service The non-profit 12396-hotline service offers information of ICT application in agriculture and rural areas to people all over China, which is established by the Science and Technology Bureau and Industry and Informatization. The 12396-hotline service branch in Shandong is supported by a group of about 100 agricultural experts. Based on the farmers’ demand for information and application of science and technology, those experts provide all-around service to solve problems farmers faced with in farming and advise the policymakers. 2.1 Various servcies (1) Telephone counseling service Calling 12396, dial “0”, you can consult with the agricultural experts directly. (2) Two-way video consultation With a camera and the network, you can video chat with the expert. And you can put the problematic crop under the camera so the expert will help you to solve the problem. Any smartphone will do. (3) Online consultation You can post your question on the column of “online consulting” of the official website. As soon as the experts see your question, they will post their answer for your reference. 2.2 Improvement of integrated information service platform With the investment and engagement of Shandong Unicom Corporation and other telecom carriers, we’ve established the “12396” voice call system last year. It can receive 64 concurrent calls. And it offers operator service, and the services of automatic answer, automatic call forwarding, multiparty calls, and analysis of incoming calls. It can be acceded through SMS, the webpage view or the video. At present, the 12396-hotline service receives over 100 calls on a daily basis. By meeting clients’ needs, it has become a service brand, prompted the communications and exchanges between farmers and experts, farmers and the market, farmers and the government, and elevated the service level of application of ICT in agriculture and rural areas in an all-round way. 2. 3 Construction of the studio for “12396, Voice of the Green” Closely following the guidance of being a leader in ICT application in agriculture and rural areas, we’ve established the provincial integrated information service platform, the 12396-hotline service, and the program of “12396, Voice of the Green” jointly with the rural channel of the Shandong Broadcast and TV Station. We’ve changed the traditional approach of one-to-one telephone conversation between an expert and a farmer. As the news media broadcast our program live, agricultural experts’ suggestions and solutions are spread to thousands of households. Thus now it’s the one-to-many service. Currently, the dual-band coverage has reached every corner of Shandong and even the neighboring provinces. People can listen to the radio and watch our program on the TV at the same time. Every Monday, people can dial 12396 at noon to consult with our experts. 60 programs have been broadcast so far. Meanwhile, the exchanges and communications between farmers and experts, farmers and the market and farmers and the governments are entering a new stage with the advancement of social networks, such as Blog, Weixin, and QQ groups. The newly completed studio has achieved the broadcast-video standards in both outcome and scale. On Mar.24, 2014, the Shandong Broadcast and TV Station, the Shandong Internet TV Station and the Qilu Website broadcast the “12396, Voice of the Green” for the first time at our institute. The sound effects were good, and the cameras switched unnoticeably and successfully among the host, the experts and the instructor. The listeners barely noticed that the location of the studio was changed. Thus we were quite excited that we “moved the studio of the provincial radio and TV station into our own office”. 3 Future development The integrated service platform of ICT application in agriculture and rural areas of Shandong is moving towards the cloud service. Specifically, we will establish an information service platform at every village, a comprehensive information service application system including all basic-level agricultural institutions and agriculture-related enterprises; focus on the accurate search and query of agriculture-related information, the precise subscription of information and targeted information push. With the multiple channels and terminals, such as the Internet, the smart phone, SMS, MMS, the call center, and the cable TV, customers can receive customized information service timely, conveniently and accurately. The development of the integrated service platform of ICT application in agriculture and rural areas of Shandong still remains a daunting task. We have been making progress each year but we also clearly realize that we still have unresolved problems. Institutional problems are mostly pronounced for we have not integrated all our resources well so far. As farmers are our targeted customers, their differentiated conceptions due to different scientific, cultural and economic levels have subdued the effectiveness of the Platform. Moreover, specialized funds are insufficient in this constructive work. However, we will improve our thinking and work methods, overcome all problems and speed up our efforts so as to make due contribution to being a leader in ICT application in agriculture and rural areas.