The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
PT Microsoft Indonesia, the local unit of U.S. software giant Microsoft Corp., will provide online services and IT training to 64,800 farmers in 15 provinces over the next two years.
As part of the plan, Microsoft donated US$937,700 to the ASEAN Foundation and Formasi Indonesia, a local NGO, on Tuesday to fund the establishment of 100 community-learning centers (CTC) by the end of September.
"According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), farmers account for 45 million people. If we can provide them with access to IT, the positive effects on the whole community will be significant," said Microsoft president director Tony Chen.
The CTCs are expected to not only facilitate the provision of training to the 64,800 targeted farmers, but also to provide Internet access to 220,000 people, and introduce IT to three million rural dwellers.
Fifty-eight of the new CTCs will be built in six provinces in Java, including Jakarta, Banten and West Java, while 42 others will be established in nine provinces outside Java, including North Sumatra, Lampung and Bali.
Chen said the effects would include an increase in farmers' incomes and a decrease in unemployment and migration to the big cities.
"By being given access to IT and being taught how to use it, farmers will be able to develop their businesses, better market their products, expand their markets and obtain all sorts of agricultural information."
The 100 new CTCs come on top of the 30 CTCs that Microsoft has already established in 12 provinces since 2003. By the end of last year, it had donated $1.6 million in cash and software worth $3 million under its "IT-for-Farmers" scheme.
"Young farmers showed great enthusiasm about technology during the previous program," Chen said.
Besides teaming up with the ASEAN Foundation and Formasi, a networking organization concerned with the interests of farmers and small enterprises, Microsoft has also been working with the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), which helped design the IT-for-Farmers program.
The IT penetration rate in Indonesia, according to Chen, is very low. There are currently only six million PCs for Indonesia's 240 million people, meaning that the penetration rate is only 2.4 percent. Internet penetration is somewhat better at close to 10 percent.