This is a Finalist in the Government Best Practice Recognition Awards
PhilRice Text Center
Philippine Rice Research Institute
Best practice Focus Area(s)
Strategic planning and deployment, Customer and citizen focus, Knowledge management and information technology
The PhilRice Text Centre (PTC) is one of the first SMS (short messaging service) applications in agriculture in the Philippines implemented to hasten the delivery of information services to the farmers and other stakeholders. It provides daily consultation services to rice farmers around the country through call and SMS. Farm advisories, rice technology updates, and other farm insights are also regularly sent to the registered farmer-clients.
Originally launched as Farmers’ Text Center by the Open Academy for Philippine Agriculture in 2004 with 28 users, the PTC now has more than 35,000 registered clients with more than 200 queries received daily.
Background and Problem
PTC was established due to the popularity and economic cost of text messaging in the Philippines in early 2000. It was implemented to complement the existing agricultural extension services and to link farmers to experts to inform them of new rice production technologies.
Moreover, it was designed and implemented as a strategic approach to address the country’s current extension constraints. Capitalizing on SMS, it empowers individuals and groups separated by time and space to engage in a real-time, productive interaction that is beneficial for farm improvement.
Solution and Impact
A message sent to PTC costs a minimum of P1. Text messages received cover a wide range of topics, written in different local languages and dialects. When a text message gets into the software, the text agent on duty analyzes the nature of the question in terms of language, content, and keywords. Replies are sent as quickly as possible according to how the agent understands it and knows the answer. Otherwise, the agent will consult other experts (researcher or scientist) for best recommendations and options and may re-route the query to another concerned branch or station for necessary action. Sending of rice tips and promotional messages via text also keeps farmers updated about PhilRice technologies.
A database, which contains frequently asked questions and answers on rice and rice-related topics, is available for use as a reference for the text agents. New questions received were also recorded for future reference. Aside from maintaining connections with customers, processed data from documented queries serve as a feedback mechanism for researchers and managers to identify research gaps.
The lead agent looks after the whole operation. It is his main responsibility to ensure the text queries are given with the needed response within 24 hours. Since the messaging software used is centralized and accessible via the Internet, it is easier to monitor whether queries are answered correctly and quickly (Pascual, Zagado, Asis, Domingo & Maloles, 2010). PTC has provided an alternative route for extension activities with the new media at the core of its operating system, enabling rice farmers and scientists to communicate and create farm solutions (agricultural knowledge) without being constrained by the boundaries of their farms and laboratories, or any organizational structure.
Through PTC, customers are connected to PhilRice without the boundaries of time and location, receiving helpful responses and technical advice to improve rice yield and farm productivity. From merely 11 text messages a day in 2006 to 100,000 SMS queries in 2010, PTC became a reliable source of information for rice farmers. It now has more than 35,000 registered clients.
In 2015-2017, over 25,000 individuals registered in the PTC. At least 40% of them are farmers, while others were students, extension workers, and professionals, among others. PhilRice hopes to strengthen the platform and register more farmers in the coming years. Farmers can now reach the PhilRice Text Center (PTC) through 0917-111-7423.
To register, just type REG<space>NAME<space>LOCATION<space>OCCUPATION (e.g. REG JUAN DELA CRUZ LEYTE FARMER) and send to 0917-111-7423.