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Module 3 - Russian Federation: Using Information and Communications Technology for Rural Information Services


What’s innovative? Regional agriculture and market information made available through a Web site and a computing network linking 28 regions, nearly one-third of all the regions in the Russian Federation.

In the early 1990s, when the centrally managed economy changed to a market-based economy, Russian farmers and policy makers faced serious constraints to improving agricultural production systems. These obstacles included inefficient farm structures, lack of competitive markets, and an outdated information system designed to meet the requirements of a centralized bureaucracy. Strengthening and expanding agricultural information and knowledge systems was seen as a way of addressing a wide range of linked issues.

In the past, the government used Goskomstat (State Statistical Committee) and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry statistical systems in Moscow to generate information for managing the centrally planned economy. The privatization, deregulation, and decentralization of the economy fostered the emergence of private farmers, restructured farms, and agribusiness enterprises that require new statistical and information services to improve marketing decisions, such as opportunities to adjust production and marketing in response to changes in prices, demand, and supplies of agricultural commodities and inputs.

Project Objectives and Description

The main objective of the market information development component of the Agricultural Reform Implementation Support Project was to make information and knowledge available to improve decision making by farmers, public institutions, and private enterprises. A central part of this effort was the development of a national market information system for collecting, processing, and disseminating market information on about 50 agricultural commodities and inputs. This information system would aid the agricultural sector in its transition from a centralized command economy to a market economy.

The information system was designed on the basis of pilot projects. Oblast (regional) offices collect and process information locally and from rayon (district) offices, and manage the database. A central Market Information Unit in the ministry draws information from commodity exchanges, Goskomstat, international sources, and databases at the regional level. The system consists of a Price Information Service for farmers, traders, processors, and consumers, and a Price Monitoring Service for government agencies and policy makers.

The project provided equipment, supplies, training, and technical assistance to the ministry and its departments at the regional and district levels. The ministry released the market information, initially as a public good, through television, radio, electronic, and print media, and it phased in the introduction of cost recovery through commercial information services. Between 1995 and 2000, the project established:

An initial framework for developing the rural information and knowledge system needed during Russia’s transition to a market economy.

A computing network connecting 28 regions and more that 300 districts across Russia. This network provided agriculture and market information and a Web site (http://www.aris.ru) and included sections on price information, markets, and agricultural information.

A modern press and video center in the ministry, using a variety of media to disseminate multidisciplinary material on agriculture and related topics to regions, institutions, and farm producers.

 

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