Law and Business

Summary of my PhD research - Tamara Ginige

Profile image of Tamara Ginige

In the Sri Lankan economy, agriculture is one of the important sectors and approximately 33% of the total labour force is engaged in agriculture. Farming rice, vegetables or other crops are the most important activities for the majority of people living in rural areas of Sri Lanka. There are six stages of a farming cycle and different information needs depending on the crop cycle. Farmers often make wrong decisions due to the lack of access to current and relevant information. For example, during the deciding stage, farmers often choose to grow the same crop within a region, and this could cause a potential over supply of crops.

In Aug 2011, an international research team from four continents (Australia, Sri Lanka, Italy and USA) embarked upon a project to develop a Mobile Based Information System (MBIS) for farmers in Sri Lanka. The aim was to find a solution to over-supply productions problems in vegetables. The scope of my PhD research in this larger project is “How to design Mobile Based Information Systems to empower Sri Lankan farmers”. Mobile phone penetration in Sri Lanka is high, but there are no suitable agricultural mobile applications for farmers to use.

Last April, we deployed the MBIS application with the farmers and, in September, collected the data to evaluate the impact of the application on their livelihood. This evaluation provided promising results. Together with some senior members of the Coordinating Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (COSTI) in Sri Lanka, our research team submitted a proposal to use the developed technology to improve the food security of the country. On November 20 2015, when presenting the National Budget for 2016, the Finance Minister of Sri Lanka announced that our proposal will become part of the national strategy and will be supported.

This success is also due to the special attributes of the research team who shared their expertise and knowledge towards a worthy cause on humanitarian grounds. In the absence of any formal funding resources, we developed the technology during a 4-year period with existing resources and open source software. This research has produced 3 full time PhDs (2 submitted already, 1 is in the final stage of writing), and 1 part-time PhD (this is mine, in its final year). We have carried out 5 field trails in Sri Lanka during last 4 years.

It is a great honor that our research has been recognized in this way, not least since we feel that it can make a real difference to 4 million farmers who work under very challenging conditions each farming session.

Tamara Ginige
Lecturer, Computing and Technology (Sydney)
BScEng (Moratuwa University, Sri Lanka)
Grad CertHEd (UTS, Australia)
MEng (UTS, Australia)