China will encourage companies to develop inexpensive information technologies to cater to the needs of farmers, said an official of the Ministry of Information Industry on Monday.
The official, who is in charge of information industry developments in rural areas, said that the country will help manufacturers to produce cheap electronic products especially designed for farmers, such as US$30 mobile phone and US$100 computer.
Since the penetration rate of the Internet is relatively low in China's rural areas and phones are still beyond the reach of many farmers, the lack of communication to the outside world has been a stumbling block; to improve their lives and to develop the economy, said the official.
More government funds will be channeled into the information industry infrastructure in rural areas and manufacturers will be encouraged to develop products for farmers, bringing update information to their homes, the official said.
The mobile penetration rate of the undeveloped regions is between 10 and 15 percent, compared with 29 percent nationwide. The penetration rate of major cities is over 80 percent and is "close to the saturation point," according to the information industry consulting company Analysys.
China Unicom launched entry-level phones last year to compete with its rival China Mobile in the rural market, with its black-and-white- screened mobile selling for 500 yuan (US$63), half of the price of mainstream phones in domestic markets.
China now has 940 million farmers with average annual incomes of 3,255 yuan (US$406) in 2005, according to a report released by the Information Office of the State Council this February.
(Shanghai Daily April 19, 2006)