Farmer Yang Yuliang now can use a computer to get help about rice planting from an agronomist several hundred kilometers away.
Yang came to the information service station of Siguqiao Township and asked rice expert Zhang Xiangxi about seed cultivation technology of rice over the Internet.
The information station was set up in late 2005 to tackle the problem of communications in rural areas. Statistics from the Ministry of Information Industry show that only 15 percent of the rural population have access to telephones and that 2.6 percent of them are Internet users.
"Without information, we can't know what to plant to earn more money, or how to plant and where to sell what we plant," said Yang, who lives in an upland area of east China's Jiangxi Province.
Improving communications in the countryside is regarded as a crucial way to help the rural poor become affluent and reduce the wealth divide between urban and rural areas.
So far, Jiangxi Province has set up such stations in more than 80 townships and villages and is planning to establish them in 100 more townships this year, said Sun Gang, vice governor of the province.
Though Yang has been a beneficiary of information technology in his hometown, hundreds of thousands of other farmers in outlying mountainous areas still have no access to it.
Over the next five years, China aims to make the Internet available in every administrative village in central and eastern China, and in every township in its west, according to the ministry.
The backwardness of certain rural areas is partly owned to their inability to communicate with the outside world. Improving the spread of information will greatly change that situation, said Chen Xiwen, an expert in rural studies.
By the end of 2005, 97.1 percent of the rural administrative villages will have access to telephones in China, said the ministry. It hopes that all administrative villages will have telephones in two years.
(Xinhua News Agency May 18, 2006)