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Live e-Guide service platform to help boost agri-business opportunities


Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization has countless challenges to Taiwan's mostly small-sized farms. In a bid to help them enhance their competitiveness, the Council of Agriculture has been encouraging those farms to cash in on the implementation of the five-day workweek that has generated a greater demand for weekend leisure activities.

Recreational Agriculture
A private bird zoo owner in Taipei City disinfects
a cage with an emu inside after city government
officials inspected his zoo yesterday. Taipei City
Zoo suggested yesterday that birds should be
given the H5N2 vaccine as a preventive measure
against avian flu./rick yi, taiwan news

"Recreational Agriculture" has become a favorite weekend leisure activity for many in Taiwan. To help farm owners and agricultural workers ride this wave, the COA started the Live e-Guide service platform to provide people with information on relaxing ways to spend their weekends. At the same time, this Web site helps farm owners and workers discover business opportunities. Since last November, this Web site has recorded 180,000 hits.

With an estimated income of NT$4.5 billion, the COA envisions Recreational Agriculture as having the win-win scenario that would help agricultural workers deal with the challenges of Taiwan's WTO membership.

Yilan the first to build stations

"City people are now in search of ways to return to nature, to breath the fresh air of the farm fields, and improve their knowledge of nature," says COA Minister Ching-lung Lee. "So we at the COA would like to integrate our agricultural and fishing industries with such a new knowledge industry."

The COA has earmarked an annual budget of NT$1 billion to build Recreational Agriculture zones and equip them with adequate facilities. There are now around 1,000 stations of the Live e-Guide service platform around Taiwan with Yilan County having the most number.

"This is very much linked to the policies promoted by the local government," says Lee, "and Yilan County was the first to establish a station for this service platform."

Compared with ordinary information service models, the Live e-Guide service platform combines the latest technology for Internet telephony and multimedia Web site services. The COA is promoting this service platform to make it convenient for everyone to obtain information on Recreational Agriculture. Information contents include dining, drinking, recreation and music. It provides a listing of places to eat, local delicacies, recreational venues, places to stay and information on how to get there.

"After the establishment of Yilan's service platform station, the COA is now working on similar stations for Miaoli, Taichung City and Tainan County," says Lee. "We are also subsidizing operators of Recreational Agricultural to help promote the Live e-Guide service platform, generate business opportunities for our farm owners and workers and give everyone complete tourism information.

Benefits await businesses

The most attractive feature of the Live e-Guide service platform is its being a free web phone service. For example, users could call up an area planning and management service center to get information on local business enterprises; if that area's tourism service center has not yet been set up, the call could easily be transferred to another that is already set up. The service platform also offers purchasing services for dining, accommodations or DIY agricultural products. You could also book train or bus tickets, chauffeur services and make emergency calls. Users could even purchase the custard apple produced by Taiwan's southernmost area of Fangliao.

"I studied in Europe and I experienced difficulty in speaking their language and adopting to their environment," says Lee. "But what impressed me most was their complete and transparent information, for example, accommodation prices were transparent; you could choose to stay in a hotel that is within your budget." In Taiwan, you sometimes run into situations where you don't know if you should stay in a hostel and you sometimes feel embarrassed to inquire about the price. The Live e-Guide service platform would rid tourists of the worries that come from not knowing how to move around in an unfamiliar area.

Production Profiling System

An Internet phone service is also another sales channel for business enterprises. "Most businesses know that such a service brings with it two kinds of benefits: cost savings because in-system calls are free, and out-system calls are cheap; secondly, most businesses now use the Internet to communicate with each other," says Lee. "They will use an Internet phone even more, and this will increase the pace and volume of the information they share."

"With the economic slowdown, businesses need to save as much as they can. A Web phone service enables businesses to do this and even helps increase their business."

The Live e-Guide service platform also enables users to obtain information regarding the Agricultural Production Profiling System. The COA promotion of the profiling of agricultural products is one of the important reasons driving the establishment of that platform.

"The Agricultural Production Profiling System demands producers to make the production path of their products available and to transform that information into digital form on the Live e-Guide service platform. This will raise the level of trust consumers have in the production of the agricultural products they buy," says Lee.

"In the future, the COA will rely on the Live e-Guide service platform to facilitate information sharing and providing. In this way, news about local activities or those organized by business enterprises could easily be spread; this will further drive the development of Recreational Agriculture."