22 August 2007

ICT Adoption in Agriculture - Perspectives from EFITA 2007

The papers and presentations from the 6th EFITA Conference "Environmental and Rural Sustainability through ICT" are now available. As in previous EFITA congresses, one of the major topics discussed was ICT adoption in agriculture.

These discussions connected with the efforts of Professor Ehud Gelb and EFITA colleagues to publish an e-book (24 chapters so far) - "ICT in Agriculture: Perspectives of Technological Innovation."

The EFITA sponsored ICT Adoption questionnaire gleaned in Glasgow 56 replies from 26 countries. The replies confirmed the conference consensus that ICT Adoption remains an issue of significant concern. The specific constraint trend results were consistent with replies from the last EFITA Conference in Portugal. “Training” as a major constraint has diminished slightly in importance. “Time” was mentioned (15% of the replies), “Cost” was not considered a constraint to Adoption.

The three sessions on ICT adoption brought together an interesting mix of papers (pdf format). For example:

In Australia, "Our survey revealed that websites were the third most commonly cited category of agricultural innovation communication channel for agricultural research organisation in Australia, behind the extension network and research reports."

In the UK, "The main reason for [farmers] not using Decision Support Tools is a low perceived need born of lack of understanding of what the tools can do. There is also concern over the investment needed to learn to use them being greater than the likely benefit."

In India, "the accelerators for adoption of ICTs were comfort, time and energy saving, reasonable cost, easy to operate and ready availability in local market... The various ICTs are playing a key role in rural and agriculture sustainability and farm business."

In Ireland, "the use of the Internet by farmers reflected a view of this tool as a source of information more than a supply of products or knowledge exchange. Indeed, the key objective of the use of ICT among farmers was the access to information, to make better decision... Their interest in developing ICT as a support for exchange of information seemed less important. They were happy enough with existing ways to exchange information."

Other papers and insights are available on the EFITA web site [follow 'EFITA Congresses' from http://www.efita.net/]

Furthermore, Gelb identified four significant insights emerged during the sessions and were prominently articulated and questioned in the plenary:

a. Should ICT be a source of innovation or remain mainly a tool to improve the efficiency of what we are doing anyway (better pencil and paper)?

b. Will ICT enable the evolution of a "new" unique social rural unit (an “ICT community”) - with the remote highland isolated farms being one illustrative model of the need and benefits from such a new entity, another being a common interest group spread out over several villages.

c. Should the F2F (Farm to Fork and/or Fork to Farm) chain as a whole be accepted and considered a viable and unique unit for agricultural and rural policy considerations, the basis for strategic decision making and a rationally justified subject of study?

d. The core constraints for ICT Adoption, even if masked by local particulars, share commonalities including issues of major strategic concern for all countries.

posting based on content provided by Ehud Gelb.


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