The Diffusion and Usage of Digital Tools in the Information Environment of Small Holder Farmers

Csótó, Mihály

Keywords: information and communication technology, transaction cost, information sources, personal information space, user groups, Q10, Q12, Q16

The impact of the information society on agriculture and rural areas is indisputable. The aim of this paper is to investigate the impact of ICT innovations on agriculture, especially for small farmers: what role do these innovations play in production and in farm management and how do farmers adopt and use these technologies in the light of their existing information environment? Based on the results of the questionnaire survey it can be concluded that the general-purpose ICT use of farmers in Hajdú-Bihar county accords with the average for the Hungarian population, so the adaptation pattern of farmers for general-purpose ICT (computers, Internet, smartphones) as well as the diffusion of these technologies corresponds to the values measured for the adult Hungarian population, showing no significant diversion from those. It was also shown that farmers have different preferences in regard to using sources, based on which they can be divided into distinct categories, while the information space that results from their choices of these sources gives a clear clue to ICT adaptation. ‘Analytically-minded’ farmers practically already base their farm management activities on ICT; they actively gather information, use online transaction services and are open to using agricultural software. One quarter of farmers (‘information accumulators’) practically use ICT to the same extent as the above-mentioned group, although they are still lagging behind in regard to agricultural ICT use, mainly because of their deficiencies in ICT knowledge and self-confidence, as well as a lack of an analytical way of thinking. These factors enhance one another and result in a kind of ‘secondary agricultural digital divide’. More than one third of farmers (‘the isolated ones’) have no openness to ICT innovations, they do not adapt to these technologies whatsoever or, even if they do, they do not exploit the potential benefits inherent in them – e.g. the numerous groups of farmers who only use their mobile phones for conversations. The members of group 3 are typically closed to innovations, have little knowledge of ICT, nor do they see its benefits; consequently, ICT does not match their management style. Attention should be paid to the unique characteristics of these groups in order to communicate with them effectively and to develop and implement successful services and applications for them.