Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Farmers 'happier to steer clear of web-based admin'

DCU study finds alarmingly low levels of online uptake among sector as time and knowledge constraints head grower worries

Nearly 70pc of farmers reported low confidence in their ability to accurately complete farm paperwork online because of time constraints and a lack of internet practice
Nearly 70pc of farmers reported low confidence in their ability to accurately complete farm paperwork online because of time constraints and a lack of internet practice
Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Most farmers would prefer to delegate responsibility for their farming administration to an agent rather than use online services themselves, a Dublin City University study of information technology use among farmers has found.

The availability of agents to do online administration was one of 12 key factors that influenced farmers' perceptions of online farming services.

Dr Regina Connolly, from Dublin City University (DCU), found that nearly 70pc of farmers interviewed for the study reported low confidence in their ability to accurately complete farm administration tasks online because of time, seasonality of applications and lack of online practice.

Farmers regarded this in the same way that people in the wider community regard employing accountants for financial management, the report found.

The main issues influencing information technology use that emerged from a series of interviews and focus groups were the farmers' exposure to technology, broadband availability, whether he/she had time to learn how to use farming online services and farming software, the seasonality of cattle registration, and the importance of accuracy when submitting applications for schemes.

Older farmers tended to judge the usefulness of online farming services and farming software with their ease of access to, and experience of, using paper-based services.

Generally speaking, the farmer's exposure to, and experience of, using technology influenced how much he/she expected from farm software and online services websites, and how much work he/she thought it would entail.

There was also a link between exposure and training in the use of the technology and the trust that the farmer had in transmitting personal information by computer technology.


Younger farmers tended to exhibit a more positive attitude towards the usefulness of web-based technologies, such as the online farming services and farming software, and were more positive about using the internet as part of their everyday lives.

Family members are particularly influential when it comes to encouraging farmers to adopt web-based technologies, the report found, while the age range of the entire family is also important.

Farmers who have children living at home are more likely to have experience of computers and internet technology than older farmers who haven't had as much exposure either through children or peers.

Internet use in the home is strongest with those who have young children still living at home, consequently increasing the exposure of the older generation to such technology.

The study also found that the farmer's level of education influenced their trust in online farming services and farming software, and their security concerns about such material.

One of the major recurring themes in the study was the seasonal nature of using Department of Agriculture online services. Simply put, farmers were afraid they would make mistakes or take too long because they did not use the system often enough.

However, the speed of available broadband was another of the major factors in the farmers' decisions to use the technology.

Time pressures, particularly in the case of dairy and beef farmers, meant many farmers did not prioritise learning computer skills, which they did not perceive as relevant to conducting their core business, especially when this task could be delegated to either a family member or an agent.

Irish Independent