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Minister Smith Welcomes Report on Technology Adoption and Usage by Farmers

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today welcomed the report following a study of technology adoption and usage by farmers in Ireland.

Minister Smith expressed his thanks to Dublin City University (DCU) for facilitating the study, which was conducted by Dr. Regina Connolly, a Senior Lecturer in Management Information Systems at DCU Business School.

This report highlights the degree to which key factors influence farmers' adoption and usage of farming software and farming websites such as www.agriculture.gov.ie, www.agfood.ie and www.teagasc.ie.  Minister Smith said that "the results of the study will help give the Department a better insight into what will influence and encourage farmers and rural dwellers to increase their usage of information technology".

Minister Smith referred to the findings on computer ownership and said "I find it encouraging to see that, in the farming community, some 96% of farmers have access to a computer either by ownership, through their spouse, off farm workplace, family friend or library. This would indicate that there is a significant opportunity to increase the adoption of computer usage". 

One particularly interesting and significant finding according to the Minister "is that age is not as much a factor as the educational level of the farmer or the availability of broadband. While it has often been suggested that the age profile of farmers is an obstacle to uptake, this is not the case and regardless of age I would ask farmers and rural dwellers to consider using ICT even if they have not done so before. The completion of the National Broadband Scheme by the end of the year will provide broadband coverage to all but a little over a thousand premises. With plans to cover the remainder with the Rural Broadband Scheme this will result in a significant barrier being removed. Furthermore I'd like to see a significant ICT element incorporated into future training and education opportunities for farmers and this should increase their use of ICT in general".

Minister Smith went on to say "that increasing the uptake of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) usage was an important goal of the Department. A committee reporting to me on the Uptake of ICT in Agriculture (CUITA) will analyse the results of this DCU study and this analysis will be fully considered in their final deliberations".

The Minister explained that the overall objective of CUITA was to accelerate the adoption ICT by the farming sector and rural communities and said "I want these sectors to reap all of the efficiency gains available from such technologies and have access to all of the available information sources to make the best decisions for their business. I also want to promote the participation of Irish farm families in the knowledge society. There is a wide range of online services available provided by farm management software providers, farming organisations and indeed my own Department."

The Minister said "The DCU research comes at an interesting time following the recent decisions I made to simplify the record keeping requirements for Farmers. From July I removed the requirement to keep a paper herd register to allow for those who sign up to use agfood.ie to maintain their register online and dispense with the "blue book". Furthermore as part of my continuing drive to use technology to reduce the administrative burden on farmers I intend also in 2011 to replace the current bovine passport with a simpler document".

The Minister expects more usage across all areas, and a large amount of services have already proven popular. Minister Smith said that the evidence available showed that "those farmers that have already used the Department's online services have had a very positive experience. There are also many services provided by other agencies, companies and Departments and I wish to encourage all farmers to see what services are available to them online."

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, accepts the Report on Technology Adoption and usage by farmers from Dr. Regina Connolly, of DCU Business School and Valerie Woods of the Department of Agriculture, at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy.

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, accepts the Report on Technology Adoption and usage by farmers from Dr. Regina Connolly, of DCU Business School and Valerie Woods of the Department of Agriculture, at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy.

Date Released: 22 September 2010