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An exploration of the social and technological factors that drive information and communication technology adoption in Tasmanian dairy family farm businesses

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Watson, LA (2015) An exploration of the social and technological factors that drive information and communication technology adoption in Tasmanian dairy family farm businesses. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This thesis explores use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) on Tasmanian family owned dairy farms using a qualitative case study approach. This research presents findings that contribute to an improved understanding of the social and technological factors influencing ICT use by Tasmanian dairy family farm businesses. The findings are discussed in relation to the Information Systems model TAM3 (Venkatesh and Bala, 2008) and an adapted model developed by the researcher.
ICT uptake in agriculture is continuing to be less than expected worldwide (Gelb and Voet, 2009; Alvarez and Nuthall, 2006; McBratney et al., 2005; Lamb et al., 2008). A key driver in improving farm performance is the provision and adoption of more efficient technologies and management practices (DAFF, 2005). Better understanding of human factors in the adoption of research in the agriculture and food industries is important to ensure intended research and development outcomes are achieved (DAFF, 2007). The main impediments to ICT adoption include lack of tailored ICT applications, their increased sophistication, which imposes enhanced human capital requirements, their lack of synchronisation with production, and the need for ongoing end-user training (Gelb and Voet, 2009; Alvarez and Nuthall, 2006). The factors identified as being associated with on-farm computer adoption include business size, education and age for example younger and better educated farmers are more likely to adopt ICT applications (Alvarez and Nuthall, 2006). This thesis builds on the extensive literature base of cross disciplinary research on adoption and innovation that has been developed over the past 50 years (Rogers, 2003; Rogers, 1983; Ruttan, 1996; Pannell et al., 2006; Venkatesh and Bala, 2008) by undertaking an in depth qualitative examination of the utilisation of ICT by dairy family farm businesses in Tasmania, taking a whole farm holistic approach.
This research methodology employed a qualitative approach that was underpinned by a subjective ontology and an interpretative epistemology. The research strategy consisted of a case study using 33 individual farmers to acquire a rich data source from a broad range of farmers located in Tasmania, and six industry representatives servicing Tasmania. Thirty three interviews were conducted with owners of family farm businesses and appropriate industries using semi structured in depth interviews. The questions were designed to gather the farmers’ opinions, experiences and how they used ICT for business and personal use, the impacts and problems associated with the use of ICT and background information about their business. Six industry interviews were conducted to provide an alternative lens in recognition that external factors, some of which farmers may not be aware of, are important, providing an alternative perspective for the research.
The farmer and the industry interviews were analysed separately using the same data analysis technique. This approach ensured any new industry insights in the Tasmanian dairy industry were revealed. The data collected was analysed systematically using thematic coding. The data was interpreted and discussed based on the researcher’s understanding of the data and in relation to the available literature to allow for the key findings to emerge. The key findings for the research are as follows:
• KF1 All generations of farmers are receptive or using smart technology due to ease of use characteristics;
• KF2 Farmers place a high priority on lifestyle and family when making ICT decisions;
• KF3 Fragmented ICT investment is detrimental to long term ICT utilisation;
• KF4 Globalisation of ICT use changes farming communities and farming practices;
• KF5 Industry has a key role to play in farmer focused education on robotic systems.
The key findings lead to the redevelopment of TAM3, placing significance on ease of use, and incorporating a complexity component to better explain the relationship between intention to use and actual use.
This research has made contributions to Information Systems knowledge at substantive, methodological and theoretical levels. At a substantive level, it has provided a case study of ICT use by Tasmanian dairy farmers and relevant industries, contributing to the understanding of factors influencing the use of ICT on everyday activities around the farm. This contributed to the understanding of lifestyle motivators, and the positive effect smart technology has had on ICT utilisation. At a methodological level this research has made a contribution by conducting a qualitative study of farmers’ ICT use to provide in depth understanding of the traditionally quantitatively researched field. At a theoretical level, the research has developed a revised TAM model that improves the explanation of the relationship between intention to use and actual use of ICT.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: ICT adoption; Dairy Industry; Uptake of technology; Family farm; Technology acceptance ModeI (TAM); Agriculture
Copyright Holders: Copyright 2015 the author
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2016 04:49
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2016 04:49
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