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Using Web 2.0 to enhance SME agri-food supply chain management: a Tasmanian study

Liao, JS 2013 , 'Using Web 2.0 to enhance SME agri-food supply chain management: a Tasmanian study', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This research project investigates the potential for Web 2.0 techniques (in this context, social media and websites using very accessible and scalable publishing techniques) to support and enhance agri-food supply chains within the Australian State of Tasmania. The research is based on three major areas of focus: agricultural and food supply chains (agri-food supply chains); small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in these supply chains; and Web 2.0.
To achieve a representative outcome, both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered from a number of sub-sectors comprising seafood, dairy, livestock, fruit and vegetable.
The empirical research process made use of three data gathering stages: 10 key informant interviews to gather expert opinion prior to broader data collection, followed by a survey of 28 Tasmanian primary producers and, after refinement of the initial model, a validation focus group.
Since the majority of the interviewees had only limited familiarity with Web 2.0, a ‘typical’ Web 2.0 prototype was developed and presented during the survey interviews, allowing participants to trial the Web 2.0 application in a supply chain management (SCM) environment without risking their real businesses.
The results indicate the widespread popular view of the prevalence of Internet use. The majority of interviewees had also used some types of Web 2.0 technologies, although only a limited number of participants had used this sort of ICT at a sophisticated level – most interviewees used the Internet simply to obtain information, rather than actively engaging in content contribution. In particular, few of these SMEs had applied Web 2.0 to their agribusinesses, or to their supply chain activities. This situation is starting to change, however, as fragmentary Web 2.0 SCM applications begin to appear in many key areas of supply chain management including: procurement, processing and inventory management, marketing and sales, transport and customer service, as well as in all the sub-sectors investigated – some of them as a result of involvement in this project. One fisherman even developed his own iPhone app with record keeping and traceability functions for his fishing business.
The outcomes of this project suggest that applying Web 2.0 to SCM is not only driven by economic benefit, but also by lifestyle enhancement. Perceived effort expectancy, communication quality enhancement and social & other external factors also have significant effects on the adoption decision. Moreover, the degree of those perceptions also differs by gender (though, interestingly, it was the female participants who were most techno-savvy), age, customer types and technology experience – although the relatively small size of the sample means that some of these interactions will require further testing before their generalisability can be confirmed. Interestingly, the moderating effects of gender and age are diminishing as technology becomes more readily available and easier to use – and as Information Technology literacy becomes more standard.
This research project makes two significant contributions: to theory, in terms of extending the Web 2.0 literature and the applicability of UTAUT to the field of Web 2.0; and to practice, in terms of enhancing our understanding of agri-food supply chains in Tasmania and exploring the business potential of Web 2.0 within the primary production sector.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Liao, JS
Keywords: Web 2.0, Agri-food, SMEs, supply chain management, Tasmania
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