Farmers in cyberspace
A James Cook University researcher is examining how farmers and graziers use the internet and if connectivity problems prevent them from using more technology on the farm.
PhD candidate William Harrington holds a degree in computer systems engineering from JCU and has completed a Fulbright scholarship in the US – seeking to understand how the rural connectivity problem is addressed there.
“My current study aims to understand how farmers use the internet on a day to day basis both in their personal lives and in their businesses.
“By building on work by JCU’s Dr Rachel Hay, this study also aims to understand internet connectivity in remote areas and how that affects people,” said Mr Harrington.
He said equitable access to internet connectivity is a key enabler for the adoption of new technology and improvements in efficiency that are needed to feed the world’s growing population.
“Adequate, fit for purpose connectivity is also critical for the attraction and retention of staff on farms and stations, as well as access to telehealth services and reducing farmers sense of isolation,” said Mr Harrington.
Mr Harrington grew up on a remote family farm in Queensland, bedevilled by slow or non-existent internet.
“The problem became so bad that I was forced to diversify the farming business by starting an internet service provider company simply to purchase more internet capacity.”
He said previous work has shown that social media, and in particular Facebook, is being used heavily by farmers.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know how they are using services and if they are using them the same or differently to people in the city.”
He said by understanding how farmers currently use the internet and how they wish to do so in the future, policy and decision makers can be better informed and help ensure that rural people are not left behind.
Mr Harrington has released an online survey.
“I’m looking for any farmer or grazier who would like to have their say,” he said
The survey is available through Mr Harrington’s research Facebook page by searching “farmers.and.the.internet” on Facebook or by following this link directly to the survey: http://bit.ly/3yeIrTB