The Digital Era and Rural Economy Development: A Case of Selected Small-Scale Farmers in the Former Transkei Homelands Eastern Cape South Africa
The main objective of this study was to check e-skills, access to and modern ICTs usage among selected small-scale farmers who are major contributors/stakeholders in former Transkei Homeland rural economies
The role of agricultural information system to support agricultural development cannot be over emphasis. Demiryurek et al., (2008) explains the importance of agricultural information to be that it interacts with other production factors such as land, labor, capital, and managerial ability which can be improved by relevant, reliable, and useful information supplied by extension services, research institutions and other agricultural organizations to help farmers make better decisions. ICT application in agriculture has become inevitably due to its potential in improving agricultural productivity by serving as a platform to access vital agricultural information.
As highlighted by Diekmann et al, (2009) that for agricultural extension educators, agricultural professionals, and any other agricultural agency to effectively disseminate agricultural information to farmers, it is critical for that organisation to identify the medium used by farmers to search for information. Considering Diekmann et al, (2009) assertion, one cannot overlook the variables of access and ability/skills in terms of using a medium because of its potential to affect the choice of medium to use.
The research design used was a case study since this method enables researcher to closely examine the data within a specific context from a small geographical area. Quantitative (descriptive analysis) and qualitative (thematic analysis) approaches were used to collect data using a structured questionnaire from the small-scale farmers. Participants were selected using purposive sampling approach where the researchers first visited the selected towns to identify the farmers, and then arranged a suitable time to meet them individual to administer and assist the farmers to answer the questionnaire. This made the effective sample of 46 farmers.
In this study to survey small scale farmers in former Transkei Homelands Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, found that while access to modern ICTs tools was established at Smartphone (100%), Tablets (6.52%), Laptop (10.87%), PC (4.35%), Facebook (1.30%), Google or any Internet explorer (93.48%), WhatsApp (91.30%), You Tube (82.61%) there were less used of these mediums with only 4.95%, 8.91% and 7.89% using Internet to acquire their agricultural information needs. The findings also revealed a shortcoming in the area of the surveyed farmer’s e-skills with high percentage indicating “I can’t do this” as reported in Table 3. With regards to challenges encounter by respondents in terms of using modern ICT tools to support their day to day farming activities, respondents cited cost of ICT gadgets and Internet data, lack of ICT skills, unreliability of networks.
In view of the findings it is recommended that developmental agencies charged with developing policies to uplift rural people livelihood include key interventions of provide training to improve e-skills, reduce the data cost and improve internet, network connectivity. It is expected that the results of the study will positively influence the development of rural economies in the Eastern Cape Province and other rural economies in other provinces of South Africa.