An assessment of the use of the Internet as perceived by fruit farmers in Hebei Province, China
The purpose of this study was to ascertain the extent to which fruit farmers from Hebei Province are using stationary and mobile Internet to acquire agricultural knowledge and technologies. Specific objectives of this dissertation were to determine Hebei fruit farmers’ use of Internet-related devices and Internet, identify Hebei fruit farmers’ perceptions regarding the Internet and its use and the sources of information and its use, evaluate Hebei fruit farmer’s opinions regarding the credibility of online agricultural knowledge/information, and identify the obstacles that Hebei fruit farmers face as well as their reactions to these obstacles.
Descriptive research design employed narrative survey methodology. Research data were collected from a structured questionnaire through field distribution. Five hundred and eleven questionnaires were collected from six counties of Hebei province, China.
Results of the narrative survey questionnaire revealed that, even though cellphone ownership for fruit farmers was as high as 98%, mobile Internet adoption rate increased only gradually. Chinese fruit farmers’ overall Internet use as a source of agricultural extension and education remained at a low level of efficiency. There was utilization bias among different Internet access formats. There were also questions about the reliability of the Internet disseminated agricultural knowledge and information. Most (52.5%; 57.9%, respectively) respondents verified they obtained knowledge and information via the Internet first with other farmers before actually using it. One third (33%) indicated that they had heard of training programs on how to use the Internet. Only 6% had taken such training. Similar deficiencies were found with online agricultural education courses.
It has been widely assumed that fruit farmers’ Internet use with extension and education purposes would grow rapidly, similar to computer and cellphone adoption in rural areas. However, the use of the Internet as a source of agricultural and extension education is not as outwardly evident as has been the adoption of Internet devices, and common Internet surfing is not an indicator of the adoption of Internet-based agricultural extension. The knowledge gained in this study will help people in the field to facilitate the development of essential programs that will more closely match the basic needs of Internet-device utilization as well as Internet surfing.