The role of information technology in disseminating innovations in agribusiness: a comparative study of Australia and Sri Lanka

Arumapperuma, Sudath (2008) The role of information technology in disseminating innovations in agribusiness: a comparative study of Australia and Sri Lanka. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


In the wake of the rapid evolution of information technology (IT), including the internet, during the last three decades, much attention has been given to the introduction of IT to the agricultural sector, and to ensuring its adoption by farmers. Given its apparent ability to provide rich information to a large number of people, hopes have been raised about the role of IT as a tool for diffusing innovations in the agricultural sector. This thesis addresses the reality of such a role in Australia and Sri Lanka. Following the broader innovation literature, an innovations systems approach is used, and the key aspects of diffusion stressed are reach, richness and the time taken. The agricultural innovation system (AIS) is seen as a complex interactive system involving actors fulfilling eleven functions – policy, education, finance and credit, marketing, input supply, research, extension and information, logistics, processing and storage, farmers and farm organisations, and consumers. It is clear that the Australian AIS is more effective than its Sri Lankan counterpart in terms of its use of leading-edge technologies, competition in global markets with innovative products, and quick diffusion of research findings to farmers. The use of IT in agribusiness in Australia is quite advanced, although still limited in small firms. While there are many examples of the use of IT for innovation diffusion in Australian agriculture, there is little evidence that this is yet a widely used process for the spread of innovations. The situation in Sri Lanka is quite different, with low levels of computer literacy and usage in the farm sector, with technology transfer ‘across the last mile’ remaining the weakest link in the Sri Lankan AIS. But farmers often go to great efforts to obtain better information, and much attention is being given by the Government and NGOs to the development of wireless networks, telecentres and other methods for promoting IT access and knowledge diffusion in the rural sector in Sri Lanka. Given the heterogeneous nature of the actors in an AIS, together with the importance of tacit knowledge and social and peer groups factors, IT will complement existing methods of innovation diffusion for the foreseeable future, rather than substitute them. Nevertheless, IT is likely to become increasingly important in innovation diffusion in agriculture, in both developed countries and in developing economies such as Sri Lanka. In implementing policies to this end, Sri Lanka must give due attention to the complex interactions between the many players in the AIS, to the role of tacit knowledge and social actors, and to the low level of the IT literacy in the rural sector. While continuing efforts to build relevant infrastructure are essential, these must be supported by measures to strengthen communication between the actors in the AIS, by education and capability development for farmers and by the creation of suitably tailored digital information packages on key issues.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 340000 Economics
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > Centre for Strategic Economic Studies (CSES)
Historical > RFCD Classification > 280000 Information, Computing and Communication Sciences
Keywords agricultural innovation system, agribusiness, information technology, Australia, Sri Lanka
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