Limited access to agricultural information constrains the well-being of farmers in developing countries and leads to environmental deterioration. Although new information-communication technologies (ICTs) are expected to alleviate this problem, the importance of physical mobility is rarely considered. This study explores the roles of motorized transport and mobile phones in the diffusion of agricultural information within and between Indonesian farming communities. In 2012, we surveyed 315 household heads from 16 coffee and cocoa farming groups in Sumatra. The respondents identified 1575 sources from which they obtained agricultural information, the exact location of the sources, and the mode of contact. In 2013, we followed up with in-depth interviews of 20 farmers to obtain a qualitative description of their agricultural information-seeking behavior. Although 75 % of respondents had a mobile phone, the main mode of information sharing was face-to-face meetings for 97 % of the elicited relationships. Mobile phones were used to communicate with people living at the edge of the regular physical mobility radius enabled by motorbikes (approximately 10 km). A hierarchical logit model was applied to examine the implications of the respondents’ tendency to use motorized transport vis-à-vis walking for information gathering. Respondents with a higher general preference for faster transport tended to have more extensive access to information from other communities. However, we also find weak evidence that individual motorized transport might decrease internal social contact and information exchange inside these communities. The policy implication for rural development in less-industrialized countries is that providing ICTs without increasing the inhabitants’ mobility through appropriate means may not significantly improve the inhabitants’ access to important information and the diffusion of successful agricultural practices.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Civil and Structural Engineering