The role of information and communication technology in improving food security in KwaZulu-Natal.
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This thesis explored the role of Information and Communications Technology in improving food security. The study was conducted in the South African context and is based on KwaZulu-Natal Province. It investigated the factors constructs that impacted and contributed towards the adoption and diffusion of Information and Communications Technology amongst smallholder farmers. The study aimed to contribute to reducing food insecurity in South Africa using Information and Communications Technology. The outcome of this study highlighted important constructs that need to be taken into account when considering ICT’s influence in food security. This exploratory research study took an interdisciplinary approach combining the disciplines of Information Systems and Agriculture and making use of quantitative methods of analysis. Data from a sample of 533 smallholder farmers and 41 agricultural extension officers from the four local municipalities in the district municipality of iLembe were collected using a questionnaire. The study revealed that 23.7% of smallholder farmers were food secure with 59.7% being marginally food secure and 16.6% being borderline. The study also revealed that the highest number of users of mobile phones were smallholder farmers who were classified as being food secure (96%). The classifications borderline (75%), food secure (70%) and marginal (65%) represented the largest number of farmers who use ICTs to a large extent on their farms. In both samples of smallholder farmers (72.1) and extension officers (60%), there is a high usage of indigenous knowledge which is a possible area for ICT adoption and policy focus. This study makes use of the five main constructs from Rogers Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) theory, Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory and the technology acceptance model (TAM) to develop a model to better understand the role of ICTs in food security in KwaZulu-Natal. The key findings that emerged in the South African context were that ICT’s play an important role in reducing food insecurity. The study also puts forward the proposition that ICT adoption in food security is associated with culture, perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use of the ICT innovation. However, there were no associations found with the constructs, attributes of innovation and nature of the social system. The growing population of people living in extreme hunger worldwide has become a matter of global concern. The World Bank highlights the importance of smallholder farming in increasing the productivity levels in the agricultural sector that in turn has the potential to stimulate economic growth in other sectors of a the economy of a country. It is in attempts to stimulate increased productivity of smallholder farmers and hence reducing food insecurity that ICT’s are being incorporated in farming practices. It is this gap in literature that this research makes a contribution. While the literature points to many studies relating to ICT adoption and diffusion, the role of ICT’s in food security has not been studied in detail. Furthermore, there have not been any studies that looked at the relationship between smallholder farmers and extension officers in relation to ICT’s. A further gap in the literature highlighted there were no recent studies that investigated specific ICT’s such as GIS and Knowledge Management Systems and their role on food security. This study made the following unique contribution to the existing body of knowledge: The identification of constructs that influence ICT adoption in food security amongst smallholder farmers in KwaZulu-Natal The identification of the determinants of ICT’s in food security in KwaZulu-Natal The study provides empirical evidence regarding ICT influence on Food Security The development of a proposed theoretical model for understanding diffusion and adoption of ICT’s and its role on food security
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