December 20, 2014

ISU survey examines the use of mobile technology by farmers

A survey by the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll shows around 70-percent of farmers in the state use some type of technology that gives them access to the internet. The co-director of the poll, J. Arbuckle Junior, says the 2012 results mirror what they found in 2011. But, he says there’s an increasing use of mobile devices compared to desktop computers to access the internet.

“We found that about 11-percent of farmers are using smartphones…and we found about 10-percent used a tablet computer,” Arbuckle says. Arbuckle, an I.S.U. extension sociologist, says they were particularly interested in the use of the mobile devices after several other polls showed a relatively high number of farmers were using them.

“We thought that some of those numbers were a little bit high and that maybe the fact that these surveys were done over the internet might bias their results toward the farmers that tend to use technology. So we wanted to take a look at the Iowa farmer population and see if the results were similar or different,” Arbuckle explains.

“And what we found was that — at least we believe — that some of the on-line surveys overstate the use of some of these technologies.” Arbuckle cautions, however, that the Iowa Farm Poll, is a panel study that surveys the same farmers each year and is somewhat biased toward older farmers.

He says they found that those older farmers are less likely to use the new types of technology. Arbuckle says among farmers that are under age 50, about 26-percent are using smarphones, compared to just about six percent of those over the age of 65.

He says the results are the same for tablets, as about 15-percent of farmers under the age of 50 say they use them, while that drops down to eight-percent for those over 65. Arbuckle says they found the larger the farm, the more likely they are to used the mobile devices. One thing that still stands out is the availability of high-speed service.

“There are a lot of farmers in the rural areas that do have high-speed — but for example last year when we put out our report and reported that 70-some percent had internet — I had several people call me to let me know that in their corner of Iowa, there was no access to high-speed internet,” Arbuckle says. ”

So, we also have to recognize that although a lot of people do have access, there are several people who do not. And that’s important to know.”

You can find out more about the poll at the Iowa State Extension Sociology website at: www.extension.iastate.edu.