E-Agriculture Development in South Africa

E-Agriculture Development in South Africa

Rachael Tembo (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa) and Blessing M. Maumbe (Eastern Kentucky University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-472-1.ch411
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Abstract

The global development of information and communication technologies (ICT) has created a new agricultural development paradigm that promises to transform the performance of the agricultural sector and improve rural livelihoods in developing countries. Over the past five years, South Africa has witnessed a swift ICT-led transformation of its public service delivery with major innovations in key development sectors. The growth of e-agriculture is seen as an engine to accelerate agriculture and rural development, promote food security, and reduce rural poverty. This chapter examines e-agriculture initiatives in South Africa. It describes ICT applications in improving the quality of on-farm management decisions, agricultural market information system, e-packaging, product traceability, and online marketing to access lucrative global wine markets. The chapter also highlights key constraints, and identifies considerations to enhance the future prospects for e-agriculture. Given the strategic importance of agriculture in supporting the livelihoods of the majority rural population in South Africa, the successful deployment and effective utilization of ICT is pivotal for sustainable agriculture development and raising the standards of living of marginalized communities. The results of the paper demonstrate that South Africa has made significant strides in e-agriculture and tangible benefits have accrued to the agricultural communities.
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Introduction

The global development of information and communication technology (ICT) has created a new agricultural development paradigm that promises to transform the performance of the agricultural sector and improve rural livelihoods in most developing countries. The diffusion and adoption of the modern technologies which started in industrialized countries has now spread to developing countries. Today, technological advancement in agriculture is evidenced in both developed and developing countries (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, 2008). As the use of these ICT becomes widespread, pressure has mounted on identifying not only new users but also newer uses for these modern technologies. Over the past five years, South Africa has witnessed a swift ICT-led transformation of its public service delivery with major innovations in key developments sectors such education, health and agriculture. The growth of e-agriculture is now perceived as both an instrument and a viable option to accelerate agricultural development, promote food security, and help alleviate rural alleviate poverty in the New Millennium. Whether these promises will be turned into tangible or perceptible benefits especially for the majority poor agricultural communities in Africa and other developing countries remains to be seen. Nonetheless, understanding early initiatives in the practical use of ICT will help both current and future generations to devise new and better ways to transform agricultural development using these modern technologies.

South African agriculture provides an interesting case study to assess the current use and future potential for ICT utilization to advance socio-economic development. The agricultural sector in South Africa is characterized by extreme dualism and inequality. The dualistic agricultural sector is characterized by a well-developed commercial sub-sector that co-exists with a predominantly large subsistence or communal farming sub-sector. The later sub-sector is located in the remote and historically disadvantaged rural areas (South Africa, 2005). The former homelands established during apartheid comprise the backbone of what forms the current largely backward rural sub-sector in a relatively advanced South African economy.

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