Pandemic Drives Internet Usage Among Farmers, Challenges to Access Remain

COVID-19 has brought enormous disruption in the Indonesian agricultural supply and demand chain. Amidst social distancing and restrictions on movement crisis, business and consumers are encouraged to “go digital” to mitigating the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Unfortunately, this may be easier said than done for many farmers. In a study published in October 2020, PRISMA found that approximately only 67 per cent of farmers are connected to the internet, of which 50 per cent are active users and 17 per cent only use the internet occasionally. Among the limiting factors are the ownership of a smartphone, not knowing how to access the internet, the cost of data and low network coverage in rural areas.

However, this latest survey indicates that COVID-19 has provoked 21 per cent of farmers to increase their internet usage. Searching for good agricultural practices information was cited as a key reason for the increase; where social restrictions remain in place, some farmers have also started to shift their face-to-face farmer group discussions to WhatsApp. 

Supporting more farmers to access the internet will require a concerted, coordinated effort. Infrastructure, the affordability of devices and data, as well as helping particularly older farmers to understand how to use it are critical obstacles. PRISMA will continue to work with farmers and partners to promote internet use to enhance access to agricultural related information.