The Presence of Digital Literacy to Improve Agricultural Extension Program in Indonesia

The Presence of Digital Literacy to Improve Agricultural Extension Program in Indonesia

Published: 2024.03.19
Accepted: 2024.03.19
19
Librarian
Indonesian Center for Agricultural Socio Economic and Policy Studies (ICASEPS)
Consultant
Indonesian Agricultural Researcher’s Alliance (APPERTANI)

ABSTRACT

Agricultural extension is essentially how new knowledge and ideas are introduced into rural areas to bring about change and improve the lives of farmers and their families. The rapid development of communication technology requires agricultural extension workers to be able to use social media to disseminate agricultural information. The digital era, marked by the rapid flow of information and technology, creates challenges for agricultural extension workers to adapt, learn, and optimize the use of digital information technology to improve extension service performance. It was found that there are two prominent factors influencing the digital literacy of agricultural extension workers in Indonesia, namely generation type and educational background. In terms of generation type, the extent of digital literacy was quite weak due to the weaknesses of digital ethics, culture, and security. However, the extent of digital skills was considered suitable. Meanwhile, there was no significant difference among educational background of agricultural extension workers toward the extent of digital literacy. Promoting digital literacy in agricultural extension in Indonesia can lead to more informed and empowered farmers, improved productivity, enhanced market access, and a more resilient and sustainable agricultural sector. Nevertheless, successful digital literacy initiatives in agricultural extension should be tailored to the specific needs and contexts of farmers, addressing both technological and socioeconomic considerations. Without sustained support and funding, initiatives may struggle to achieve lasting impact, and gains might be short-lived.

Keywords: digital, literacy, agriculture, extension, Indonesia

INTRODUCTION

Background

The role of agricultural extension workers is very significant in disseminating information towards improving farms. Regulation of the Minister of Agriculture Number 3/2018 on Guidelines for Implementing Agricultural Extension (MoA, 2018) emphasizes that agricultural extension workers must utilize digital technology in agricultural extension activities by focusing on improving science, technology, and information. They must be able to seek and follow global technological and information developments through using Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

Agricultural extension and service are two things that cannot be separated. They must have to find appropriate information to help farmers in their agricultural activities. Digital literacy is the key to the success of agricultural extension workers in conveying filtered information to farmers and building trust (Rasmira and Gandasari, 2019). The difficulty in agricultural extension activities in the era of ICT involves the ability to effectively utilize internet-based and social media platforms. With the rapid flow of information through the internet, agricultural extension workers are faced with pressure to have strong information literacy skills. This is important so that the information disseminated to farmers can be guaranteed validity amid the diversity of available information (Nuryadi et al., 2023). Hence, this paper discusses the presence of digital literacy to improve agricultural extension programs in Indonesia.

DIGITAL LITERACY PLATFORM

In the era where digital technology is the backbone of a global society, digital literacy is emerging as an essential skill that is not only necessary to participate fully in daily life but also to thrive in an increasingly connected world of work. Digital literacy platforms are vehicles that provide access and education about the concepts, skills, and ethics involved in utilizing digital technology (Eshet-Alkalai, 2004).

Digital literacy is a broader concept and is not only focused on mastering technology alone. It includes a variety of skills and competencies, technological, cognitive, and social, as an effort to face changes in the era of digital technology. With the increasing dependence on the internet in everyday life, people are faced with the demand to have digital literacy to overcome related sociological, cognitive, and pedagogical challenges.

Digital literacy skills contain the ability to effectively use computers, assess data reliability, and criticize technological devices wisely. Individuals also need to learn to collaborate, solve problems in a virtual environment, and communicate effectively in social environments connected to technology. Moreover, Reddy et al. (2020) describe digital literacy as the ability of individuals to find and evaluate information, use them effectively, create new content based on facts they have, share, and communicate using appropriate digital technology.

Components

The Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Informatics has formulated a digital literacy curriculum development framework consisting of four core pillars. It includes: (1) Digital skills; (2) Digital ethics; (3) Digital culture; and (4) Digital security (Table 1).

Benefits 

Through digital literacy platforms, people can increase their understanding of digital technologies, create a safer online environment, and optimize the full potential of this digital era. By constantly updating and developing digital literacy skills, individuals can overcome challenges and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the ever-evolving digital world. The benefits of digital literacy platforms are summarized in Table 2.

DIGITAL LITERACY IN AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION

Agricultural extension is essentially how new knowledge and ideas are introduced into rural areas to bring about change and improve the lives of farmers and their families. Without agricultural extension, farmers would lack access to the support and services required to improve their agriculture and other productive activities. It is concerned not just with physical and economic achievements but also with the development of the rural people themselves. Extension workers, therefore, discuss matters with the rural people to help them gain a clearer insight into their problems and to decide how to overcome these problems (Khalid and Sherzad, 2019). The rapid development of communication technology requires agricultural extension workers to be able to use social media to disseminate agricultural information.

Rationale

The acceleration of digital technology adoption emphasizes the need for every individual to be ready to keep up with digital changes. Increasing the understanding of digital literacy is one way that Indonesians can follow the trend of digital transformation. Indonesia is one of the largest internet user countries in the world and has the largest digital economy market in Southeast Asia. In 2023, the number of internet users in Indonesia reached 215,626,156 people or 78.19% of the total population of 275,773,901 people. The most frequently used include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter (Now X), LinkedIn, and WhatsApp (APJII, 2023). However, the digital literacy rate is still lagging when compared to international standards. Thus, increasing digital literacy in Indonesia is very important to support this transformation, focusing on developing citizens’ digital skills so that more individuals emerge who have digital skills to increase Indonesia’s competitiveness in the digital realm.

Implementation

The Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has implemented some programs to improve digital literacy competencies for agricultural extension workers, including farmers and other agricultural human resources (IAAEHRD, 2022).  They are:

  1. Agricultural Development Strategy Command (Kostra Tani)

This is a program or initiative in the agricultural sector that aims to develop strategies and plans for agricultural development. It generally covers various aspects such as increasing crop productivity, natural resource management, agricultural diversification, empowering farmers, and improving agricultural infrastructure. This not only provides practical knowledge but also improves the digital literacy of extension workers and farmers, helping them be more confident in using relevant digital devices and applications. Kostratani is focused on optimizing the duties, functions and roles of Agricultural Extension Centers located in various sub-districts throughout Indonesia. This optimization uses information technology connected to the Agriculture War Room (WAR) using video conferencing at the Ministry of Agriculture. In this way, coordination and development of extension services in identifying field constraints can be responded quickly with the necessary policies and solutions. In 2022, the Ministry of Agriculture has strengthened technology and information communication facilities in 5,189 Agricultural Extension Center units.

  1. Minister of Agriculture greets farmers and extension workers

This program is intended to disseminate information and materials related to extension policies or priority programs from the MoA-based online. The method of implementation is through a video conference initiated by the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Extension and Human Resources Development (IAAEHRD). In 2022, a total of 44 sessions were conducted with participation from 309,409 attendees.

  1. Farming on Cloud

The purpose of this program is to improve the competencies of extension workers and farmers through online training on Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Zoom Meetings entitled Farming on Cloud conducted by IAAEHRD. It is one of the digital platforms to disseminate agricultural technology to all agricultural human resources in Indonesia by widyaiswara (lecturer) or other practitioners as resource persons.

  1. Website cyber extension

The cyber extension website is designed and operated by the IAAEHRD which can be accessed through http://cybex.pertanian.go.id/ with various menu options. It provides a menu for technology dissemination, extension policies, and extension materials that include general and location-specific information, counseling news, and others related to the development of the extension services. All materials on this website are produced by extension workers to be widely used in extension activities.

  1. Ngobras and Ngobras on the spot mobile

"Ngobras" is an abbreviation of "ngobrol asik" in Bahasa Indonesia, which means casual chatting, aimed at strengthening communication among agricultural extension workers throughout Indonesia. This activity serves as a means of delivering agricultural extension information through video conferences. In 2022, a total of 49 sessions were conducted with a total of 583,584 participants. "Ngobras on the spot mobile" is an enhancement of the mobile-based Ngobras activity. This activity represents the digitalization of agricultural extension by utilizing a mobile unit equipped with a digital system directly connected to various up-to-date information. This mobile unit also serves as an information hub that can directly connect with experts in the field of agriculture.

Extent of digital literacy

At least there are two prominent factors influencing the level of digital literacy of agricultural extension workers in Indonesia. It includes the type of generation and educational background (Savitri, 2023).

Generation type

Generation type comprises of the following: (1) Baby boomers (>59 years old); (2) Generation X (43-58 years old); and (3) Generation Y or millennials (27-42 years old); and (4) Generation Z (<26 years old). Table 3 shows that the extent of digital literacy of agricultural extension workers was quite weak (average score of 2.87). This is influenced by the lower extent of digital ethics, culture, and security. However, the extent of digital skills was considered suitable (score of 3.27).

It was noted that the level of digital literacy of agricultural baby boomer extension workers was quite high, or similar to Generation Z. The higher level of Generation Z was quite reasonable since they are more familiar with ICT than those of other generation types. The level of baby boomers is quite interesting. First, baby boomers have experienced gradual technological developments throughout their lives. Although they were not born in the digital age like Generation Z, they have witnessed the development and adaptation of technology from scratch, such as the introduction of personal computers and the internet. This long experience gives them time to develop digital skills and adapt to technological changes. Second, baby boomers are often thought of as a generation that is more accustomed to a more formal and structured approach to learning. Along with technology adoption, they tend to approach digital literacy with a serious attitude and are oriented toward deep learning. This aligns with the research conducted by Vallesteros et al. (2020), which found that baby boomers show distinctive struggles in adapting to the rapidly evolving technological world. Baby boomers tend to follow the current trends in the digital world, adapting with the assistance of the newer generations. This could affect their approach to digital ethics, digital culture, and digital security, where they may be more inclined to take a cautious approach based on existing guidelines. In addition, baby boomers are often in positions that require technical skills in their professional environment. They may have developed digital skills as part of the demands of their job, thus increasing their mastery of different aspects of digital literacy. A combination of continued technology experience, a more structured approach to learning, engagement in a professional environment that adopts technology, and lessons from personal experience may all contribute to higher digital literacy in baby boomers compared to Generations X and Y.

Educational background

The educational background of agricultural extension workers consists of: (1) High school; (2) Diploma degree; (3) Master degree; and (4) doctoral degree. The digital literacy of agricultural extension workers based on educational background was aggregately suitable (aggregate score of 2.81). Figure 1 shows that there was no significant difference among the educational background of agricultural extension workers toward the extent of digital literacy. The highest extent of digital literacy was the master degree, followed by a diploma degree, doctoral degree, and high school.

The behavior of Indonesian agricultural extensions in seeking reference sources to clarify/assess whether the agricultural information/news obtained is a hoax or cannot be seen in Figure 2. It indicates that the majority (67.42%) clarify agricultural information obtained from official government and educational/research institution websites. The second most common behavior is clarifying information by searching through search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others i.e., 21.72%. About 6.31% were without clarification or did not verify the information. Additionally, 4.55% engage in other behaviors.

The emergence of phenomena in the digital realm in Indonesia can be attributed to the ease of access to affordable modern communication tools, susceptibility to unclear issues, and a lack of interest in detecting falsehoods in the digital environment. This disrupts public trust in received information. Efforts to prevent the spread of falsehoods in the Indonesian digital context involve strengthening digital reading skills with a focus on cognitive, cultural, critical, and civil aspects. Figure 3 describes the behavior of agricultural extensions in preventing the spread of hoax agricultural information. The data shows the majority (65.66%) verified the accuracy of every information they received. About 25.25% ignore/immediately delete hoax information they receive. However, 5.30% will reprimand individuals spreading hoaxes if it is proven that the disseminated information is a hoax. Additionally, 2.02% will report individuals spreading hoaxes, and 1.77% responded that they did not know.

Opportunity and challenges

We live in rapidly changing times, which demand new abilities to face challenges. Therefore, it becomes critical for agricultural extension workers to have digital literacy skills. It is a must to optimize the potential of information and communication technology, especially digital technology, as a means to share knowledge and manage information. However, we also need to maintain the traditional face-to-face approach in extension and learning activities, and use digital platforms to expand the scope of extension (Davis et al., 2021).

In the evolving context of agriculture, agricultural extension workers face significant challenges in adapting to advances in digital technology. Digital literacy is crucial to ensuring that agricultural extension workers can provide effective support to farmers in adopting modern technology. Kustiari and Budiman (2023) state that the performance of agricultural extension workers reflects their ability to understand the relationship between tasks, implement quality programs, and respond to farmers' needs. The concept of performance also includes the achievement of achievements. In the digital age, extension performance appraisal involves evaluating the extent to which digital extension transformation can achieve success rates at the rural level. The digital era, marked by the rapid flow of information and technology, creates challenges for agricultural extension workers to adapt, learn, and optimize the use of digital information technology to improve extension service performance. The main challenges faced by agricultural extension workers in improving their digital literacy can be seen in Table 4.

Digital literacy in extension program can have a positive impact, not only focused on agricultural extension workers but also on farmers who are beneficiaries. From knowledge development to the use of modern technology, this increase in digital literacy helps improve the competence, efficiency, and competitiveness of farmers in facing challenges in the changing world of agriculture. With enhanced digital literacy, agricultural extension workers can guide farmers in utilizing digital tools and applications that can increase efficiency, reduce risk, and optimize crop yields. This innovation helps farmers adapt to technological changes that occur in the agricultural sector.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

Promoting digital literacy in agricultural extension in Indonesia can lead to more informed and empowered farmers, improved productivity, enhanced market access, and a more resilient and sustainable agricultural sector. It aligns with the broader goals of leveraging technology for development and addressing the unique challenges faced by this sector.

The successful implementation of digital literacy in agricultural extension in Indonesia requires a comprehensive and multi-stakeholder approach to ensure that farmers can effectively leverage digital tools for the benefit of their agricultural practices. Successful digital literacy initiatives in Indonesian agricultural extension should be tailored to the specific needs and contexts of farmers, addressing both technological and socio-economic considerations. Without sustained support and funding, initiatives may struggle to achieve lasting impact, and gains might be short-lived.

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