Agriculture has
historically played an important role in the Australian economy (ABS 2012c),
and in Australia is a monument to a strong tradition of scientific research
producing a steady stream of productive new agricultural ideas and technologies
(Malcolm etal, 2009). Additionally,
as science and technology advances allowing more interrogation of farming
systems, and thus increases on-farm data collection, management decisions
require an increasingly complex understanding of system component interactions
(Bennett and Cattle 2013). Agricultural Extension is crucial in applying
research and development and generates new knowledge and technologies. In Australia, there is a reliance on
extension and agronomist services to help address the increasing knowledge
requirement chasm (Bennett and Cattle 2013, 2014; Kelly et al. 2009), but this
will be inadequate into the future as the Federal Government have decreased
extension services, without any possibility of reversion to a physical
extension system (Marsh and Pannell 2000; Hunt et al. 2012). On-farm extension
is in a state of flux and how it will look and function in the future is
uncertain (Hunt, Birch, Coutts, & Vanclay, 2012).

Furthermore,
the recent Commonwealth of Australia (2014) green paper has admitted that
whilst a private extension market (through agronomy and other consultancy
services) was projected to fill the void of the retracted public extension
service, a private extension market has failed to be developed. Hence,
technical information is inadequately communicated back to farming communities,
which means that best management practices are not employed to the extent that
might be expected. ICT may aid the innovation-diffusion process of agricultural
innovations by providing necessary information in a convenient and timely
manner, in a variety of forms to suit a variety of users. The end-users of most
agricultural innovations are farmers and they are varied in terms of their age,
gender, ethnicity, education, income, farming activity, etc. (Arumapperuma,
2007).

Rapid
development of Information and communication technologies (ICTs) and increasing
access to this information suggest their significant potential to deliver
extension services to large numbers of farmers in a wide geographic location.
Knowledge transfer (‘extension’) from agricultural researchers to farmers has
long been seen as vital to ensuring farmers have access to information to
support improved on-farm decision making (Vanclay, 2004). Information may lead to a new knowledge,
and better decision making and communication (Kalusopa 2005). This view is not
different in agricultural sector as supported by Umber (2006). The way information
is gathered and accessed has changed with the rapid development of information
and communication technology (ICT), and the increase in ownership of computers
and smart devices. Umber (2006) claimed that for farmers to use the information
available to them effectively, that information needs to be available in a
format that can be incorporated in to farmers’ decision making process. It
is suggested that this decision-making process be better supported by farmers’
natural modes of learning through experience and discussion. (Nelson,
Holzworth, Hammer and Hayman, 2002; McKeown, 2010). 

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