UACES Facebook The Ongoing Trend of Arkansas Farm Information Technology Usage and its Implications
skip to main content

The Ongoing Trend of Arkansas Farm Information Technology Usage and its Implications

by Frank Seo - December 19, 2023

A new white paper about the trends in Arkansas farm information technology use reveals implications for potential grant programs and educational opportunities.

Dr. Frank Seo, an assistant professor of rural development in the Community, Professional and Economic Development unit, explored how Arkansas' farm technology usage compares to U.S. farms. 

On August 28, 2023, the Arkansas State Broadband Office submitted the Five-Year Action Plan to the U.S. Department of Commerce/National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The plan states how the state of Arkansas aims to design an IT infrastructure grant program as a way to foster a competitive Information Technology (IT) environment in Arkansas by 2028.

Accordingly, identifying Arkansas farms’ IT usage characteristics is required for the successful launching of the grant programs. To fulfill this goal, Seo examined the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) bi-annual Technology Use (Farm Computer Usage and Ownership) reports that estimate the level of U.S. farm IT usage. Based on these reports, Seo analyzed the IT usage characteristics of Arkansas farmers, and suggested implications for supporting rural Arkansas communities.

Arkansas is leading the way in the development of farm Internet access. While the U.S. average farm Internet access rate has increased by 77% from 2003, Arkansas has increased 116.2% and is now ranked as the seventh highest change in the United States. However, the current Internet access rate (80%) is still lower than the national average (85%), which suggests that more improvement remains. Nevertheless, farm IT usage comparisons between Arkansas and the U.S. showed that Arkansas farmers actively utilize IT for their business. 

The results suggested a few implications for potential grant programs of the ARConnect and extension education service. The data reveals an emerging demand for precision agriculture practices based on the reformation of U.S. farms, which presented a pertinent challenge for Arkansas agriculture. Existing data implies that Arkansas has a below-average Internet speed and broadband subscription rate, which may impede Arkansas farmers’ adoption of precision agriculture practices in the future because precision agriculture practices require a quality Internet system for proper operation. Moreover, the data suggested that Arkansas farmers are favorable towards government services and are actively involved in government-driven businesses, which is encouraging for both future grant programs and potential extension education.

Online marketing education programs, such as social media marketing (i.e. Search Engine Optimization strategy), Marketing strategies (i.e. Marketing Mix or Storytelling techniques), or web design, would be welcome for those who conduct online marketing for their farm business. Similarly, introductory business programs for farms that seek new business opportunities, such as Agritourism, Farm-to-Table restaurants, or Agri-education, would also be beneficial for future extension education in order to expand Arkansas farmers’ agribusinesses.

Download the White Paper: The Ongoing Trend of Arkansas Farm Information Technology Usage and its Implications.