Special Issue of the Rural Extension and Innovation Systems Journal
Delivering agriculture extension services in an increasingly digital world
Special issue editors: Aysha Fleming and Andy Clark
Rural Extension and Innovation Systems Journal is seeking contributions from extension practitioners and researchers of extension practice to contribute to a special issue focused on the delivery of extension services in an increasingly digital world. Manuscripts (Research articles, Practice notes and Literature Reviews) will be received until 20 February 2020.
Agriculture is in a period of rapid change. New digital technologies, improving access to these technologies (in part due to reducing prices) and their increasing capability create possibilities for transformation across agriculture industries. The current introduction of ‘smart farms’ to research and training centres reflects this change.
Extension service providers are helping to drive the opportunities available with advances in technology. At the same time, extension itself is being disrupted and transformed directly by the changes in technology and indirectly by the social, institutional and individual changes technology creates.
Sensors can provide real time monitoring and new sources of data. Cloud computing and remote servers allow access to massive amounts of data, which in turn give rise to big data analytics and machine learning. The internet of things (IoT) connects different technologies in new ways and allows for new approaches to automation and artificial intelligence. Drones, decision support tools, forecasts, and even augmented reality are already being applied to put new and larger amounts of data together and to change how decisions are made (Wolfert et al. 2017).
Farmerless farms and surgeons performing surgery remotely are just two examples which show how advances in technology can have significant implications for how (and where) we work and live (Hajkowicz & Dawson 2018). As well as this, the internet, smart phones and social media has changed how we access information, engage with each other, share ideas and experiences and seek advice.
The potential for advances in technology to benefit society is a source of excitement for many (Ernst & Young 2019). Yet there will also be costs and potential inequalities because of these changes, particularly for those already disadvantaged.
This special issue draws together perspectives from applied practice and research that explore the challenges, opportunities and successes of advances in technology impacting extension. We are looking for papers from both public and private sector extension services and utilising any aspect of digital technology impacting on extension directly (how extension is done, e.g. using the internet or social media, videos or podcasts), and indirectly (e.g. changes to job roles and skills, changes to how businesses are run and the services they require, changes to funding).
The special issue aims to capture insights and best practices in how extension can best leverage the potential of advances in digital technology to: increase engagement with their target audience (e.g. farmers or communities); tailor approaches to differences in individuals’ interests and skills; build capacity of those they work with and of themselves; use technology in novel ways; demonstrate the value of extension to external parties; and transform traditional roles and identities.
We are seeking practice and research papers that explore the following:
How has extension practice changed with advances in technology? Examples from the field, challenges and success stories.
Issues of public versus private sector extension related to new technology
Approaches in mix-method extension, integrating traditional and new and evolving forms of extension
Linking online or large-scale programs to place-based local delivery to maximise outcomes
Making the most out of digital extension delivery
The use of different sources of media in extension (video, podcasts, facebook, twitter etc.)
Insights into how extension practitioners can best prepare for, or take advantage of, technology and keep up-to-date with continual change
Tensions around face-to-face and personal relationships, meeting individual needs, building trust and working to budget, in the context of new technology
Reflections and personal experiences with learning and change related to technology
Implications for individual decision making, institutional arrangements, policy and government initiatives relating to supporting communities to take advantage of advances in technology.