Assessment of using the Information and Communication Technology in Rural Management by Rural Managers (Dehyars) Case Study: Galoogah and Behshahr; Mazandaran Province



Remarkable progress in Information Technology (IT) sector is changing the face of the world. The importance of IT in economic prosperity on the one hand and the role it can play in facilitating the processes and procedures on the other cannot be underestimated. Meanwhile, a sort of digital gap can be seen not only between the developed countries and the underdeveloped ones, but also between urban and rural areas. It is believed that there is an outstanding potential in IT sector which can be exploited if rural administrators intend to bridge this gap. Other parameters which can have an outstanding contribution to a sustainable rural development are the presence of infrastructure like broadband Internet and training courses for rural administrators. Of course the significance of IT should not be limited to the benefits that can be gained in access to the Internet which can be regarded as a sort of oversimplification of the matter. In fact, the core concept here can be the capability of rural administrators in using software applications in different aspects of rural life such as: planning, physical and socio-cultural development of the villages, quality and quantity of the services which are offered to rural settlers and stakeholders and above all the pace of offering such services in the shortest time possible. It is also thought that if the IT usage could be done in an effective way, it could serve as a driving force for rural development and planning. Regretfully, it is an area which has rarely been regarded and supported by policy makers at the regional and national level which necessitates more attention to this sector. From another viewpoint, the rural settlers are required to be equipped with the new skills be leaned know how to deal with the increasing problems they encounter everyday. The continuous and rapid changing of scientific progress makes their skills and knowledge seem obsolete and impractical; and therefore it is necessary for them to revive and update their knowledge and skills to adapt themselves to radical changes happening around them. Since the sustainable rural development is globally knowledge-based, managing a sustainable rural development in our country should follow the same approach. Investment in knowledge-based foundations in villages including preparing the ground for the expansion of IT can help the rural societies to play a great role, not only in national arenas, but also in international ones too.

Knowing the fact that the village administers (Dehyars) are regarded as executive arms of the rural councils and the central government in villages, and the villagers are the basic resources for production and economic growth in every society. On this basis, this article aims at investigating the importance of IT in managing the Iranian rural settlements and demonstrating the amount of usage by the village administrators and the impact of geographical parameters and the personal characteristics of the administrators in their acquired skills. Of course changing in the attitudes of rural administers and manager is not something that can happen overnight. It takes time, drive, continuous training and promotional campaigns. But, like the features of IT industry which are inherently quite fast, it can be hoped that such trends happen at a faster pace in future, especially if the output of such changes is plausible. For doing this, a descriptive and analytical methodology has been used. The necessary information and data were gathered through documentary and field work. The research consists on analytical unit that includes a statistical population of, where there are 49 villages which have rural administration in the region.

As a result, all of the villages in the area which had rural administrations were included in the field work study. Based on the theoretical framework of the research, for field work section some questionnaires were set up and applied. In this regard, the questionnaires were filled out by 16 village administrators in Galoogah and 33 ones in Behshahr both located on the eastern part of Mazandaran province, north of Iran. For analyzing the data, descriptive statistical methods, and software packages like SPSS and EXCLE have been used. In this study, for quantifying the qualitative variables in terms of measuring the level of IT usage, responses to 8 questions from rural administers in four levels (i.e. none, little, average and much) were considered. In analyzing the inference hypotheses non-parametric testes have been used. Based upon these findings, for measuring the differences between the administers of villages in using IT, non-parametric tests, i.e. two-sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov test (KS-test), and for finding out the level of significant difference, Mann-Whitney test (MW-test) were applied. Then, the Kruskal–Wallis one-way analysis of variance was used for measuring the significant difference among village administrators in using IT, like individual personal differences such as age, income and education, and geographical parameters like the distance from the provincial and sub-provincial centers, the sort of road access, topographic features of the villages, and the level of facilities available in the villages of the region were considered in the analysis of the results.

The statistical analysis of the research reveals that there is a significant difference of 0.532 at the certainty level of 95% among the village administrators of the region in terms of using IT services. But there was no significant difference between the administers of villages around these two cities. The findings of research also showed that there was a significant difference of 0.017 at the certainty level of 95% between the amount of using IT and education level of the village administrators. However, there was no correlation between geographical parameters and IT usage in the region. These parameters included the distance between the village and the city, and the center of the province, the type of the road and access, topographic situation and the facilities in the villages.