Educating users on the benefits of technology is as important as teaching them how the technology works, as ignorance is a contributing factor to failed technology implementations. There is little use of wide area networks (WAN), extranets and high-speed digital lines in Kenya partly because of the poor understanding of performance gains from their use.
In Kenya, performance perceptions vary with gender. Women believe information technology skills provide a competitive advantage in the job market and expect to integrate the skill either in jobs or in their own private business for better performance.
In a study to identify factors influencing adoption of internet by university academic staff in Kenya and Nigeria, it was established that content is a major determinant of adoption. Perceived value, which is an aspect of performance expectations, is a key determinant of Internet adoption in the two countries.
Studies in the developed world have indicated a positive correlation between deployment of information technologies and rise of productivity. In Africa though, although there has been growth in the installation of system and articulation of benefits, under-utilization has persisted. Additional training and support is required if performance is to improve.
Organizations in societies with large power distances and high uncertainty avoidance tend to be vertical with centralized decision making. Users within such structures perceive new information systems primarily as upward reporting, a view that tends to lower their expectations on performance. Within South Africa, the value of new information systems is diminished by the perception that technology primarily supports existing patterns rather than a new way of doing things.
In Africa, effort expectation is the dominant factor in predicting user acceptance behavior in contrast to the West where performance expectation is the main predictor of adoption behavior. It varies with both gender and age, with stronger influence on young men. For instance, the effect of perceived ease of use or effort expectation was greater than the effect of perceived usefulness with small business in a study carried out in New Zealand.
TAM2 included social influence as a factor that operates through performance expectation. Persuasive social information based on expert power and credibility changes perception of usefulness towards new systems. Additionally, status elevation within a group leads to greater productivity and positive perception on performance. Job relevance and output quality are also significant determinants of performance expectation.
Users prefer email systems to postal service because email is easier to use. Users of e-commerce prefer to send email photo attachments to potential customers rather than send samples through DHL International Ltd., partly because it takes less effort to send emails. Email is more readily accepted and used as both telephone and courier services are expensive. Thus, other than the ease of use, the performance benefits achieved through cost savings tend to increase usage and satisfaction of technology.
The extent to which people are able to learn from one another is critical to adoption of new technologies in developing countries. Users in Kenya observe and seek information from close friends. Co-operation within groups and development of trust at informal levels is therefore an important factor in user acceptance behavior.
The traditional cultural discrimination against women coupled with a large power distance in Kenya has a significant social influence on acceptance and usage of technology. Personal computers were withdrawn from women secretaries in the government department in Kenya once it dawned on their managers that the computers were more advanced typewriters. The women secretaries seemed to have acquired new power and status at the expense of their male managers. It is therefore not surprising that women in Kenya perceive new technology as important in leveling the playing ground in entering into new business and jobs.
Age is a significant moderator of social influence in Kenya and Nigeria. Senior positions tend to filled by older who are presumably wiser within the African cultural context. Such cultural bias limits the ability of the older workers to learn since they do not want to be seen struggling.
In general, technology developed for Western markets is not appropriately customized to the African culture. Technology is developed for use within a social context. Consequently, there are challenges in implementing technologies from developed countries within Africa. The major difference between Western cultures and African cultures is the culture dimension of uncertainly avoidance and large power distance.
Information technology systems tend to increase power among the skilled worker. Subsequently, the technology is likely to be favorably received by the lower cadres within an organization but resisted by their immediate managers in African societies characterized by large power distance.
In Africa tribal affliliation is an important cultural aspect that is manifested in firms through personal influence and tribal patronage in personnel recruitment processes. Hiring of expatriates, as often happens with new technologies, and the efficiencies that are meant to come with the new systems threaten existing social and power structure leading to resistance and underutilization.
Users tend to be more satisfied with “technology adopted to their culture.” Even in the West, new technologies redefine job activities and interactions and power relationships within an organization.
By Jimmy K. Macharia, Assistant Professor of Information Systems, United States International University (USIU) School of Business and Francis N. Gituru, MBA student, School of Business, USIU.