A human environmentalist appraoch to diffusion in ICT policies: a case study of the FOSS policy of the South African Government

Lizette Weilbach, Univeristy of Petoria, South Africca
Elaine Byrne, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Document Type Article

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Abstract

Purpose – Through an evaluation of the information technology (IT) adoption and diffusion models and the free and/or open source policy of the South African Government, the underlying assumption is that the developmental divide between those with and those without access to technology is purely technical. This paper aims to illustrate that if Free and/or Open Source Software is to be used as a building block to bridge the “digital divide” a more social and environmental perspective, which embraces the philosophy behind the software, needs to complement the technical perspective. The human environmental model is presented as a useful alternative which, if embraced, can inform more holistic information and communication technology (ICT) policies. Design/methodology/approach – Through a review of diffusion of innovations models an alternative diffusion framework is described and applied to an interpretive open source case study in South Africa. Findings – Contemporary diffusion and innovation models are narrowly focused on IT as a purely technological linear phenomenon. This perspective also underlies many ICT policies. A more socio-technical adoptionmodel can assist in providing amore holistic approach to ICTpolicy development. Originality/value – The application of a new innovation model, the human environmental model, to ICT policy provides a holistic framework in which the complexity of the innovation process can be reflected in policy. Such an approach to ICT policy formulation will assist with broadening the perspective of policy makers from IT as a technical solution to IT as part of a socio-technical solution and recognise the duality of the innovation process. Keywords Communication technologies, Technology led strategy, South Africa Paper type Case study