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Open source software adoption in non-profit organisations – socio-technical perspectives

Zhang, Guoli


Guoli Zhang


Open source software has grown from a small sub-community of developers and users with their own ideologies to a significant element in the IT strategies of major vendors.
Open source communities and practices have been researched extensively and the business side of open source has also been investigated. Research has typically been into either the corporate environment or developer communities. This research concentrates on open source adoption in nonprofit organisations, which are often small and frequently run by volunteers.
What factors influence the adoption of open source software in non-profit organisations? Technology does not develop deterministically, the sociotechnical nature of technology has to be taken into account because technology shapes and is shaped by social context. Engagement with technology depends on individual values and technology adoption depends on organisational cultures. A useful conceptual framework is the SocioTechnical Interaction Network (STIN), and in this research the idea is adapted to the needs of describing technology adoption. A number of authors have pointed out the similarity between evolution and technology adoption, with environmental feedback processes. Here, the STIN is re-conceptualised as a Socio-Technical Feedback Network (STFN).
Hypotheses were formed about factors influencing open source adoption in non-profit organisations after identifying discussion topics in online forums for non-profit organisations. It was decided to conduct an online survey and also to conduct a small number of interviews to obtain more detailed information about social context. Quantitative data from the questionnaire was analysed with SPSS, using various statistical tests. The results were used together with the interview material to provide interpretations of the observed phenomena
and to test the hypotheses.
From the statistical results of the survey and follow up interviews, the following conclusions were made:
• Computer users with IT awareness are more likely to use OSS.
• Computer users with IT awareness are more likely to believe that IT has more general, educational benefits.
• Preference for personal contact over mass media makes OSS use less likely (such users are less likely to be innovative).
• Different styles of organisational decision-making can influence the likelihood of OSS adoption: non-technical decision-makers are less likely to choose OSS; organisations with committee decisions are in general less likely to use OSS; some individual ‘lead-users’ may have enough influence to bring OSS to an organisation.
In summary, this study provides insight into the factors influencing the adoption of open source software in non-profit organisations, conceptualised in terms of STFNs, an extension of the idea of STINs to contexts of technology adoption.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 26, 2010
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Open-source software; IT strategies; non-profit organisation; organisational cultures; socio-technology; Socio-Technical Interaction Network; Socio-Technical Feedback Network;
Public URL
Contract Date Aug 26, 2010
Award Date 2009-12


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