How do perceptions, experience, attitudes, and communication behavior of local government employees affect the adoption of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology as an organizational innovation? Nedovic-Budic and Godschalk examine the largely unexplored of GIS diffusion inside local governments in terms of the impact of human factors, internal organizational context, external organizational environment, and GIS management activities. Using a multiple-case study off our agencies within a North Carolina county government, the authors find that GIS diffusion is a very complex process. They conclude that perceived relative advantage, previous computer experience, exposure to the technology, and networking are the most significant determinants of employee willingness to use new GIS technology, while organizational and GIS management factors strongly influence GIS diffusion. The research findings have important implications for devising strategies for effective incorporation of GIS and other information system technologies in public organizations.
Computerized geographic information systems (GIS) are increasingly used by public and private organizations as tools for storage, selective retrieval, and manipulation of spatial and nonspatial data. Local governments find GIS technology attractive for three major reasons: (1) spatially referenced data represent a large proportion (estimated at over 70 percent) of data processing in local government agencies (Somers, 1987), (2) information is considered a fundamental resource of government (Howard, 1985; Repo, 1989), and (3) pressure for improving government performance (Osborne and Gaebler, 1992; Gore, 1993) has prompted governments to look for more efficient ways of doing their work.
Availability of more affordable computer technology in the late 1980s coincided with the increased interest of local governments in GIS technology and its intensified diffusion. Difficulties in capturing the exact GIS adoption rate sometimes result in inconsistent approximations, ranging from 2 to 3 percent to over 30 percent.(1) In this article, we focus on the factors that influence GIS diffusion in local government agencies. We look at employee perception, experience, attitudes, and communication behavior as they affect the success of GIS implementation. Organizational and management factors are studied as important contextual elements in the diffusion process.
GIS Incorporation as Innovation Diffusion
Viewing the spread of GIS technology into local governments as a process of technological innovation, diffusion provides a systematic basis for analyzing adoption. Both scholars and local government decision makers need objective information on constraints and opportunities affecting GIS adoption. Diffusion of GIS technology can be observed at both macro and micro levels (Budic and Godschalk, 1994; Onsrud et al., 1993). Macro-level diffusion concerns local government decisions to acquire the technology (Juhl, 1989; Somers, 1991; Wiggins and French, 1991; Budic, 1993a). Micro-level diffusion happens within local governments when their agencies, organizational units, subunits, or individuals decide to implement the technology acquired by the parent government (Leonard-Barton, 1987). Corresponding to the two diffusion levels are the initiation and implementation phases of GIS diffusion (Zaltman, Duncan, and Holbeck, 1973; Rogers, 1983; Onsrud and Pinto, 1993). During the initiation phase, organizations become aware of an innovation (i.e., GIS technology), evaluate it, and decide about acquisition. Implementation encompasses installing the technology, developing a database, and using and maintaining the system. Acquisition of GIS technology is defined as the successful outcome of GIS initiation, while adoption of GIS technology is defined as the successful outcome of GIS implementation. Both GIS initiation and GIS implementation efforts may result in rejection of the technology.
Among many possible adopters of GIS technology (organizations, organizational units, organizational subunits, and individuals), individual users are considered the ultimate and most important adopters. Both systematic research and anecdotal evidence point to a high significance of human factors for successful development of computerized information systems. Garson's extensive literature review concludes that "computer systems problems are traceable primarily to human factors" and that "information systems failures are rarely merely of a technical nature" (1993; 515). Similarly, researchers in the GIS field find that obstacles to implementation are mainly nontechnical (Campbell and Masser, 1991; Croswell, 1991; Budic, 1993b). Niemann and Niemann (1994), in their report on some two decades of GIS use in the Termessee Valley Authority (TVA), highlight a system designer's and manager's conclusion that "the organizational, political, and human aspects of implementing GIS are far more difficult than the technical aspects" (p. 50).
After GIS technology is acquired by an organization, decisions on its use are made by or for each employee individually. Employees may either volunteer or be assigned to work with GIS. Within an organization employing GIS, there are different types of GIS users: direct users (hands-on daily GIS users), indirect users (rely on GIS output produced by other employees), and nonusers (do not employ GIS in their work). Depending on the tasks performed by the staff, the level of GIS use ranges from simple data conversion and mapping to data analysis, synthesis, modeling, or integration with other systems or technologies. Individual adoption is a function of the type, level, and intensity (frequency) of utilization of the technology by staff members for organizational purposes.
Although an outsider would see an agency rather than individual employees applying the technology, we maintain that organizational adoption of GIS is a cumulative reflection of the relationships established between the employees and the technology. Moore (1993) agrees that diffusion of innovations occurs through the collective, yet individually based decisions of individual level adopters" (p. 80). We define organizational adoption as use of the technology for performing organizational tasks, that is, its internalization into organizational processes and functions.
Our research focuses on the factors influencing diffusion of GIS technology toward individual users, that is, their personal decisions to adopt or reject the technology. Better knowledge about GIS diffusion and about relevant factors that contribute to successful implementation will enable the design of more effective strategies for incorporating GIS and other information systems into local governments. Effective adoption of GIS by the end-users (and, consequently, by their agencies) is an important goal of GIS implementation for two main reasons:
1. GIS technology promises benefits not only in increasing efficiency but also in improving policy design, decision making, communication, and dissemination of information (Somers, 1987; Rogers and Anderson, 1993a, 1993b; Brown and Brudney, 1993).
2. GIS acquisition and implementation entail large investments of public funds (Lang, 1990; Newcombe, 1993; Dataquest, Inc., 1994).(2)
A Human-Factors Conceptual Framework
This research focuses on the following eight human factors that have been considered as significant in previous research on diffusion of computerized information systems and GIS technology
1. perceived relative advantage of the innovation,
2. personal values and beliefs about computerized technology,
3. computer experience,
4. perceived complexity of the innovation,
5. exposure to the innovation,
6. computer/GIS-related anxiety,
7. attitude toward work-related change, and
8. communication behavior (networking).
All eight factors are rooted in the subjective realm of individual perceptions, experience, attitudes, and communication behavior. They are the basis for individual acceptance or rejection of new technology, they influence decisions about the actual use of GIS. The first five human-factor variables are the attributes of an innovation (GIS technology) defined through individual perceptions and experience with those attributes (Rogers, 1983). The sixth and the seventh variables, computer/GIS-related anxiety and attitude toward work-related change, represent personal characteristics of organizational members (current GIS users, prospective users of GIS technology, or members that are in the position to make GIS-related decisions). The eighth variable, networking, regards interpersonal contacts as an important source of information that can affect the level of individual involvement with the technology. Taken together, these personal characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors are considered important elements of the adopters' "innovativeness," that is, their willingness to adopt GIS technology (Rogers, 1983).
Our research tested propositions related to the eight human factors listed. The propositions about each factor's expected impact on the likelihood of becoming a GIS user were derived from theory and previous research on diffusion of innovations and management of information systems. Hypothesized relationships between the eight human factors and individual adoption of GIS technology are given in Table 1 along with the sources on which the hypotheses were based.
Table 1 Human Factors Determining Individual Decisions about Adopting GIS Technology and Corresponding Theoretical Propositions and Their Sources
Factor 1: Perceived Relative Advantage Proposition: If the relative advantage of using GIS technology over the procedure or system it replaces is small, even though benefits to the overall organization might be great, the intended users of GIS technology will not adopt it (Downs and Mohr, 1979, Zaltman et al, 1973 Rogers, 1983; Leonard-Barton, 1987; Rivard, 1987). Factor 2. Compatability with Personal Values and Beliefs Proposition: If implementation of GIS technology is inconsistent with potential adopters' values and beliefs about computerized technology, the intended users of GIS technology will not adopt it (Zaltman et al., 1973; Rogers, 1983; Danziger and Kraemer, 1986, Rivard, 1987 Igbaria and Nachman, 1990). Factor 3. Compatability with Computer Experience Proposition: If implementation of GIS technology is inconsistent with potential adopters' past experience with computerized technology, the intended users of GIS technology will not adopt it (Zaltman et al., 1973; Ives et al., 1983; Rogers, 1983; Danziger and Kraemer, 1986; Leonard-Barton, 1987; Carey, 1988; French and Wiggins, 1989; Igbaria and Nachman, 1990). Factor 4 Perceived Complexity of GIS Technology Proposition If the perceived complexity of using GIS technology over the procedures or system it replaces is great, even though advantages to individuals, groups, or the organization as a whole may be substantial, the intended users of GIS technology will not adopt it (Zaltman et al., 1973; Ives et al., 1983; Rogers, 1983; Danziger and Kraemer, 1986; Leonard-Barton, 1987; Raymond, 1987; Rivard, 1987; Baroudi and Orlikowski, 1988; Croswell, 1991). Factor 5 Exposure to GIS Technology Proposition If prior to making substantial commitment of their time and resources, opportunities to try out and experiment with GIS technology in their organizational setting and to view operational applications of the technology in similar organizational settings are low the intended users of GIS technology will not adopt it (Ives et al., 1983; Rogers, 1983; Raymond, 1987; Baroudi and Orlikowski 1988; Carey, 1988). Factor 6 Computer/GIS-Related Anxiety Proposition: If the intended users of GIS technology are anxious when confronted with GIS technology and computers in general, they will delay the adoption of the technology (Raub, 1981; Danziger and Kraemer, 1986; Peterson and Peterson, 1988; Igbaria and Nachman, 1990). Factor 7. Attitude Toward Work-Related Change Proposition: If the intended users of GIS technology have negative attitudes toward change, they will delay the adoption of the technology (Mohr, 1969; Zaltman et al., 1973; Rogers, 1983; Brod, 1985; Leonard-Barton and Kraus, 1985; Leonard-Barton, 1987; Rivard, 1987; Robey, 1987; Carey, 1988; Peterson and Peterson, 1988; French and Wiggins, 1989; Raghavan and Chand, 1989; Campbell and Masser, 1991; Croswell, 1991). Factor 8. Networking Proposition: If the degree of interpersonal communication within the organization is low or the messages about GIS technology are negative, the intended users of GIS technology will not adopt it (Zaltman et al., 1973; Ives et al., 1983; Rogers, 1983; Danziger and Kraemer, 1986; Leonard-Barton, 1987; Raymond, 1987; Baroudi and Orlikowski, 1988; Kearns, 1989; Campbell, 1990; Croswell, 1991).
Our conceptual framework views the human-factor variables as independent variables influencing GIS adoption, the dependent variable (Figure 1). This influence is conditioned by the organization's internal context (a control variable), its external environment (a control variable), and its GIS management activities (an intervening variable).
[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
The complex nature of organizations as adopters of new technologies poses a challenge to implementors of GIS technology in local governments. Although organizations are viewed as structured and relatively stable, particularly those in the public sector (Rogers and Agarwala-Rogers, 1976; Heffron, 1989; Scott, 1990), they respond dynamically to the introduction of new technology and may affect the success of an innovation (Howard, 1985, King and Kraemer, 1985). Incorporation of new technology in organizations is a reciprocal process: organizational characteristics influence diffusion of the (computing) innovation (Zaltman, Duncan, and Holbeck, 1973; Feller and Menzel, 1977; Stevens and McGowan, 1985; King and Kraemer, 1986), and the innovation in turn influences the organization (Rogers, 1983; Eason, 1988; Scott, 1990; Campbell, 1991).
Previous research points to a number of factors to consider as external and internal determinants of organizational behavior (Mohr, 1969; Zaltman, Duncan, and Holbeck, 1973; Baldridge and Burnham, 1975; Feller and Menzel, 1977; Howard, 1985; King and Kraemer, 1986; French and Wiggins, 1989; Kanter, 1989). Organizational internal context includes characteristics of the organization (such as organizational mission, structure, resources, operations, and social relations), motivation for incorporating GIS technology, and organizational change/stability. Organizational external environment is the aggregation of external characteristics and activities affecting local governments, including characteristics of the jurisdiction (size, demographic profile, economy, politics, complexity, changeability), mandates, availability of external support, communication with other agencies, and accessibility of technology.
Finally, management of computerized technologies can help anticipate and overcome individual and organizational resistance and other obstacles to GIS adoption. Management activities are found to correlate with successful development and use of information systems: (1) declaring GIS implementation mission and goals; (2) management commitment/support; (3) management leadership; (4) planning/scheduling of GIS implementation; (5) securing a continuous flow of financial resources; (6) involvement of users in GIS implementation design; (7) preparation for change (meetings, discussions, demonstrations, memos, etc.); (8) selecting user-friendly equipment; (9) user training; (10) ensuring GIS-related communication; (11) initiating tandem (sponsor-expert) structure; (12) providing access to GIS consultants; and (13) securing good system documentation (Kraemer and King, 1977; Poll, 1985; Aronoff, 1989; Kraemer et al., 1989; Campbell and Masser, 1991; Croswell, 1991; Budic and Godschalk, 1994). In our research, we looked at the following GIS management factors (Schultz et al., 1987; Leonard-Barton and Kraus, 1985; Romer, 1985; Batson, 1987; Geisler and Rubenstein, 1987; Ginzberg and Schultz, 1987; Leonard-Barton, 1987; Chakrabarti and Hauschildt, 1989; Kanter, 1989).
We see these organizational and GIS management factors as contextual elements that affect the diffusion of GIS technology by inhibiting it or by providing a conducive environment for its implementation.
GIS Case-Study Research Methodology
Case-study methodology has been recognized by the GIS research community as the appropriate approach for studying issues related to diffusion of GIS technology (Zwart, 1986; Niemann et al., 1988; NCGIA, 1989; Craig, 1989; Azad, 1990; Onsrud, Pinto, and Azad, 1992). It has been found particularly suitable during this period of limited knowledge, experience, and previous research on GIS implementation.
Our study followed guidelines developed by the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) leaders of Initiative 4 on Use and Value of Geographic Information (Onsrud, Pinto, and Azad, 1992). The guidelines called for rigorous and systematic case-study research aimed at theory testing rather than the description of situations and phenomena (Yin, 1984; Benbasat, Goldstein, and Mead, 1987; Lee, 1989a, 1989b).
We conducted a multiple case study of four local government agencies located in Cumberland County, North Carolina.(3) The study site was selected from a set of local governments in North Carolina which had an operational GIS.(4) At the time of our study (1992), several agencies within the country government had been implementing GIS technology for over three years in a variety of applications, from automation of bus routing and tax-parcel mapping, to comprehensive and project-oriented planning.
The diversity of applications raised a question of validity and comparability of findings across the cases. This problem was addressed by measuring the level of GIS adoption and the implementation success with reference to what would amount to a fully functional GIS given the nature of tasks in each agency studied and with regard to GIS capabilities to contribute to those tasks. This avoided comparing different applications under a common denominator.
Data were collected through interviews, using a research protocol and a questionnaire with structured, semistructured, and open-ended questions.(5) The interviews were conducted in the summer of 1992 with 27 employees of the studied agencies, regardless of their use of GIS technology (3 individuals were in GIS management positions and 4 served as key informants) and with 5 higher level administrators who were in a position to make decisions regarding their agency's incorporation of GIS technology.
The study was conducted with dual units of analysis--individual employees and organizational units. The interviewed subjects within each agency were classified as direct GIS users (employees who personally operated GIS technology, further divided into main users, and medium-and low-level GIS users), prospective GIS users (employees who expected to become direct users of GIS technology in the near future), indirect GIS users (employees who used outputs generated widh GIS technology but did not operate the technology themselves), GIS nonusers (employees who did not employ GIS technology either directly or indirectly), and higher level administrators (individuals in organizational positions able to initiate and support GIS implementation, such as department heads). Designation of main GIS user[s] and main GIS non-user[s] was crucial for testing the propositions. While data on the eight variables were elicited for all employees, the values found with the main GIS user[s] and nonuser[s] were given more weight in evaluating the significance of individual attributes on GIS-related behavior because the patterns were clearest at these extreme ends of the adoption/nonadoption continuum.
Conclusions about falsification or corroboration of the theoretical propositions were reached through qualitative analysis. Pattern matching, a powerful method that can be used in case-study research (Yin, 1984), was the major technique for data analysis.(6) Three bases for composing the pattern associated with each individual and agency and for evaluating the significance of the factors were: (1) cumulative scores on a set of closed questions, (2) information elicited from open-ended questions (comments, statements, explanations, and reasoning about issues), and (3) direct observation of the individual employees and their environments. None of the three sources was given an a priori precedence over the other two. A mixed-result category was introduced when the pattern was unclear or when the evidence was conflicting.
Diffusion of GIS Technology within Four Agencies
We studied four organizational units of the government of Cumberland Country, North Carolina: the transportation department of the city/country school system, the mapping section of the county tax assessor's office, the community assistance section of the city/country planning department, and the comprehensive planning section of the city/country planning department.
The history of GIS acquisition and implementation in the four agencies is outlined in Table 2. The summary covers a period from 1986 to 1992, from the time when the first move was made in the transportation department to introduce GIS technology (Transportation Information Management System--TIMS) to the most recent GIS-related activities in the four agencies.
Table 2 Summary of History of GIS Acquisition and Implementation in the Four Agencies Tax Mapping Transportation Experimental GIS/ Year Planned GIS/Fully Operational Underutilized 1986 Acquired TIMS software and equipment; On-line assessment TIMS Manager hired and information system operator assigned (OASIS) implemented 1987 Database development in progress; software upgrade; first use of TiMS for school bus routing 1988 Continuous progression in database Acquired Arc/Info and use; software upgrade; current software and TIMS operator hired equipment; experimentation with GIS 1989 Hardware and software upgrade; Merger of land continuous use of TIMS records under tax assessor's office; resignation of the head 1990 Continued database development; Stagnation software upgrade; steady use of (experimentation TIMS continued); "cleaning" soil and parcel maps (digital form) 1991 Continued database development Started to digitize and update; software upgrade; zoning; a few continued use of TIMS; diffusion small projects toward other staff members started completed (for Tax Office and other departments 1992 Hardware upgrade (LAN-work stations); The main user title full utilization of TIMS; diffusion change to GIS toward other agencies coordinator; continued small projects Community Assistance Comprehensive Incremental GIS/Partially Planning Deferred Year Utilized GIS 1986 Started the comprehensive plan update 1987 Acquired Atlas Graphics Data collection and equipment; digitized activity (not origin destination computerized) (OD) zones 1988 Acquired MapInfo; hardware Data collection upgrade; continued work activity (not with OD zones and computerized) information from OASIS 1989 Continued work on the Sporadic use of GIS thorough-fare plan update (through CA Section); and population/economics continued data study collection 1990 Acquired Arc/Info Sporadic use of information from GIS; continued data collection (not computerized) 1991 Installed Arc/Info, hardware Continued occasional upgrade; finalized use of GIS (traced population and and colored manually economic study; GIS generated maps); started other projects completed draft of Land Use Element of the Plan 1992 Plans for further Deadline for the plan hardware and software upgrade; small projects continued; diffusion toward other agencies
The transportation department acquired TIMS software and equipment under a grant the state of North Carolina as part of a pilot program to get local school boards to computerize their bus-routing procedures. Staff acceptance of the program was positive and staff training was effective, leading over six years to full implementation. The tax mapping section acquired Arc/Info software to investigate adding spatial graphics to their On-line Assessment Information System (OASIS). However, progress was interrupted by personnel and organizational changes, and accomplishments were restricted to completion of a few small projects. In an incremental process, over time the community assistance section acquired two software packages, Atlas Graphics and MapInfo, using them on transportation plans and population/economic studies. Then they installed Arc/Info and used it on various studies, widh partial use within the agency. The comprehensive planning section, which could have made significant use of GIS on their update of the comprehensive plan, decided instead to use traditional data collection, mapping, and presentation techniques. Essentially, they deferred use of GIS during the six-year study period.
The four agencies pursued different implementation approaches. Planned and controlled implementation in the transportation department led to a successful, fully operational system. An experimental approach in the mapping section prevented full incorporation of GIS technology into organizational functions and operations. An incremental approach in the community assistance section yielded a semisuccessful, partially utilized GIS. Finally, the comprehensive planning section decided not to implement GIS technology, except for minor tasks.
The county government agencies and their members reacted differently to the introduction of GIS technology. GIS diffusion in each agency was a function of unique organizational and individual circumstances, such as the type of function and operations performed by an agency, particular staff member's current involvement in different projects, imposed deadlines, supervisor's tolerance for experimentation widh new approaches, expectations about performance, (perceived) need for GIS technology, knowledge, experience, and personal history. Resulting engagement with GIS technology varied across all staff members with regard to type, time, and level of GIS use.
Out of 27 interviewed staff members, about one-half were GIS users; the other half were nonusers and indirect users (Table 3). The highest level of use was achieved by employees in the Transportation Department. Evident efforts to involve additional staff members was part of a deliberate departmental policy to widen its GIS user base. The mapping section experienced the most intensive horizontal diffusion of all the agencies studied but had an overall low level of use. Notable direct and indirect use, but lack of further diffusion, characterized the community assistance section. Finally, GIS technology was used only indirectly by employees in the comprehensive planning section.
Table 3 Diffusion of GIS Technology among the Employees by Type/Level of Use and by Agency GIS Direct users Agency Main Medium Level Low Level Transportation Department 1 1 0 Mapping Section 1 2 3 Community Assistance Section 1 2 0 Comprehensive Planning Section 0 0 0 Total 3 5 3 GIS GIS Prospective Indirect Agency Users Users Transportation Department 2 1 Mapping Section 0 0 Community Assistance Section 0 2 Comprehensive Planning Section 0 4 Total 2 7 Agency GIS Nonusers Total Transportation Department 2 7 Mapping Section 2 8 Community Assistance Section 3 8 Comprehensive Planning Section 0 4 Total 7 27
Except for the transportation department, the agencies had a mostly uncontrolled GIS diffusion, where implementation was left to spontaneous processes and voluntary participation, and introduction of the technology was driven by opportunity, immediate circumstances, and personal initiative for action. This kind of situation offered excellent conditions for identifying the influence of human factors in the GIS-use decision. Testing of the theoretical propositions, however, could not be done through aggregation or averaging of findings on an agency level. Each individual had to be approached as a separate entity with a unique set of situational elements that needed to be considered in order to assess the (a) level of employee involvement with GIS technology, (b) opportunity to express interest and learn about the technology, and (c) conditions for fulfillment of interest (access to equipment, provision of training, availability of time, etc.).
In relating the diffusion history to human factors in the transportation department, only the perceived relative advantage research proposition was corroborated (Table 4). Two propositions, compatibility with computer experience and attitude toward work-related change, encountered a mixed result. Table 4 also identifies five contextual elements that were relevant to GIS implementation in this agency. Diverse and continuous management activities, and external mandate and support were the most influential factors that contributed to successful GIS adoption.
Table 4 Results of Proposition Testing Transportation Department of the City/County School System
Theoretical Proposition Description of Findings that Warranted Corroboration/ Falsification, or Mixed Results Relative Advantage The main TIMS user (TIMS operator) had the highest expectations of all employees in terms of personal benefits (primarily intangible). Values, Beliefs No association was found between the pattern of individual involvement with TIMS and expressed attitudes toward technology. No difference between TIMS users and nonusers. Computer Experience Current and prospective TIMS users had more experience with computers than the other employees. TIMS manager engaged with TIMS with no previous computer experience. Perceived Complexity Trend reversed from expected. GIS technology (TIMS) was seen as more complex by users than by nonusers of TIMS. Exposure to GIS Two main TIMS users (TIMS operator and TIMS manager) were not exposed to GIS technology prior to making decision to engage in using TIMS. Computer/GIS Anxiety No substantial anxiety or apprehension about TIMS was discovered. Results were opposite from expected. Generally, more intensive anxiety was associated with GIS technology than with computers. Attitude Toward Change Resistant behavior was encountered with one indirect TIMS user and one nonuser. Failure to use TIMS could not be clearly attributed to the attitude toward work-related change. Networking Amount and nature of communication among the employees was not associated with the employees' decision to use or not to use TIMS. Relevant Contextual Elements 1. State mandate for the use of GIS/TIMS (Transportation Department volunteered to be a pilot project); 2. Availability of funding from sources outside the agency; 3. Extensive management activities (support, training, user involvement, etc.); 4. Good history of automation; 5. Stable organizational environment. Theoretical Proposition Result Relative Advantage C Values, Beliefs F Computer Experience M Perceived Complexity F Exposure to GIS F Computer/GIS Anxiety F Attitude Toward Change M Networking F Relevant Contextual Elements
Notes: C is corroboration; F is falsification; M is mixed result.
The patterns revealed within the mapping section yielded wide corroboration of the research propositions. Five of the eight factors were corroborated: perceived relative advantage, compatibility with computer experience, compatibility with personal values and beliefs, exposure to GIS, and networking (Table 5). The finding on the impact of computer/GIS-related anxiety on decisions to adopt GIS technology was mixed. Contextual elements in this agency were distinguished by problems of conflict and organizational instability. A successfully used information system, On-line Assessment Information System--OASIS, was perceived at the administrative level as satisfactory computer support for tax-assessment functions, even though it did not have a graphical capability.
Table 5 Results of Proposition Testing Mapping Section of the Tax Assessor's Office Theoretical Proposition Description of Findings that Warranted Corroboration/ Falsification or Mixed Results Relative Advantage Significant difference in perceived personal benefits between GIS users and a nonuser. The main GIS user had stronger motivation to engage in using GIS technology than the other GIS users. Values, Beliefs The main GIS nonuser was concerned about the influence of computerization on jobs, social interaction, and power sharing. Computer Experience The main GIS user, who was the first to engage in GIS technology, used computers in a variety of applications and was very knowledgeable about them. Perceived Complexity Results were opposite from expected. GIS nonusers saw GIS technology as less complex and difficult to use than GIS users. Exposure to GIS Extent of exposure to GIS technology was associated with the level of involvement with the technology. The main GIS nonuser was the least exposed. Computer/GIS Anxiety The main GIS nonuser was very anxious about using GIS technology. Avoidance and apprehensiveness of computers was not found among other employees, except with the main GIS user. Attitude Toward Change Variation in attitudes between GIS users and GIS nonusers was not substantial. Networking Intensity of GIS-related communication was associated with adoption of the technology and with the level of engagement with it. Relevant Contextual Elements 1. Organizational restructuring resulting from a political conflict; 2. Hierarchical and conflicting organizational environment; 3. Lack of political support for GIS; 4. Few GIS management activities (i.e., no commitment of funding, no official training provided); 5. Good history of automation (On-line Assessment Information System - OASIS). Theoretical Proposition Result Relative Advantage C Values, Beliefs C Computer Experience C Perceived Complexity F Exposure to GIS C Computer/GIS Anxiety M Attitude Toward Change F Networking C Relevant Contextual Elements
Notes: C is corroboration.
F is falsification.
M is mixed result.
GIS-related behavior observed within the community assistance section resulted in corroboration of five of eight factors (Table 6): compatibility with personal values and beliefs, compatibility with computer experience, exposure to GIS, attitude toward work-related change, and networking. The pattern on perceived relative advantage from using GIS technology yielded a mixed finding. A fragmented and unstable organizational environment affected the diffusion of the technology within the agency. Low level of computer use coupled with lack of GIS management efforts also contributed to somewhat underutilized GIS technology.
Table 6 Results of Proposition Testing Community Assistance Section of the City/County Planning Department Theoretical Proposition Description of Findings that Warranted Corroboration/ Falsification or Mixed Results Relative Advantage Strong consensus among GIS nonusers and indirect users about absence of any tangible personal benefit. The main GIS user also had low personal expectations from engaging in GIS. Values, Beliefs While the main GIS nonuser was concerned about the consequences of extensive computerization, the manager (supporter of GIS) was unreserved about it. Computer Experience Employees with most computer-related experience were the proponents and/or the first users of GIS technology. Perceived Complexity No difference was detected between GIS users and GIS nonusers. Generally, the technology was not perceived as complex. Exposure to GIS Extensive exposure to GIS technology by the main GIS user and one indirect user (the supporter of GIS) relative to other staff members (mostly nonusers). Computer/GIS Anxiety GIS nonusers felt less anxiety and apprehension about the technology than GIS users. Trend reversed from expected. Attitude Toward Change The main GIS nonuser displayed rigid behavior regarding work-related change. The promoter of GIS technology (indirect GIS user) was open to change, particularly computer related. Networking Low communication with regard to GIS technology coincided with failure to adopt the technology. Relevant Contextual Elements 1. Unstable organizational environment with frequent restructuring and internal reassignment of staff members; 2. Conflicting and segregated organizational environment; 3. Lack of political support for GIS (not sought); 4. Few GIS management activities (funding the acquisition of equipment, but no official training provided, no user involvement) 5. Low level of computer use in the organization (Planning Department). Theoretical Proposition Result Relative Advantage M Values, Beliefs C Computer Experience C Perceived Complexity F Exposure to GIS C Computer/GIS Anxiety F Attitude Toward Change C Networking C Relevant Contextual Elements
Note: C is corroboration.
F is falsification.
M is mixed result.
The findings within the comprehensive planning section led to corroboration of seven factors and a mixed finding on the eighth--compatibility with personal values and beliefs about computerized technology (Table 7). This was the only agency where it was possible to clearly relate results on perceived complexity of GIS technology with the predicted adoption pattern. Similar to the community assistance section, comprehensive planning was part of a conflicting and segregated environment, with low inter-organizational communication and lack of guidance, control, or stimuli for incorporation of GIS in the comprehensive planning process.
Table 7 Results of Proposition Testing Comprehensive Planning Section of the City/County Planning Department Theoretical Proposition Description of Findings that Warranted Corroboration/ Falsification and Mixed Results Relative Advantage Very low perceived benefits among all employees, particularly tangible benefits (salary raise and opportunity for position advancement). Values, Beliefs The main GIS nonuser was concerned about possible influence of computerized technology on job security and distribution of power. The section head, however, strongly believed in its value. Computer Experience Very limited experience with computers among all employees. In addition, strong feeling of frustration with computers introduced in the agency particularly felt by the main GIS nonuser. Perceived Complexity The main GIS nonuser felt strongly that GIS technology was hard to understand and use. Exposure to GIS Limited exposure to GIS technology by all staff members, particularly by the main GIS nonuser. Rather negative opinion about the products generated with GIS. Computer/GIS Anxiety High computer/GIS related anxiety and apprehension expressed by the main GIS nonuser. Consciousness about avoiding use of the technology. Attitude Toward Change The main GIS nonuser expressed negative attitude toward work-related change. Networking Low GIS-related communication. Isolation from other sections. Relevant Contextual Elements 1. Unstable organizational environment with frequent restructuring and internal reassignment of staff members; 2. Conflicting and segregated organizational environment; 3. Lack of political support for GIS (not sought); 4. No GIS management activities (no management support, no funding for technical support staff member training, or acquisition of equipment, no user involvement in the Departmental GIS implementation); 5. Low level of computer use in the organization (Planning Department). Theoretical Proposition Result Relative Advantage C Values, Beliefs M Computer Experience C Perceived Complexity C Exposure to GIS C Computer/GIS Anxiety C Attitude Toward Change C Networking C Relevant Contextual Elements
Note C is corroboration.
F is falsification.
M is mixed result.
Summary of Findings on Human Factors
Our in-depth examination of employee adoption of GIS technology in the four agencies found patterns that both matched and conflicted with those predicted in the propositions. Two factors, perceived relative advantage and compatibility with computer experience, were not falsified in any of the four cases (Table 8). In four instances, where the conclusions were not apparent, the results were labeled as mixed. The other factors were falsified in one or more cases. The factors are discussed below in order of the strength of their corroboration.
Corroboration/Falsification of the Propositions and Mixed Results by Agency Theoretical Proposition TD MS CA CP Perceived Relative Advantage from Using GIS Technology C C M C Compatability with Previous Computer Experience M C C C Exposure to GIS Prior to Adoption F C C C Networking F C C C Personal values, Beliefs about Computerized Technology F C C M Attitude Toward Work-Related Change M F C C Computer/GIS-Related Anxiety F M F C Perceived Complexity of GIS Technology F F F C
Notes: TD is Transportation Department, City/Country Schools
MS is Mapping Section, Tax Assessor's Office.
CA is Community Assistance Section, City/Country
CP is Comprehensive Planning Section, City/Country
C is corroboration.
F is falsification.
M is mixed.
While the mapping section, community assistance, and comprehensive planning section displayed rather uniform findings for most of the eight factors, the findings for the transportation department of the city/county school system differed from the others.(7)
Relative Advantage (Three Corroborations; One Mixed)
Perception of personal benefits emerged as the most essential factor for adoption of GIS technology by individual employees in all four agencies. GIS users said that tangible benefits, such as a salary raise and advancement in position, had precedence over other personal benefits. The absence of perceived concrete personal benefits among both the main GIS user and the main GIS nonusers resulted in the mixed outcome of testing this particular proposition in the community assistance section.
Among the intangible benefits from learning and using GIS technology, personal satisfaction and improved professional prestige were more readily recognized but did not offer as powerful a stimulus as the tangible benefits. A few individuals, who were identified as the points of resistance to GIS technology, were neutral or pessimistic even about those aspects.
Organizational benefits from implementing GIS technology were recognized by all agencies and individuals within those agencies, except the comprehensive planning section where GIS technology was not incorporated. The doubts about the advantages from relying on the technology expressed in this agency were conditioned by the current situation in the agency and the awareness about the time and effort needed to compile a GIS database. Other obvious barriers to relying on GIS technology were the design background of the section employees and a related professional attitude that considered GIS products as being of lesser aesthetic quality than hand-drawn maps.
Perception of organizational benefits did not appear crucial for individual adoption of GIS technology, but it was important for effective organizational involvement with the technology.
Compatibility with Computer Experience (Three Corroborations; One Mixed)
There was a clear pattern in all four agencies that the people who were on the forefront of GIS use had stronger computer backgrounds and experience than GIS nonusers or other GIS users who either subsequently adopted the technology or were indirect users of the technology. The only agency where the result was mixed was the Transportation Department of the city/county school system, where one of the main TIMS users decided to engage in the technology without prior experience widh computers. Extensive training and support eventually compensated for this anomaly.
Exposure to GIS Technology (Three Corroborations; One Falsification)
This factor was in three cases explicitly related to the individual adoption of GIS technology. More exposure to the technology coincided with earlier and more intense involvement with it. The main GIS users in mapping, community assistance, and comprehensive planning had an opportunity to observe official demonstrations of the technology. Few of them, however, had an opportunity to try out the technology before deciding to learn and use it.
Subsequent adopters of GIS technology and GIS nonusers were exposed to the technology primarily in-house from the main (and usually first) GIS users. Impressions about the main GIS user's experience and about the quality of GIS products (maps) also contributed to varying results of GIS diffusion. This factor was especially clear in the case of the planning department where low diffusion corresponded to low communication within a section, as was the case with community assistance, or between the sections, as was the case with comprehensive planning, because of a fragmented organizational structure. Strong drafting/design background and pride in aesthetic quality of their products contributed further to the delay of GIS use by the employees of the comprehensive planning section.
In the case of the school system's Transportation Department, the pattern was opposite from what had been expected and led to falsification of the proposition. Two main TIMS users (TIMS operator and TIMS manager) had no prior exposure to GIS technology and no knowledge about it until they interviewed for a new position that entailed operation/management of TIMS. While at the time of hiring, the technician had some familiarly with computers, the manager was not a computer user even at an elementary level. The implementation of TIMS was very successful, and both staff members adjusted and mastered the technology very well. This case points to other factors that were more relevant for the individual decision to adopt the technology than an exposure to it, such as provision of training, political, and financial support for GIS; openness to change; and readiness to learn new things.
In comparison to computer experience, exposure to GIS technology appeared as a slightly weaker determinant of individual decisions about adopting GIS technology.
Networking (Three Corroborations; One Falsification)
Communication behavior was a significant factor in distinguishing between GIS users and nonusers in three agencies. Active networking generally led to a higher likelihood of using GIS technology. The general communication pattern and amount (frequency) of contacts were not as crucial determinants of GIS-related behavior as were frequency and nature of communication widh main GIS users or other sources of GIS-related information
Negative messages or conflicting personal relationships were found to distract from the contribution of this factor to adoption of GIS technology. Particularly discouraging was a display of frustration with a system, usually because of lack of knowledge or time to devote to experimentation. A few employees within the planning department referred to the main GIS user's "struggle" to get the system to work.
Communication behavior was very closely associated with exposure to GIS technology, and a similar pattern with regard to individual employees' standing on the use of the technology was exhibited by all four agencies.
Compatibility with Personal Values and Beliefs about Computerized Technology (Two Corroborations; One Falsification; One Mixed)
In three of the four agencies studied there was at least one individual lagging in the use of GIS technology (referred to as the main GIS nonuser) who expressed a significantly different view on computerized technology from other employees who were either GIS users or were not in position to directly use the technology. Major concerns expressed by those individuals were the possible negative impact of computers on the processes of socialization and power sharing and endangered job security from incompetency.
The mixed finding in the comprehensive planning section was based on an extremely positive attitude toward computerized technology expressed by the head of the section who decided not to employ GIS technology for a major project that was being undertaken by the agency. The attitude of the main GIS nonuser in this agency, however, was consistent with the perspective of the main GIS nonusers in ocher agencies.
Generally, a majority of employees within the four agencies did not demonstrate fatalistic or mystical attitudes toward computerized technology. Most subjects agreed on the importance of technological advancements and benefits chat accrue widh their utilization. A few staff members, however, mentioned the problem of keeping up widh technology because of the fast changes.
Attitude Toward Work-Related Change (Two Corroborations; One Falsification; One Mixed)
In three agencies, there were instances where the main GIS nonusers showed a negative attitude toward work-related change, that is, showed a preference for a rather static work environment. A variety of reasons, however, could have simultaneously contributed to their failure to adopt GIS technology. For instance, in the case of the main GIS nonuser within the mapping section, those factors included passive communication behavior, low exposure to GIS technology, high computer anxiety, lack of perceived personal benefits, lack of computer experience, and concern about the consequences of computerization.
In the comprehensive planning section, the causes of resistance also could not be exclusively attributed to the main GIS nonuser's negative attitude toward change but could be traced to low appreciation for products generated with GIS technology, low perceived personal benefits, computer and GIS-related anxiety, and a perception of GIS technology as complex and difficult to learn.
Finally, in the Transportation Department, it was uncertain whether the two GIS nonusers' behavior could be attributed to their general resistance toward change. Other circumstances had a great potential to influence their decisions. Hence, the mixed finding on this proposition.
Computer/GIS-Related Anxiety (One Corroboration; Two Falsifications; One Mixed)
Computer/GIS-related anxiety showed as probably the most sensitive area of inquiry. Many employees offered responses chat were the reverse of what had been expected. Surprisingly, the GIS nonusers presented themselves as less anxious, apprehensive, and fearful of the technology than GIS users. The majority of staff members described their anxiety in positive terms (being interested, active, enthusiastic, curious, etc.).
In two cases, one where the proposition was corroborated and the other with a mixed result, instances were found of the main GIS nonusers, one in the mapping section, the ocher in the comprehensive planning section, expressing an extremely high computer and GIS-related anxiety. This high anxiety could have contributed to their resistance to adopting GIS technology. The mixed finding in the mapping section accounted for the fact that the main GIS user reported an intense feeling of apprehensiveness of GIS technology and avoidance behavior in the early adoption stage.
Finally, no significant difference was found among the employees with regard to their anxiety and apprehensiveness about computers in general.
Perceived Complexity of GIS Technology (Three Falsifications; One Corroboration)
In the comprehensive planning section, the only agency which did not incorporate GIS technology, two crucial staff members (the section head and the main GIS nonuser) viewed GIS technology as more complex and difficult than their current practice and approach to doing their tasks. This was the only agency where sufficient evidence was found to corroborate the proposition.
In three remaining agencies that had implemented GIS technology and used it even to a limited extent, the technology was not seen as complex to understand and use by either GIS users or nonusers. Because the difference in statements between chose two groups was not significant, the perceived complexity of GIS technology could not be proven to determine individual involvement.
The responses were, in some cases, reversed from chose expected, that is, before engaging with GIS technology the current GIS users saw it as more complex than the current nonusers of GIS.
Conclusions about Human Behavior and GIS Acceptance
Our study of the diffusion of GIS technology in four local government agencies confirmed the complex, situational, and selective nature of the GIS diffusion process. It discovered a number of ways in which individual behavior concerning GIS technology is affected by organizational contextual elements and GIS management activities and ways in which employees' behavior contributes to the organizational adoption of GIS technology.
In all four agencies studied, perceived relative advantage and compatibility widh computer experience stand out as major determinants of individual decisions to start using GIS technology. Most GIS users had higher expectations in terms of personal benefits from starting to work widh the technology than the rest of employees. Individuals identified as the main GIS nonusers stated that they anticipated no personal gain from making the effort to learn the technology. Perceived organizational benefits were not significantly related to individual adoption of GIS technology but were a possible important factor in the organizational-level decisions to use the technology as a source of indirect influence on the individual decisions.
Computer experience was another major factor determining individual engagement widh GIS technology. With one exception, all employees who were on the forefront of using GIS technology were already intensive computer users. The fact that they were familiar with computers contributed clearly to their early adoption of GIS technology. On the other hand, the main GIS nonusers were the least computer literate, and, in a few cases, did not use computers at all.
Exposure to GIS technology and communication behavior were also significantly related to individual decisions to use the technology. Results on influence of personal values and beliefs about computerized technology and attitude toward work-related change on individual adoption of GIS technology were mixed. Computer /GIS related anxiety appeared an even less significant factor in the adoption decisions, with only one clear corroboration. Finally, responses about perceived complexity of the technology were not associated with the pattern of adoption in most individuals.
Our findings are somewhat different from Moore's and Benbasat's (1992) results. Although there is an agreement on the relative advantage and exposure propositions, the perceived complexity factor was insignificant in our research. One possible explanation for this difference could be bias in respondents' answers to this question because of the presence of a researcher, before whom they were reluctant to admit to being swayed by information system complexity.
Diffusion of GIS technology toward both organizations and individuals was affected by management and contextual factors, in addition to human factors. These account for differences among the four agencies in testing the eight factors, as well as the overall differences in the success of implementing GIS technology. Organizational conflict and organizational instability were the most detrimental internal organizational factors. State mandates, provision of external funding, political support, and jurisdiction size were the most influential external organizational environmental factors.
Finally, user training, involvement in system design and implementation, and support and commitment at the administrative level were the management factors that increased the likelihood of GIS implementation success. Our findings are compatible with the already recognized need for application of user-oriented strategies in development and incorporation of information systems. Eason's (1988) concept of "socio-technical system design" and Danziger and Kraemer's (1986) concept of "socio-technical interface" capture the essence of strategies aimed at promoting effective diffusion of GIS technology. Close attention to the individual employees as the ultimate users of GIS technology and implementation strategies that account for organizational dynamics will ensure better use of the considerable public investments in information technology and increase the likelihood chat GIS technology fulfills its promises. While in every agency there will always be one or more employees, usually experienced computer users, who will take advantage of the new technology immediately, the majority will need additional attention. Agencies with a goal of developing a wide GIS-user base should take into account the needs and capabilities of each staff member and provide them with sufficient exposure and incentives to adopt and continue to use GIS technology in their daily work.
The authors would like to express their gratitude and appreciation to all the case-study participants for their cooperation and help with this study.
(1.) The difficulties have to do with rapidly changing market trends, regionally oriented surveys, and no systematic method established for tracing the acquisition of GIS by government units. Huxhold (1993), based on Onsrud's and Pinto's survey (1993), estimated that as low as 2.3 percent of all country and municipal government units in the United States had acquired a GIS by 1990. In her 1990/91 research on GIS implementation in four southeastern states, Budic (1993a) found a wide variation by state and type of local government, with municipalities with populations over 2,500 having an average adoption rate of 2.3 percent (ranging from 1.7 to 3.4 percent) and counties having an average adoption rate of 15.9 percent (ranging from 6.5 to 29 percent). With plans for GIS acquisition stated by many surveyed agencies (Juhl, 1989), however, the rates are expected to change rapidly. The number of GIS developed is accelerating each year (French and Wiggins, 1990; Wiggins, 1993). Masser and Campbell (1994) report a raise in percentage of government units in the United Kingdom using GIS technology from 16.5 percent in 1991 to 29 percent in 1993. The latest survey of U.S. local governments conducted by the International City/Country Management Association (ICMA) estimates an average of about a 30 percent diffusion rate, varying from state to state (Sprecher, 1994).
(2.) Estimates by Utility Graphics Consultants (UGS), an Englewood, Colorado, consulting firm, show expected spending by U.S. local governments of approximately $27 billion during the 1990s for hardware, software, and data conversion (Lang, 1990). Newcombe (1993) reports expected increase in state and local government spending for GIS technology from $168 million in 1993 to $432 million by 1997 (according to G2 Research, Inc., a Mountain View, California, market research firm). Dataquest, Inc. (1994), identifies government as the major consumer of GIS products, providing in 1992 more than one-third of all revenues to software vendors.
(3.) The case study was conducted as one phase of Budic's doctoral dissertation research. Details of the research design, case descriptions, and other elements of the case-study research are available in the thesis (Budic, 1993b) and in the NCGIA Report #93-8 (Budic and Godschalk, 1993).
(4.) The local governments were identified in a 1990/91 mail survey of GIS use among local governments in the Southeast (Budic, 1993a). The choice of site was based on length of involvement with GIS technology, diversity of GIS applications, and proximity of the study site.
(5.) Other sources included documentation (minutes from meetings, memoranda, GIS acquisition, and implementation related documents), archival records (organizational charts, financial records, personnel listings, and job descriptions), direct observation of people and field environment, and physical artifacts (computer equipment and output, i.e., maps).
(6.) The technique is based on comparing empirically observed patterns with predicted patterns deduced from theory and on employment of natural control situations. Coincidence or contradiction between the two patterns forms the grounds for confirming (corroborating) or rejecting (falsifying) the theoretical propositions.
(7.) The fact that this was the only agency with extensive GIS management activities and an upcoming mandate for system development may contribute to its exceptional status among the cases.
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Zorica Nedovi'c-Budi'c is an assistant professor in urban planning and GIS at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research is in implementation of GIS technology in local governments and evaluation of its impacts on the planning process.
David R. Godschalk is Stephen Baxter Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has done extensive research and publishing in the areas of land use policy, dispute resolution, and growth management.…