Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Technology and Marginalization: A Case Study of the Limited Adoption of the Intranet at a State-Owned Organization in Rural Australia

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Technology and Marginalization: A Case Study of the Limited Adoption of the Intranet at a State-Owned Organization in Rural Australia

Article excerpt

Introduction

Every organization has a system of communication, through which it formulates and implements its organizational goals and coordinates its diverse activities. Computer-mediated communication systems such as the intranet, increase the efficiency, speed and quality of data transmission, storage and retrieval of information and interactivity within an organization while overcoming the problems in communication associated with distance, time, and technical incompatibility (Newell, Scarbrough & Swan, 2001). The intranet, unlike the Internet, which has open access architecture, consists of private networks offering features equivalent to the Internet, but is operated and maintained by companies and organizations for the exclusive use of its members and authorized users (Green, 2001).

However, a technology is never neutral and can be used and implemented according to the wishes of the group or individuals in a position to make decisions regarding that technology based on their own interests, which can adversely affect the interests of others (Deetz, 1991). Therefore, critical theorists consider it important to examine the various issues involved when an organization adopts a new communication technology or network that excludes some of its staff due to budgetary constraints or other reasons, and how it may adversely affect those staff's functions (Taylor & Trujillo, 2001). The term 'critical' refers to challenging and exposing of actions or decisions one sees as unfair or inappropriate in a given situation (Eisenberg & Goodall, 2001). Agreeing with this view, Jablin (1987) argues that an organizational structure or constraints that organizational members face in the communication process need to be highlighted, especially in relation to communication technologies. DeSanctis & Fulk (1999) have suggested that it is essential to examine the unanticipated impacts that can result from managerial choices regarding technological implementation that directly affect the various stakeholders of an organization.

Manross & Rice (1986) point out that when researching the adoption and diffusion of new technologies, it is important to study the failures as well as the successes. The current study is an example of the former. This is because, one needs to learn about the perceived attributes and benefits of an innovation as well as the political, technical and implementation processes that influence the success or failure of that innovation.

The Case Site

This paper reports on a case study carried out at an organization located in a rural Australian town of 12,000 inhabitants (referred to as the 'Town' hereafter), where the State Department of Human Services runs a residential care facility (or 'Center') with a capacity for 172 intellectually disabled persons (or 'clients') and employing 200 staff. This Center is the largest single employer of the Town, which is located 70 km away from the Regional Head Office of the Department, which handles all departmental policy matters relevant to this Center.

In early 1998, the Head Office decided to provide an intranet service to the Center as a means of improving communication between the Center and itself. The Head Office only carries out administrative functions and all its staff are provided with their own computer workstations networked to the intranet. But the Center in question consisting of nine different units and 200 employees who carry out diverse functions only had 20 computers, most of which were housed in its administration division. The administration unit and the six direct care units (which are residences for the clients and already had a computer each), were the only ones to be networked for the intranet. The non-direct care units (consisting of housekeeping, maintenance, stores, vocational therapy, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy units) were neither networked nor provided with computers. The computer that already existed in the catering division, which is a non-direct care unit, was excluded from the network. …

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