Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Exploring the Factors Influencing the Adoption of Open Source Software in Western Cape Schools

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Exploring the Factors Influencing the Adoption of Open Source Software in Western Cape Schools

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Open Source Software (OSS) presents many benefits to both the private and the public sectors, and has proven to be a viable solution in schools. Although a policy mandating the use of OSS exists in the Western Cape province of South Africa, very few schools in the province have adopted OSS. The education system in South Africa is currently facing a crisis because of its inability to provide quality education, and its lack of funds. The Western Cape recently signed a Microsoft Schools Agreement.

This study aimed at gaining insights into the factors influencing or inhibiting OSS adoption within the Western Cape Schools Environment. In-depth interviews were conducted with senior staff in the Department of the Premier, and the Department of Education, as well as users at school level. The Technology-Organisation-Environment (TOE) framework was employed to organise the data, while thematic analysis was used to uncover themes and patterns in the data.

Significant factors that emerged as positive influences on the adoption of OSS included cost, performance and positive attitudes. The negative influences that emerged included compatibility, lack of resources and time, and lack of support. Recommendations for the negative influences were highlighted, and include research and development, employment of additional resources, on-going support, and training. The study contributes to existing knowledge, by extending the TOE framework through the inclusion of the "Individual" element.

Keywords: Adoption, negative influences, Open Source Software (OSS), positive influences, schools environment, Western Cape.

1. INTRODUCTION

Since its emergence, Open Source Software (OSS) has become a well-known topic amongst researchers and users (livari, 2010). Documents such as "The Cape Town Open Education Declaration and other visionary documents seek to unify and challenge educators in the creation and use of open learning resources" (Deacon & Wynsculley, 2009, p. 117). OSS has matured and its acceptance and market growth have increased to the extent that it is considered a viable solution and a serious contender to Proprietary Software (PS) by some (Weller & Van Belle, 2007). OSS is particularly relevant in developing countries such as South Africa as it reduces licensing costs, promotes technological development, and bridges the digital divide (Camara & Fonseca, 2007). In the area of government, OSS benefits include: cost effectiveness, no vendor lock-in, improved security, flexibility, and the development of people (Mtsweni & Biermann, 2008b).

The South African (SA) government has acknowledged OSS at a strategic level, and policies are in place to mandate and promote its use (James & van Belle, 2008). However, the adoption of OSS has been relatively slow or non-existent in SA (Mtsweni & Biermann, 2008b). In 2010 the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) signed a Microsoft Schools Agreement worth approximately $500,000 (Western Cape Government, 2011). This three year agreement is, however, unsustainable because of dependencies on foreign exchange rates, and the fact that the education system in South Africa is currently facing a crisis because of lack of funds and an inability to provide quality education to the learners (Modisaotsile, 2012).

In response to this situation, the objective of this research was to determine the factors that influence the adoption of OSS in the Western Cape Schools environment (WCSE). Based on a literature review, areas requiring research to broaden our theoretical understanding of OSS adoption in Western cape schools were identified, these gave rise to the following research questions:

1. What is the state of OSS adoption in the WCSE?

2. What are the Technological, Organisational and Environmental factors that could influence the adoption of OSS in the WCSE?

3. What individual factors could influence the adoption of OSS in the WCSE? …

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