Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

The Cultivation of Information Infrastructures for International Trade: Stakeholder Challenges and Engagement Reasons

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

The Cultivation of Information Infrastructures for International Trade: Stakeholder Challenges and Engagement Reasons

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

In an increasingly intertwined world economy, the global supply chain has become progressively complex "to a point where clear visibility is masked from those who need to know what is going on" [25], p. 3. Global supply chains are characterized by a multitude of public and private organizations such as freight forwarders, port authorities, customs, and terminal operators who collaborate to achieve the objective of transporting goods from sellers to buyers [37]. Due to technological advances a growing trend for organizations is to create external linkages and share information in order to gain increased visibility of supply chains [4]. Over the years many initiatives for the development of information infrastructures (IIs) for international trade emerged to improve supply chain visibility and security [4], [24], [25]. These IIs for international trade are specific in nature due to, for example, cross-border differences in legislation.

An II is "a shared, open, heterogeneous and evolving socio-technical system of Information Technology (IT) capabilities" [22], p. 1. IIs vary in scale, functionality and scope with examples such as the internet, electronic market places, operating systems, music platforms, mobile application platforms, movie platforms, and music platforms [22][49]. In the global supply chain IIs mainly revolve around Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) or eXtensible Markup Language (XML) networks enabling data sharing between public and private organizations (the electronic data pipelines of [25], [31].

IIs can be highly beneficial for individuals, organizations, and societies as shown by aforementioned examples such as the internet. However, many II initiatives fail to deliver expected benefits [22]. The global supply chain is no exception; in the past decades a plethora of initiatives to develop IIs for international trade have emerged to achieve collaboration [3], yet "there is a fairly widespread belief that few firms have truly capitalized on [their] potential" [35], p. 237. "Collaboration arguably has the most disappointing track record of the various supply chain management strategies introduced to date" [42], p. 24. Although individual success stories with supply chain collaboration are reported in various industries, "mainstream implementation within these industries has been much less prominent than expected" [26], p. 170. Consequently, fragmented and inaccurate supply chain information remains a problem for many private and public organizations [25], [29].

This research focuses on the cultivation of IIs which refers to a softer, less disruptive design approach compared to traditional design approaches in which systems are defined through specified functional requirements within strict boundaries. Literature presents many challenges that are encountered in the cultivation of IIs such as the bootstrap and adaptability problems of Hanseth and Lyytinen [22]. Challenges regarding IIs for international trade are also found, e.g. challenges relating to trust, power, and dependence [34]. Literature provides various reasons for engagement in IIs too such as unleashing generativity in terms of Tilson et al. [49]. Reasons to engage in IIs for international trade are mentioned as well, e.g. visibility as the holy grail [26]. However, a taxonomy of II challenges and engagement reasons from the viewpoint of different types of stakeholders in the international trade domain is missing. Insight from diverse stakeholders is important since II cultivation revolves around stakeholder mobilization [1], [4].

This paper presents a taxonomy of challenges that are encountered in the cultivation of IIs for international trade as well as a taxonomy of engagement reasons in IIs for international trade. Results are obtained from a stakeholder analysis that is conducted as part of an European Union project for international trade [17]. Hence, viewpoints from different types of stakeholders are provided: supply chain businesses, governments, IT providers, and research partners. …

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