Applying Information Science Lens for Advancing Critical Research on IT Adoption: Insights from Continued Usage of Mobile Phones by Poor Women in Rural India

Applying Information Science Lens for Advancing Critical Research on IT Adoption: Insights from Continued Usage of Mobile Phones by Poor Women in Rural India

Devendra Dilip Potnis (School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/IJTD.2015010105

Abstract

Critical research on IT adoption dominated by cognitive models grounded in psychology and communication is always in search of new theoretical perspectives to understand, explain, and interpret social issues. Since information plays an important role in IT adoption, this study applies an information science lens to investigate the factors affecting the continued usage of mobile phones in rural India. Analysis of interviews with 22 women earning less than a dollar day reveals the influence of social, economic, cognitive, technological, and information-related factors on their continued usage of mobiles. Micro- and meso-level socioeconomic motives and active information-seeking behavior emerge as the most significant factors encouraging respondents to continue using mobiles against several technical and human barriers. The application of information science lens yields three constructs and ten micro-, meso-, and macro-level variables, advancing critical research on IT adoption with the help of a theoretical lens outside of psychology and communication literature.
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Introduction

Critical research, one of the fastest growing research streams in information systems (IS), studies social issues like social control, power structures in society and organizations, organizational adoption of IS, use and impact of information technology (IT), and development of disadvantaged communities (Kvasny & Keil, 2006; Myers & Klein, 2011; Orlikowski & Baroudi 1991). Theoretical lenses from psychology and communication have always dominated critical research on IT adoption. For instance, the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975), the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) (Ajzen, 1985), the Diffusion of Innovation Theory (Rogers, 1995), and the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) (Davis, 1989) are the most frequently employed lenses for explaining the challenges, risks, and benefits associated with individual IT adoption including continued usage of IT in a specific context (Musa, 2006). However, to understand, explain, and interpret IT adoption phenomenon, critical research on IT adoption is always in search of theories from other disciplines (Myers & Klein, 2011).

The current study applies an information science lens to study continued usage of mobile phones by poor women in rural India. Specific research question for the study was: How can information science aid critical research on IT adoption for explaining the continued usage of mobile phones by poor women in rural India? Rarely any critical research study on IT adoption applies an information science lens to understand the continued usage of IT in a developing nation context, which is the unique contribution of this study.

Typically, critical research on IT adoption takes one of the following three approaches: insight, critique, or transformative redefinition (Alvesson & Deetz, 2000). The first approach is concerned with interpreting elements and their interactions in a system to gain insights. The second approach goes beyond insights to focus on the power structures, the genealogy of knowledge, and the social practices of control that lie behind accepted interpretations. The third approach suggests improvements to the existing human conditions by emancipating people from undesirable social, economic, and physical constraints (Myers & Klein, 2011). This study draws insights from the continued usage of mobile phones by one of the most disadvantaged communities in the world.

Women participants in this study belong to the lowest stratum of the rigid structured social hierarchy in India. People from the lowest social stratum are often times not treated equally by other factions in the Indian society (Tenhunen, 2008). Due to male-dominated cultural practices, the living conditions of the women in the lowest social stratum are the worst in the country (Khan & Ghadially, 2009). The participants in this study engage in several blue-collar seasonal jobs in Bhor, a small village in Maharashtra, one of the western states in India. They work part-time for a small cooperative business called MGU where they are involved in preparing traditional Indian snacks. Despite earning less than a dollar a day, they had been using their own mobile phones for more than 13 months.

The second section points out a gap in critical research on IT adoption and provides rationale for selecting Wilson’s model of information behavior, an information science lens for studying the continued usage of mobile phones. The third section elaborates research method. The fourth section illustrates findings using the narratives of poor female mobile phone users. The fifth section demonstrates the contributions of this study along with limitations of the study. The concluding section summarizes how this study injects a fresh theoretical perspective to advance critical research on IT adoption in developing nations.

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