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Design and diffusion of systems for human benefit: Toward more humanistic realisation of information systems in society

John R. Venable (School of Information Systems, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia)
Jan Pries‐Heje (Department of Communication, Business and Information Technologies, Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark)
Deborah Bunker (Department of Business Information Systems, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)
Nancy L. Russo (Department of Operations Management & Information Systems, Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 23 August 2011




This paper aims to introduce this special issue of ITP on systems for human benefit (S4HB), to develop and promote the idea of S4HB, and advocate that more research be conducted on the design and diffusion of S4HB.


This conceptual paper argues that S4HB are systemically under‐researched based on a historical perspective on IS research and proposes an agenda for research on the design and diffusion of S4HB.


The paper identifies extant areas of S4HB, such as health and education, but also advocates that new areas of S4HB be identified and new kinds of S4HB be designed. It further discusses how diffusion is a key issue to the realisation of human benefits and contrasts diffusion of S4HB with more commercial business systems as a motivator for further research. Finally it sets out a brief agenda for research in S4HB, including: development of a vision for research on S4HB that emphasises design for solving human problems; research on diffusion of S4HB; revision of the way impact is assessed by journals to include assessment of the significance of the problem and the achievement of human benefit; and promotion of a research culture, policies, and funding that emphasises S4HB.


This is the first paper to pull together a common perspective on the disparate areas of S4HB. The paper identifies what S4HB are, what their goals are, what areas are concerned, and sets out an agenda for what research is needed to realise them and their benefits in society.



Venable, J.R., Pries‐Heje, J., Bunker, D. and Russo, N.L. (2011), "Design and diffusion of systems for human benefit: Toward more humanistic realisation of information systems in society", Information Technology & People, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 208-216.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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