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Interpreting the success and failure of regional internet community portals in promoting e‐commerce adoption by SMEs : A cultural perspective

Denise E. Gengatharen (School of Management, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Australia)

Journal of Systems and Information Technology

ISSN: 1328-7265

Article publication date: 23 May 2008




This paper aims to examine the impact of cultural factors on the success or failure of three Western Australian (WA) government‐funded collaboratively‐owned regional internet community portals designed to encourage small to medium‐sized enterprise adoption of e‐commerce. Two portals were rural/country‐based and the third was in metropolitan WA.


Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory is used to interpret the findings of study which employed the structured case study methodology using a multiple‐case embedded‐design.


Australia with cultural traits of high individualism, masculinity, low power distance and moderately low uncertainty avoidance, would not be a laggard in adopting technological innovation. In such a culture, the individual's perceived usefulness and personal gain will be the most important factors in technology acceptance. However, this research highlights a need for caution in using national culture to examine IS adoption. In this study, the collectivist culture of the rural communities was instrumental in initially sustaining their portals, as participants placed the community's perceived usefulness and gain from the portal above that of the individual. The individualistic nature of the owners and the communities catered for by the metropolitan portal resulted in its failure.

Research limitations/implications

While culture is an important construct in the success of community‐based IS endeavours, it should be examined at the local level instead of a national one. The limitations of this paper are that culture is examined only from the perspective of collectivism or individualism, and that the study is based only in Australia.

Practical implications

Cultural contexts underlying regional collaborative IS efforts can in some cases be leveraged to achieve intended outcomes. In others, they can indicate that the initiatives are not suitable and would require significantly greater resources.


This study contributes to knowledge in the area of the role of culture in community‐based IS initiatives by showing that outcomes of similar initiatives can differ based on sub cultural differences within a national culture.



Gengatharen, D.E. (2008), "Interpreting the success and failure of regional internet community portals in promoting e‐commerce adoption by SMEs : A cultural perspective", Journal of Systems and Information Technology, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 56-71.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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