The purpose of this paper is to investigate website quality in rural firms in four countries, by using Gonzalez and Palacios's Web Assessment Index (WAI). There is an assertion in the literature that quality is lower amongst rural firms than urban firms, and lower amongst small firms than large firms. The disadvantages of lack of access to skills and economic peripherality in rural areas are attributed to this. Concurrently, there is reason to surmise that the websites of firms in transition economies may be higher quality than those in market economies. The paper aims to explore websites in distinct rural regions to investigate if variation occurs.
To evaluate website quality the WAI was applied to a sample of 60 rural firms representing 15 each in Scotland, New Zealand, Southern Russia and Hunan Province in China. Analysis of the categorical data was performed using a variety of established methods.
The WAI is of use in terms of website quality management. Additionally, comparisons between the quality of websites in the sample of small rural firms with those of large firms in previous studies support the contention that large firms generally have better quality websites. Results also illustrate that there are some differences in website quality between rural small businesses in the different locations. In particular, small rural firms in Hunan Province in China had websites of observable better quality than those elsewhere. The authors conclude that skills, knowledge and infrastructure have a bearing on the sophistication of small firms' websites.
Implications include that variation in the rural economy by region prevails as the rural economy is not, as often implied, a homogeneous concept.
There are implications in terms of exploring the effects of regulation, culture and infrastructure on rural small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The internet may indeed contribute to rural economies, but only insofar as it is facilitated by infrastructure and access to skills, and by culture and perceived usefulness by business owners.
The paper contributes to the understanding of rural entrepreneurship as a heterogeneous concept by comparing practice in four distinct rural regions. It also adds weight to the emerging identification of exogenous factors as being at least as much a factor in determining the use of ICT in rural SMEs as endogenous motivations, skills and resources.
Sanders, J. and Galloway, L. (2013), "Rural small firms' website quality in transition and market economies", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 788-806. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSBED-01-2012-0009
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