Much of the research in information systems and information technology (IS/IT) has been dominated by a U.S-centric or a Western-centric view. Research paradigms and models developed for the U.S. and Western Europe are just that; they are applicable primarily to the western context. Unsuspecting researchers have taken the same models and applied them to other nations, e.g., underdeveloped countries, emerging economies, transitional economies, and middle-eastern countries. The results have been mid-guided and spurious in many cases.
This is not to suggest that serious efforts have not been made by selected investigators to address unique issues in various regions of the world using paradigms applicable to the context. In fact, some have risen to the challenge in limited domains. But these efforts have been limited at best. What is sorely lacking is a world view that tries to understand the major IS issues in the world in the context of their unique cultural, economic, political, religious and societal environments. If we are able to accomplish this rather expansive goal, it will not be purely an academic exercise; although the contributions to academic research will be enormous.
A good understanding of the critical IT issues facing firms and their employees and their surrounding context will be important from the firm, national, and international points of view. At the firm level, it would help management and staff in formulating business and IT policies and strategies. At the national level, it would allow stakeholders, such as policymakers, government and vendors in addressing the pressing issues of the times. In international business, it would help firms and governments in responding to the needs of partners and stakeholders in other countries. A comparative examination across countries and world regions would help facilitate global understanding, cooperation, and knowledge transfer among many nationalities. At the academic level, it will provide researchers with a grounded understanding of the international IT environment, and provide a validated framework to launch many international IT studies.
Professor Prashant Palvia at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the Project Leader, made the call to undertake this research several years ago – but it remained unfulfilled to date due to many reasons: lack of resources, need for an international collaboration among willing investigators, cross-border coordination and project management, the sheer amount of effort and time required to accomplish the goals, the lack of incentives and rewards, and most importantly a well-articulated vision and plan.
Fortunately, this has changed and we were able to launch the "World IT Project”. I (Prashant Palvia) will try to describe its major elements. The mission of the project is stated below:
The World IT Project is designed to examine important issues confronting IT employees, both staff and management, in many countries of the world. The proposed project requires survey data collection from different countries, representing different cultures, levels of economic growth, societal and religious beliefs, and political systems. More than forty countries from all parts of the globe will be targeted for this research. In terms of scope, the project is akin to Hofstede’s research on culture and the GLOBE project.
Project phases are described below.
1. Develop an instrument. This step was completed in 2014. Previous studies are characterized by great variation in the underlying instruments making comparisons across time and countries difficult. There is definitely a need to achieve some level of uniformity in instruments used across studies. The instrument was developed, and went through pre-testing and pilot testing for validation.
2. Identify countries/regions and country investigators. Our goal was to get data representing major regions of the world. The proposed project required data collection from different countries, representing different cultures, levels of economic growth, religious beliefs and political systems. We asked for country investigators to develop a plan for their country and then signed an MOU. This stage is almost complete and we have more than 45 countries signed up for the project.
3. Identify grant sources. Several countries have obtained grant from their universities, goverment agencies, and external bodies.
4. Data Collection. The data collection is nearing completion. We have full data from 15 countries. All data collection should be completed by the end of 2016.
5. Analysis and Reporting. Analysis will include single country findings, cross-country comparisons, and industry-specific analyses. We will disseminate our findings in a number of ways, such as conference presentations, journal publications, and books. The project will conclude in 2017/18 when all writing is expected to be completed. At this time (October 2016), we have written two journal papers that are under review and several conference papers. In all, we plan to write more than 20 journal papers, more than 40 conference papers, and couple of books.