The introduction of information and communications technology into physical communities : an action case study
The role of information and communications technology, which has been mostly limited to use within business and government organisations, is now moving through society and touching all sections, groups and individuals therein. Information and communications technology is now pervading physical, or real, communities, as opposed to communities created through information technology, virtual communities. For the purposes of this research study, a traditional view of community is taken and defined as people sharing experiences and interrelations with others living in a physical locality, comprising all residents, workforce, official bodies and authorities that exist or have business within a defined physical area. There is potential for positive change within physical communities through the use of such technology to change the way people work, interact with local government, and the way people access information. There are also potential dangers that cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the technology and the speed of advances in the technology, some dangers may be overlooked. Much of the research work concerning these issues tends to be focused on the technological aspects of the phenomenon, or takes a utopian view of the implementation of technological advances within communities. This research study takes a more critical view of the issues involved and is based upon an exploration of the issues associated with the introduction of information and communication technologies within the physical community. The study uses an ethics-based framework to explore these issues, together with a unified conceptual framework covering all aspects of the research study. An ethics-based approach was chosen because of its applicability to issues that have potentially harmful social effects, and was closely related to prior research work. An action case research method was employed to engage with a selected research subject. This allowed the researcher to conduct the study while acting close to the main participants within a community. Research uncovered a number of research findings or lessons, including, but not limited to, the finding that: the introduction of ICT into physical communities has divergent issues that stem from a broad spectrum of domains; arguments portraying aspects of projects as being amoral must be countered, that ethics is not just about big questions; that ethical analysis is important, both to the subject area of this research and others; the contingent nature of IS research in context means IS research cannot follow the waterfall model. Research also led to the formation of two important ideas, the notion engagement and in-situ ethical analysis.