CEC Theses and Dissertations

Title

A Cognitive Study of The Use of the Internet by Minority Small Business Owners for Information Research and The Design and Development of a Small Business Information Portal

Date of Award

2005

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Steven D. Zink

Committee Member

Timothy Ellis

Committee Member

Marlyn Kemper Littman

Abstract

Small businesses have always played important roles in America's economic evolution. They continue to be an important means by which women, minorities, and immigrant enter the American economic mainstream. A review of the relevant literature indicated that information is one of the central resources of a new venture and that there is still much to be learned about the ways in which entrepreneurs gather and utilize the information they need. This study aimed to identify the information needs of the minority small business owner and provide a solution to these information needs through the design and development of a business research information portal that will serve as a gateway to subject specific information for this user group.

The researcher first investigated the information needs of the minority small business owner by conducting a needs analysis survey. The survey findings provided an understanding of the information needs, while the focus group and usability study revealed the users' perceptions of Web site usability and content. The results of the needs analysis survey indicated that the minority small business owner has a strong need for information. Subject areas include market research, demographics, funding resources, and industry data. In general, approximately 65% survey respondents rated their computer and Internet competency levels as proficient, advanced, or at mastery. Although participants generally ranked themselves competent in using the Internet the majority were still interested in learning how to research specific business topics.

The business information research portal was developed, based on the results of the needs analysis survey, as an online community for the minority small business owner. The goal was to provide business information resources, services, and tools, in an environment that would allow this group to network with one another, share their thoughts and ideas, and learn from each other. This online community brings the minority small business owners together and offers them the opportunity to interact extensively with one another on specific topics. Therefore, this portal will serve the minority small business owners' information research needs.

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