A major issue in Information Systems (IS) research is how to combine relevance and rigor (Benbasat & Zmud, 1999) and reduce the widening gap between research results and adoption (Dunn, 1994). Qualitative researchers make use of interpretivist methods to add richness and depth to their understanding of user problems. Interpretivist methods applied to IS implementations can thus result in research which communicates those findings more effectively. However standard interpretivist data-collection and analysis methods can be time-consuming and expensive. Findings based on these methods may be irrelevant to practitioners by the time they reach publication stage. A potential solution to this problem lies in Rapid Appraisal or RA, a qualitative appraisal methodology derived from rural development-related research. It offers IS researchers an additional technique for learning and acquiring relevant information in a limited period of time that supplements current data collection and analysis techniques. RA adds value to the traditional approach for studying diffusion of innovation, supporting and extending the IS researchers qualitative tool-kit. In this paper we review an electronic gateway designed to facilitate the diffusion of an Australian government to business [G2B] export documentation system, EXDOC, which was first implemented with meat producers. RA techniques were used to collect and analyse data regarding the implementation of the first regional Electronic Trade Facilitation Center [ETFC] successfully established for Australian exporters in the horticulture sector. The findings from the original EXDOC implementation in the meat sector were confirmed and extended through this study. These include the importance of developing a governance structure that ensures all community members share the benefits of an implementation and the fact that virtual trading communities are attractive to users only if they add value to their business and extend standard ways of operating. Interactive interviews, part of the RA approach; also enabled us to expand our understanding of the way in which procedures developed in the course of implementing an electronic market represent value-adding opportunities for virtual trading communities. The paper has special relevance for researchers investigating adoption and diffusion issues experienced by small-scale producers with low exposure to technology in remote and rural settings.


Virtual Communities, Adoption and Diffusion of Online Systems, and Qualitative Research Methods


The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of the original submission for their detailed and very helpful suggestions. Their contribution undoubtedly helped us produce a much improved revised version of this paper.

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