Contextualist Inquiry into E-Commerce Institutionalization in Developing Countries: The Case of Mozambican Women-led SMMES

Salah Kabanda, Fernanda Matsinhe
Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management  •  Volume 14  •  2019  •  pp. 325-341

This study explores how women-led SMMEs in developing countries, specifically in the Mozambican context, institutionalise e-commerce by focusing on the ongoing interaction between the SMME, its context, and process of e-commerce institutionalization.

It is believed that institutionalization of e-commerce provides significant benefits of unlimited access to new markets, and access to new, improved, inexpensive and convenient operational methods of transacting. Although prior studies have examined the adoption of e-commerce and the enabling and constraining factors, few have examined e-commerce (i) institutionalization (that is, post-adoption), and (ii) from a gender perspective. This study aims to respond to this paucity in the literature by exploring how women-led SMMEs in developing countries, specifically in the Mozambican context, institutionalise e-commerce.

The study follows a qualitative inquiry approach for both data collection and analysis. Semi-structured interviews were adopted for data collection and thematic analysis implemented on the data. SMMEs were purposively sampled to allow for the selection of information-rich SMMEs for study and specifically those that have gone through the experience of adoption and in some cases have institutionalized e-commerce.

The empirical findings explain how the institutionalization process from interactive e-commerce to transactive e-commerce unfolds in the Mozambican context.

Transition from interactive to transactive e-commerce is firstly influenced by (i) the type of business the SMME is engaged in; and (ii) customer and trading partner’s readiness for e-commerce. Secondly, the transition process is influenced by the internal factors of (i) manager’s demographic factors; (ii) mimetic behaviour arising from exposure to (foreign) organizations in the same industry that have mature forms of e-commerce; (iii) the business networks developed with some of these organizations that have mature forms of e-commerce; (iv) access to financial resources; and (v) social media technologies. Thirdly, the process is influenced by external contextual factors of (i) limited government intervention towards e-commerce endeavors; (ii) limited to lack of financial institutions readiness for e-commerce; (iii) lack of local available IT expertise; (iv) consumer’s low purchasing power due to economic recessions; (vi) international competitive pressure; and (vii) sociocultural practices.

The study provides SMME managers, practitioners, and other stakeholders concerned with women’s development with a better understanding of the process in order to develop appropriate policies and interventions that are suitable for the reality of women-led SMMEs in Mozambique and other developing countries with similar contextual characteristics.

The study contributes to the existing debate of e-commerce and the use of ICT for development in developing countries by providing a distinct contribution of the institutionalization process and how the contextual structures influence this process.

Women-led SMME managers can learn from the different experiences, and compare their e-commerce efforts with SMMEs that were able to institutionalize and make strategies for improvements within their organizations.

The manner in which women-led SMMEs employ e-commerce requires further investigation to understand how issues related to gender, the cultural context, and different regions or countries impact this process.

small micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs), contextualist inquiry, e-commerce, developing countries
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