Is Cultural Impact

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Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology Volume 4, 2007 The Cultural Impact of Information Systems –
Through the Eyes of Hofstede – A Critical Journey
Michael Jones
University of Wollongong,
Wollongong, Australia
mjones@uow.edu.au
Irit Alony
Central Queensland University,
Rockhampton, Australia
i.alony@cqu.edu.au
Abstract
With the increasing levels of multiculturalism in today’s business and the proliferation and essentiality of information systems, development and management of IS needs to be considered in light of the cultural factors which impact upon its utility. Hofstede’s work on culture is the most widely cited in existence. His observations and analysis provide scholars and practitioners a valuable insight into the dynamics of cross-cultural relationships. However, such a groundbreaking body of work does not escape criticism. Hofstede has been dogged by academics discrediting his work in part or whole. Nonetheless, far more scholars exist who support Hofstede than those that don’t. Most quote Hofstede’s work with unabashed confidence, many including his findings as absolute assumptions.

This paper takes a critical look at Hofstede’s work and applies his findings to the practical needs of information systems. The paper finds support for the dimensions promoted by Hofstede in regard to information systems, but recommends continued research to provide greater clarity and continued applicability of his espoused dimensions.

Keywords: Culture, Information Systems, Hofstede, Cultural Dimensions, Cross-Cultural Research. Introduction
"Undoubtedly, the most significant cross-cultural study of work-related values is the one carried out by Hofstede” (Bhagat & McQuaid, 1982) Much interest has been placed on culture in business in the last two decades, and with growing national diversity in today’s business, culture remains an important dimension. The study of the field began in earnest with the work of Hofstede with his landmark study of IBM (Hofstede 1980), and with Peters and Waterman who started the organisation culture sensation with “In Search of Excellence” (Peters &

Waterman 1982). Preceding these studies
however, was the work of Bartels
(1967) who was one of the first to relate
the importance of culture, illustrating
the concept in decision-making and
business ethics. Bartels identifies several
criteria for the identification of cultural
differences, including:
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The Cultural Impact of IS
408
• Law;
• Respect for individuality;
• Nature of Power and Authority;
• Rights of Property;
• Concept of Deity;
• Relation of Individual to State;
• National Identity and Loyalty;
• Values, Customs and Mores;
Culture is important for many aspects of business life especially with regard to the design, development and management of Information Systems (IS) protocols and infrastructure (Myers and Tan 2002). Kumar and Bjom-Andersen (1990) claim that design and management choices in IS are the result of individual values, and these values are a product of socio-cultural background: The designers' values are the product of the professional, social, and organizational context within which they are held, and of the individual's background and education. Accordingly, their design...
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