oa South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science - The diffusion of innovations theory as a theoretical framework in Library and Information Science research : research article

Volume 71, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0256-8861



This paper discusses the appropriateness of Diffusion of Innovations (DoI) Theory as a platform for explaining aspects of information and communication technology (ICT) innovation adoption process in the field of Library and Information Science (LIS). The discussion is based on literature review of the theory's application, plus the experience and findings of two recently completed doctoral research projects on ICTs, at the University of Zululand, in which the theory was applied. The DoI theory is essentially a social process in which subjectively perceived information about a new idea is communicated. The theory rests on the premise that a new idea, practice or object has perceivable channels, time and mode of being adopted by individuals or organisations. In recent years, the theory has widely been used to study the adoption of ICTs in organizations and in instructional technology. However, though providing a good tool for descriptive research, the theory does not adequately provide a basis for predicting outcomes or for providing guidance for accelerating adoption rates. There is also doubt about the extent to which the theory can give rise to readily refutable hypotheses. It was also observed that many of the theory's elements are specific to the culture in which it was derived, i.e. North America in the 1950s and 1960s. For instance the theory's "social system" focus, particularly the socio-economic issues, is different from the pertinent issues that continually challenge developing countries such as funding, expertise, politics and culture. Nonetheless, the broad framework of the theory provides a platform for investigating LIS innovations, even in unique social systems such as sub-Saharan Africa's reality.

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