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The adoption of e-commerce in the Lesotho tourism industry
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Over the years, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been revolutionising global markets. Just as developed nations, there has been a push for developing countries to adopt ICT as leverage towards improving their economic development. However, in the current era ICT adoption has not been as widespread as anticipated in some parts of the world with its use in developing countries especially, lagging behind. This is particularly so amongst the small, medium, micro-enterprise (SMME) sector, which is an important driver of the economy in the developing world. SMMEs in developing countries have largely been hindered in the uptake of ICTs. This is, in part, due to underlying issues such as high cost of ICT, inadequate and unreliable infrastructure as well as lack of policy which promotes competition and growth of the ICT sectors. Amongst varying applications of ICTs, e-Commerce is one area in particular in which SMMEs have been relatively slow to adopt. In the current era many African countries have already taken firm steps to address infrastructure and ICT access issues. However improved access on its own will not result in economic growth. Thus it is important to also understand aspects of ICT adoption in developing countries. The purpose of this research was to investigate the factors affecting e-commerce adoption in a developing country. Lesotho presented itself as an ideal case to investigate e-commerce adoption amongst SMMEs in the Lesotho tourism industry. This study provides a deeper explanation of the factors that influence e-commerce uptake in the Lesotho tourism sector. In the extant literature, several studies and a number of generic models and frameworks on technology adoption explain a generalised understanding of technology adoption. None of these provide a contextualised perspective prevalent to businesses in the typical developing country environment. Evidence for the study was collected via questionnaire and interviews with businesses. Questionnaires were distributed, in the first instance, to understand the level of adoption of e- commerce amongst tourism businesses in Lesotho, and to assess what the internet was being used for. Based on this initial assessment, which confirmed the research problem, the researcher conducted interviews to investigate the actual adoption issues amongst tourism SMMEs in Lesotho. In addition, the discussion with SMMEs involved observations and examining the organisation‟s online activities or websites (where applicable) as well as the investigation of the country‟s e-commerce environment. The study was premised on the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) model as its framework. The results showed that SMMEs used the Internet on a daily basis for various purposes. However e-commerce services were not used by businesses even though there appeared to be a general consensus amongst respondents that e-commerce would increase productivity. The findings revealed that dimensions of the UTAUT model provided a sensible explanation regarding behavioural intention to adopt and use e-commerce amongst tourism SMMEs in the Lesotho tourism sector. In addition new dimensions in respect of adoption were identified, viz. national culture and facilitating conditions. From national culture and facilitating conditions dimensions, factors such as nepotism, masculinity, technological resources, costs, education and organisation‟s size were found to be mitigating factors against e-commerce adoption amongst SMMEs in the Lesotho tourism industry. Finally, an adapted UTAUT model is proposed for further study of e-commerce adoption in a developing country context.