Considering the societal implications in the adoption of e-business models


Nancy Pouloudi and Konstantina Vassilopoulou (Greece)


A large amount of work within current funded European projects concerns e-business-based models for work and business. Therefore, a common theme underlying these projects is the existence of experiences on developing and implementing e-business models. At the same time, however, there is a common limitation across most of these projects: the emerging knowledge on e-business models development only exists within these projects and despite the dissemination efforts, remains fragmented. Some projects concentrate on their specific market, while others concentrate on a specific industry sector, type of product, or technology stream. However, as these models represent value, which extends beyond this specific context, there is an unprecedented need for a deeper understanding and some specific actionable directions in boosting the research and market potential from the adoption of new models for business and work. Another limitation of this work is that it is very often driven by market imperatives. While the European Commission requires all projects to consider the socio-economic impact of the research results, in practice, more emphasis is given on the market exploitation of innovative products. This concentrates on economic rather than social issues. However, it is the social issues that define the broader context of electronic commerce adoption. The following paragraphs provide examples of some such social issues.

As new e-business models lead to new business practices they will affect work and consequently employment. Analysis of new skills and capabilities will be required. By focusing on dynamic capabilities that emerge from new business models and define new methods of work it is important to investigate the evolution of knowledge workers and consequently implications on employment. In this respect, attention needs to be paid both to organisations that will seek to offer value added services as well as to consumers and the new skills and attitudes that they will need to adopt. New business models are expected to influence everyday life as much as they will affect work and employment. For example, potential impacts on work and personal ways of living may be different depending on the social environment, so that there are different adoption patterns for electronic business in rural versus urban areas, in different national contexts, for different social classes, in densely populated or remote regions, and so on.

Information technology applications in the form of new e-business models provide a unique opportunity for European companies to go through the convergence learning curve, faster and with greater success. Accelerating the learning process within and between businesses in Europe is very important. The network infrastructure of the new economy offers a more level playing field with greater opportunities for all businesses whether they are in more or less developed economies. Effective e-business practices put in practice will give companies in Europe exposure and access to global markets at a fraction of the cost and the risk. The transfer of knowledge necessary for the companies to make the right steps ahead, through a training program in e-business best business cases and implementation approaches is required. Finally, the fast changing world of the Information Society will undoubtedly create vast educational requirements for new graduates and for the re-training of the existing workforce. Online e-commerce education programmes seem to become very important to the adoption of E-business models.

These examples related to the social environment on the one hand and on the business environment on the other indicate that the social impacts of e-business cannot be viewed independently from three other key themes in e-business adoption: individual, organisational and technical. To this end, we have started working on ‘E-factors: a thematic network on e-business models’, a project that brings together 16 partners, representing the regional diversity of the European Union and aiming to provide a holistic study of e-business model adoption. More specifically, e-factors supports the objectives of e-Europe by strengthening the dissemination of knowledge and understanding of e-business models and associated technologies. This dissemination has the potential to accelerate the take-up of appropriate information and communication technology solutions by adopting a holistic perspective to e-business adoption that integrates the study of individual, organisational, societal and technological aspects of e-business. The results of this study will provide Europe’s organisations and individuals with advanced knowledge and access to IST capabilities allowing quick take-up and entry to the digital age. The e-factors consortium works towards forming a co-ordinated network of activities for the exchange of knowledge and best practices – with the key aim to advance knowledge of the factors of broad and sustainable adoption of new business models – a dissemination of new state-of-the art knowledge in e-business models. The project also aims to construct a report that the European Union can use to formulate future strategic implications that take into account the diverse and complex social environment in which the changes incurred by e-business take place. Knowledge will be drawn from the expertise of leading universities and current IST projects conducting research in e-business models, their adoption and their socio-economic implications.