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We apply socio-technical theories to explain and predict technological choices and use by humanitarian relief and development organizations. This research examines the organizational context of using a personal digital assistant (PDA) in the field to collect data. We identify organizational factors at multiple levels that are likely to influence a field-based PDA data collection initiative in the context of a large, international non-governmental organization. This research differs from existing studies that have documented different effects of information and communication technology on various organization levels when information technology (IT) is deployed throughout the organization. The research suggests that despite being motivated by upper levels of the organization, the middle levels of the organization (the country offices) are most affected by the IT implementation. We assert that the motivations for changes made to the technological systems and/or devices used by a multi-level organization will produce significant social/organizational changes at each level of the organization. We also claim that the motivations for technological change in organizations that stem from the top layers of that organization are likely to produce beneficial changes for the top layers of that organization. Intermediate and bottom layers will experience a mix of changes, with some being negative and some unintended for the respective layers.
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Keywords: accountability; humanitarian relief; organizational theory; socio-technical theory; wireless devices

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: College of Information Sciences and Technology, Penn State University, State College, PA, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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