American Journal of Applied Sciences 5 (4): 369-377, 2008
© 2008 Science Publications
The Relationship Between National Culture and E-Adoption: A Case Study of Iran
Akram Hadizadeh Moghadam and Parisa Assar
School of Management, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran
Abstract: National Culture, in the sense of the shared traditions and representations of a society, has a
profound effect on the design, adoption and the use of Information Technologies in each society. E-
Adoption refers to the adoption of Information Technology and internet. Using Hofstede theory as the
primary theoretical framework, through a review of existing studies, the current study attempted to
explore the potential impact of differences in national culture on IT implementation and adoption.
Based on these studies, national culture has a major effect on e-adoption; it could be as a restraining or
driving force. Given the fact that the concept of culture is not static and will change over the time, this
study illustrated that by renewing Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, a newer attitude towards Iranian
culture and its relevance with e-adoption could be achieved. In addition, the findings show that Iranian
society is clustered in sense of some cultural indexes and concerning merely the average of every
index, is not sufficient. Rather, it is necessary for an IT planner to provide a thorough plan which could
cover each cluster of the society. To achieve this fact, we provide some propositions for e-adoption
based on previous studies in other countries, to cover all of various clusters in each cultural index.
National Culture, Hofstede’s Cultural dimensions, VSM method, ICT adoption
cultural survey studies and distributed it among two
sample societies to renew dimensions and analyze our
Understanding individual acceptance of IT and
findings based on current situation of Iran.
especially its usage is an important issue [1,2]. Iran is a
This analysis has a subtle difference from previous
country that gradually encounters with this new
ones; we believe that Hofstede method overlooks the
technology and step by step implements it in every part
dis tribution of scores, and just emphasizes on their
of its society. There are few researchers that tested the
means. In section “Discussion and
impact of cultural factors on the behavior of IT usage in
considerations”, we present a precise analysis of this
Iran. Therefore, given this gap in the literature the
issue. Furthermore, we provide some suggestions in this
present research aims at testing the cultural Dimensions
section to achieve a more appropriate plan for e-
of Iranian people which is based on Hofstede national
adoption in Iran.
cultural dimensions, and anticipate the behavior of
Iranian people in the adoption and use of IT, which is
Hofstede’s Model Of Culture:
The most common
influenced by their national culture. We intend to shed
definition of culture is from Hofstede view. To
light on this research by comparing with some other
Hofstede, culture is ‘‘the collective programming of the
countries which have been involved in researching this
mind which distinguishes the members of one human
group from another’’ . He  considers culture as the
To achieve these goals, by explaining Hofstede’s
‘collective programming of the mind’ and responsible
cultural dimensions, some aspects of Iranian culture in
for shaping the ‘mental programs’ or ‘software of mind’
Hofstede’s survey and other studies, are mentioned.
Providing some empirical and theoretical studies to
From this view, culture means shared values,
illustrate the relationship between national culture and
meanings, and norms within an organization or a
ICT adoption and implementation, we intend to
nation. Understanding a group culture requires an
illustrate the importance of renewing Hofstede’s
extended interval considerations rather than surface
cultural dimensions to obtain a reasonable comparison
manifestation of culture. By considering the core of
with other countries. We use Values Survey Module
culture, you can find how people think, and what their
(VSM ), as recommended by Hofstede  for cross-
shared values are. Values are acquired early in life
Parisa Assar, School of Management, Shahid Beheshti University, TEL: +989121823093
Am. J. Applied Sci., 5 (4): 369-377, 2008
through childhood socialization and education, and are
term for the benefit of the future gratifications. Values
often “stable in nature but can change over time
associated with Long Term Orientation are thrift and
reflecting changes in culture” . Tung’s definition of
perseverance; values associated with Short Term
culture implies that the concept is not static; rather it is
Orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social
dynamic and evolves over time. In this paper, the
obligations, and protecting one's 'face'.
authors accentuate on the important role of time in the
National Culture And Information Technology
Several sets of dimensions have been developed to
To demonstrate how Hofstede’s
characterize the concept of national culture. The current
framework might relate to ICT use, in the table 1, we
provide a brief description of the relationship between
research will use the following dimensions:
each dimension and IT acceptance and adoption, based
“individualism/collectivism”, “power distance”,
on previous researches .
“masculinity/femininity”, “uncertainty avoidance” ,
and “long-term oriented/short term oriented” .
Description Of Iranian Culture: To have a depiction
During 1978-83, the Dutch cultural anthropologist
from Iranian National Culture, we use some studies that
Geert Hofstede conducted detailed interviews with
had been done in the
hundreds of IBM employees in 53 countries. Hofstede’s
Organizational studies can make us a better sense of
Dimensions facilitates national-level analysis and are
national studies. In addition, researchers and
standardized to allow multiple country comparisons.
management theorists understand organizational
phenomena based, in part, on some assumptions related
His five dimensions are described below. These
to their societies’ cultures .
descriptions are mainly adopted form Hofstede’s
Before the Islamic Republic Revolution,
Hofstede’s indexes were measured to the Iranian’s
PDI (Power Distance Index) is the extent to which
society. Table 2 shows Hofstede’s scores at the time of
less powerful members of a society accept unequal
the survey (1972) . According to Hofstede’s
power distribution. Small power-distance countries,
dimensions, Iran ranked 24th among 53 countries in
such as Norway (extremely low) and the United States
individualism with a small tendency to collectivism .
(moderately low), show limited acceptance of power
It should be emphasized that Hofstede conducted his
study in organizational contexts, in subsidiaries of the
inequality and less dependence of subordinates on
IBM Company in 72 countries. Therefore, the rank of
Iran in that study may not be generalized to the whole
UAI (Uncertainty Avoidance Index) deals with a
of Iranian society, which may have been more
society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity; it
collectivistic at that time . According to Hofstede,
ultimately refers to man's search for t ruth. It indicates to
Iran ranked 27 in high power distance among 53
what extent a culture programs its members to feel
countries, close to the average of power distance for
either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured
those countries .
Recently, a study was carried out concerning
IDV (Individualism Index) measures the
leadership attributions and cultural factors in some
individualism of a culture. On the individualist side we
Iranian companies. The cultural dimensions of this
find societies in which the ties between individuals are
study were modified versions of Hofstede’s dimensions
loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herself
. Societal collectivism, in-group
and his/her immediate family. On the collectivist side,
collectivis m, power distance, and some other cultural
we find societies in which people from birth onwards
dimensions were considered in this study . But
are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often
regards to Hofstedes’ dimensions, some of them
extended families which continue protecting them in
haven’t been considered and because of the goal of that
exchange for unquestioning loyalty.
study, it had been held survey on some special
MAS (Masculinity-Femininity), Masculinity refers
organizations. In that study, two different types of
to those societies, in which social gender roles are
collectivism, societal collectivism and in-group
clearly distinct, and Femininity pertains to societies in
collectivism were distinguished.
which gender roles overlap. This societies value
collectivism referred to “the
degree to which
modesty, tenderness, and quality of life.
organizational and societal institutional practices
LTO (Long Term Orientation) refers to the extent
encourage and reward collective distribution of
that people are willing to delay their needs on the short
Am. J. Applied Sci., 5 (4): 369-377, 2008
resources and collective action” . However, in-group
Islamic Revolution of Iran, 1972), dramatically
collectivism was defined as “the degree to which
influences some dimensions.
individuals express pride, loyalty and cohesiveness in
In the subsequent sections, we describe our
their organizations or families” . In-group refers to
method, participants, the way to collect data and our
collectivism in a way that members are highly
analysis to obtain renewed cultural dimensions for Iran.
interdependent and have a sense of common fate. In
contrast, groups to which they do not belong are out-
Method: This study builds on VSM 94 Questionnaire
groups .The managers were asked to rate to what
(Values Survey Model 1994) which was designed by
extent they believed that the cultural factors listed
Geert Hofstede . To calculate five cultural
above ‘existed’ in their everyday organizational life.
dimensions, we used formulas for index calculation,
According to the findings results , Iranian
mentioned in VSM’s manual  which was merely
managers reported fairly high levels of power distance
derived from mean scores. In the next part of our
and in-group collectivism. However, Iranian managers
research, we will indicate that mean score is not enough
reported quite a low level of societal collectivism. That
to achieve accurate cultural dimensions.
is, Iranian managers reported one of the highest in-
group collectivism with high power distance, whereas
The ideal number of participants is 50
one of the lowest societal collectivism . Because of
. Our sample consists of two separate groups. Our
high in-group collectivism, Iranians may not be likely
first sample has been selected from graduate and
to work cooperatively with others who may be
undergraduate university students in two accredited
identified as out-group members .
university in Iran. The second sample has been chosen
Geert Hofstede in his website  has mentioned that
from employees who belong to private firms with low
with the over-throw of the Shah in January of 1979, and
average age. Both sample societies were involved with
the subsequent re -emergence into Islamic
ICT adoption and implementation. Tables 3 and 4 show
fundamentalism, the current Hofstede Dimensions for
the distribution among degrees and genders for students
Iran may conform more closely to other Muslim
and employees, respectively.
countries that have higher Uncertainty Avoidance and
Power Distance rankings. We will assess this
Data Collection: The data were collected over three
anticipation in our research. In many papers, these
months from March 2007 to June 2007. During this
indexes are derived from the time of last survey for
time, we distributed the questionnaires among the
Iran. Therefore, this paper will renew dimensions of
universities and organizations.
Some of these
culture for Iran and analyzed how they might affect
questionnaires were sent via Email and some of them
acceptance and adoption of ICT among Iranian people.
were in hard-copy format.
Findings: To have a good comparison between
renewed dimensions and former ones, we mentioned
As described earlier, Hofstede’s cultural
both new ones and the old ones in table 5.
dimensions were calculated about three decades ago.
Tung’s  definition of culture implies that the concept
PDI: Obviously, we can see a transition from moderate
of culture is not static; rather it is dynamic and evolves
PDI to moderately low PDI. In spite of Hofstede’s
forecasting, this index is decreased, and has a major
difference with Arab culture’s PDI which is equal to 80.
Table 1: Hofstede’s Dimension of Culture Scales for Iran
Generally, countries with low power distance allow
upward social mobility of its citizens and their
participation in the process of decis ion making. One of
the conditions for such citizen’s participation would be
As our main major is to identify the relationship
the implementation of various communication
between Iranian’s culture and the implementation of IT,
technologies which would support and help this kind of
we decided to recalculate these dimensions.
participation happen. Therefore it could be argued that
Our premises based on the dynamic nature of
a country with a larger power distance would have a
cultural dimensions, were strongly confirmed. Because
negative attitude toward implementing and using ICTs
as our findings will demonstrate, the political and social
atmosphere at the time of the Hofstede's surv ey (near
Am. J. Applied Sci., 5 (4): 369-377, 2008
Regarding to our findings, we could conclude that
students will show positive attitude toward
MAS: As the table 5 demonstrates, Iranian Masculinity
implementing and using IT, which could reduce ruled
index raised drastically. One of the main reasons could
be the difficult economical situations through and after
based processes and actually make many processes
the war with Iraq, which imposed rigid and harsh
personalized. This fact also, will be supported with
economic situations that many people had to work hard
in order to afford their elementary needs.
To achieve a more convenient life, in a country
Table 2: Educational and gender demographics of students
with high masculinity, there would also be a positive
attitude toward implementing ICTs if these
technologies improve performance, increase the chance
of success and support competition, which are all key
factors of a masculine culture .
Table 3: Educational and gender demographics of employees
LTO : The long term orientation consists of values that
are more oriented towards the future, for example thrift
and perseverance, being tenacious in pursuit of goals,
being sensitive to social contacts and commitments. On
the other hand, the short term orientation is associated
with values that are more oriented towards past and
Table 4: The result of our survey comparing the former one
present. Here, Iran has a moderate score. Therefore,
PDI UAI IDV
probably there is no driving or restraining force towards
implementation of ICT.
New survey among students
New survey among employees
DISCUSSION AND FURTHER
UAI: In spite of Hofstede’s anticipation about
We provide an accurate analysis for Iran’s cultural
conforming to Arab culture in this index after Islamic
dimensions and mention some experiences of ICT
Revolution, this dimension has been decreased.
adoption in other similar countries.
It could be expected that countries with strong
Calculating cultural dimensions from Hofstede’s
uncertainty avoidance would be slow in the adoption
view are based on mean scores , but not only are the
mean scores important in analyzing ICT adoption, but
and use of new ICTs, while the countries on the
also one shall simultaneously consider the distribution
opposite end of this scale would be leaders in
of these indexes among people (i.e. in terms of
implementing new ICTs and willing to take the risk of
variances or standard deviations). Our approach is to
cluster the sample society of this research into groups
based on their index scores distributions and discuss the
IDV: It shows a profound increase in compare with the
properties of each. We clustered our sample society by
older survey. One of the main reasons for this
extracting different modules of multi-modular
difference, as Geert Hofstede admitted it himself , is
distributions, fitting Gaussian curves to each module.
the special dominant environment around 1972, the
But more complicated methods such as PCA (Principle
time of Hofstede survey. We can observe that after the
Component Analysis) can be used in further researches.
time of revolution in which people tend to be more
Power Distance Index:
According to table
collectivist than before, this cultural dimension have
obtained PDI score for Iran, was 28 and 45 among
been increased and even among students it raises to
students and employees respectively. But as fig 1(A)
103. This approach emerges in collective affairs in
illustrates, it seems that the students are divided into
which so many managers complain about this fact that
two groups, noted as Group #1 and Group #2 in the
Iranian people could not cooperate in groups. 10]
An individualistic culture would pay more
Student Group #1 has a significantly low PDI in
attention to the performance of the individual. Time
contrast with Student Group #2, which has a moderate
management would be important and any technology
that could help individuals to perform more efficiently
Although it seems that employees can be
would be highly regarded and quickly accepted.
considered as a single group, but the variance in this
Information technologies can provide these benefits.
group is noticeable. Therefore, in planning for ICT in
Therefore it could be argued that the country with a
Iran, we must take into account that majority, both
strong individualistic culture would have a positive
students and employees, have a moderate PDI of
attitude toward implementing and using ICTs .
Am. J. Applied Sci., 5 (4): 369-377, 2008
approximately 50, however there are some people
countries have a lower rate of ICT adoption than
which have a significantly low PDI.
countries with a low UAI score .
There are valuable experiences in other countries
To have an acceptable comparison, we will
regarding to their cultural dimensions which could be
consider countries with moderate, moderately high and
advantageous. We will discuss Japan’s and Norway’s
high UAI. We have chosen U.S.A. (UAI=46), Thailand
experiences in this way.
(UAI=64), Japan (UAI=92) and Germany (UAI=65) .
Japan have a moderate PDI score (50) . Aoki
There is a comparison between Thailand and USA
studied learning style of distant learners in Japan, he
according to their Internet shopping behavior. On
pointed to the two following findings. First he found
uncertainty avoidance, Thailand is much higher than
out that learners prefer to be fairly passive rather than
USA meaning it is less prone to risk taking. Internet
active or learner centered. Second, learners need strong
shopping requires new behaviors which may be
direction from teachers .
considered more risk-taking. According to the actual
Norway has a moderately low PDI score (31) ,
buying behavior, Thais do much less Internet shopping
Sornes et. al. , in their investigation, believed that in
than the Americans .
compare with U.S. having almost similar PDI (40),
According to distant learning in Japan, students would
subordinates want to have a close working relationships
tend to prefer well structured educational experiences,
with their superiors and thus they want to be involved
clearly explained assignments and course requirements.
in decisions about new technology adoptions.
In Japan, students can be very concerned with getting
From these researches we can provide these
the “right” answers rather than discussing in “shades of
suggestions for Iran:
Vishwanath  looked at online auction behaviors
Precise guidance for students in e-learning
in three countries, the USA, Germany and Japan to see
Emphasis on the teacher’s role in e-learning
if Hofstede’s conclusions about their relative degree of
Participate subordinates for ICT adoption
uncertainty avoidance would be reflected in buying and
selling behaviors. In each country’s Ebay website the
Applying ICT to have a closer relationship
same item was sold with the same amount of
between the managers and their
information provided. The number of bids and final
price of the sale item were found to be related to the
uncertainty avoidance index of each country, with
Uncertainty Avoidance Index:
Japanese buyers being the most risk averse of the three
based on Hofstede’s method, attained scores was 49.6
groups and USA buyers being the least risk averse.
and 45.5 among students and employees, which both
Planning for ICT adoption in Iran needs to consider
indicate moderate UAI.
both two sections with moderate and high UAI. We
However, as Fig. 1(b) illustrates, both of our
provide following propositions:
sample society can be divided into two separate groups.
Semi structured website design
Although, Employee Group#1 and Student Group#1-as
Online payment as an extra feature in
the figure demonstrates - are almost more than half of
the sample societies respectively, whereas we can
Avoiding from pure ecommerce and have a
observe that almost less than half of the sample
mixed of internet shopping and conventional
societies are dedicated to Employee Group#2 and as
mentioned before, Hofstede had anticipated that UAI in
Iran will be similar to Arab cultures (moderately high
Individualism/Collectivi sm Index: We can observe in
UAI) after the Iranian revolution . Employees group
Fig. 1(c) that fitted to our data, there is mainly one
#2 and student group #2 support this forecasting,
group among students and employees separately
whereas employees group #1 and student group #1
(Student Group#1 and Employee Group #1). Based on
stand against that and show some noticeable differences
Hofstede method, we obtain high score on IDV for Iran
between Iranian culture and Arab culture.
(103 for students and 82 for employees). As we
As the adoption of a new technology is concerned with
described before, in spite of Hofstede’s survey,
doing something new, the extent of uncertainty attached
individualism has grown dramatically among Iranian. It
to it is also great . Since people in countries with a
has increased from 41 to 103 and 82 among students
high score on uncertainty avoidance are more risk-
and employees respectively. The main influential factor
adverse and do not like making changes (or “doing
as we depicted before is revolutionary morale among
something for the first time”), it is suggested that these
people at the time of Hofstede’s survey which had led
to a more collectivistic society.
Am. J. Applied Sci., 5 (4): 369-377, 2008
Fig. 1: Distribution of cultural indexes (A: PDI, B: UAI, C: IDV, D: MAS) among sample society.
(Vertical axis: indexes scores, horizontal axis: percent of sample societies)
This transition to individualist society has occurred in
for collective security, in the US society seems unlikely
other countries. For example, in the past, Turkish
to accept blindly a proposal for a biometrically secured
people were more collectivist, but there has been a
ID card and is likely to favor involvement in the
change toward individualism in recent years . Either
decision making process .
in Japan, influenced by Western cultures, people has
According to above researches we provide below
become more individualistic .
For the reason that Iran has a moderately high and
• Expanding Mobile Commerce
high score on IDV, we have selected USA and UK to
• Using security applications in the design of a
apply their experiences to Iran.
website to ensure the users
Muthitacharoen and Palvia believe that Internet
• Consideration of privacy as an important factor in
shopping compared to conventional shopping is more
the website design
individualistic, thus may not be easily accepted in
Thailand (IDV=20) rather than USA (IDV=91) .
Masculinity/Femininity Index: From VSM method,
Harris et al. conducted a research about adoption of
renewed MAS index for Iran is 101, 71.6 for students
mobile-commerce based on cultural differences in UK
and employees respectively.
and Hong Kong. They concluded that asynchronous
The importance of variance and standard deviation
mobile communication services (like SMS, MMS,
rather than mean scores will be drastically crystallized
Mobile Payments, Banking services) will be more
in this index for Iran. From this view, as fig. 1(D)
popular in the UK’s individualist culture (IDV=89) than
depicted, we can divide Iran based on MAS index into
in Hong Kong’s collectivist culture (IDV=25). 
three groups for each sample society. Group #1 for both
Another instance is privacy. Privacy is a typical
students and employees indicates severely high score
issue in individualistic cultures . So, in USA it is
on MAS, Group #2 for both students and employees, is
observed that main themes in the public record
symptomatic of relatively high score on MAS. At last,
increased. Initially, issues such as social security fraud
Group #3 for both students and employees illustrates a
protection, personal ID protection, network security,
notably low score on MAS. None of these groups in
password protection and ATM machine protection were
according to their volume of the society could be
the important areas. But as Prospective Adopters of e-
ignored. Table 6, illustrates this distribution among
passports are being asked to sacrifice individual privacy
Am. J. Applied Sci., 5 (4): 369-377, 2008
Regarding to this extensive spectrum, for ICT
respectively. There was no LTO index for Iran before
adoption, we can use some technologies which will
this research. This moderate LTO could lead us to some
interest all these groups. Email could be perceived as
ICT planning which is neither very short term nor very
useful to both masculine and feminine groups. While
masculine individuals may use email for improving task
We had a limitation in accessing countries having
performance, the feminine individuals may use it and
LTO scores in our research. We provide some of these
support relationship building and improve the quality of
countries with their experiments. In USA, for example,
the work environment . Also, some researchers
there was an empirical study which asserts that
believe that the masculinity/femininity dimension could
perceived near-term usefulness has a more insignificant
have at least at the conceptual level a mixed impact on
influence on intention to use than perceived long-term
the ICTs. Some authors, such as Bagchi et. al., 
usefulness in a US sample (LTO=29) .
argued that “Information Systems promote more
According to Veiga’s view, there are some
cooperation at work, better quality of life and these
questions that each manager must consider when
values are espoused in nations with low MAS index”.
implementing IT based on time orientation (short term
However, it could be argued equally well that in a
or long term): 1. Is IT perceived to be new and
country with high masculinity there would also be a
unpredictable or proven and reliable? 2. Are the
positive attitude toward implementing ICTs if these
benefits of new IT seen to be related to immediate or
technologies improve performance, which would
future work needs? 3. How does the new IT fit with
increase the chance of success and support competition,
valued, traditional work practices? 4. Is the quality of
which are all key factors of a masculine culture .
strategic IT planning affected by the short -term
From this view, this variety in MAS/FEM index for
orientation of potential users? 
Iran could not play a preventive role in ICT adoption.
Based on the obtained LTO, items below can take
into accounts in the e-adoption:
• Try to highlight both immediate and future impact
of ICTs for users
• Focus on strategic as well as operational planning
in ICT planning
Evidence from the literature and empirical studies
suggests that the important factor limiting the adoption
of ICT in one country is national culture. After defining
culture and its dimensions from Hofstede’s point of
Fig. 2: Distribution of LTO among sample society.
view, we tried to depict the culture of Iran. There have
(Vertical axis: index scores, horizontal axis:
been many researches in order to analyze the ICT
percent of sample societies)
adoption based on national culture. We summarized
some of these studies in our paper.
Here are some suggestions in implementation of ICT
We had two distinct sections in our research: First,
based on MAS index:
because of the last survey on Iran was about 35 years
ago, we renewed the cultural dimensions of Iran based
Using both one-way communications such as fax
on Hofstede’s VSM method. The results of the survey
and email and two-way communications such as
were dramatically d ifferent from the previous one.
online discussion groups
Second, we had a critical view to Hofstede’s
Try to increase both performance and cooperation
method which is based on solely mean scores of data,
disregarding their distribution. Hence, to achieve a
more accurate analysis, we clustered our sample society
Long Term Oriented Index:
and fitting Gaussian curves to histogram in addition to
index, there is mainly single group among students and
previous analysis which was purely based on
employees separately (Student Group#1 and Employee
Hofstede’s Method. It was observed that there are
Group #1 as in fig. 2).
somehow distinct groups of people in some dimensions
Based on Hofstede’s Method obtained LTO for
and considering merely the mean score is not sufficient.
Iran was 52.3 and 45.1 for students and employees
Am. J. Applied Sci., 5 (4): 369-377, 2008
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