Shaping and implementing trans-national e-collaboration

AUTHOR
Philip Seltsikas and Helle Zinner Henriksen

ABSTRACT

Introduction and presentation of the research question

The diffusion of information communication technologies (ICT) have impacted collaboration patterns at various levels of society. Most institutions and businesses throughout the world have experienced a number of changes in the way collaboration can be performed due to the introduction of new means of communicating. Especially the “re-birth” of the Internet has fuelled new ways of collaboration. Without going into details of the history of the Internet it can be argued that the media has experienced a re-birth in the mid-90s when the first browsers were distributed to the public and thereby made the, by that time already aged, Internet accessible to businesses and individuals (for a detailed account of the developments from the ARPPANET to the Internet see for example (Kalakota and Whinston 1996). The rate of diffusion of the Internet in Western countries is by far faster than the diffusion of other previously introduced communication technologies. This has created a number of opportunities for businesses, public institutions, and individuals. Leading to phenomena such as e-business, e-government, and e-learning. In the first generation of e-business, e-government, and e-learning emphasis was on exploiting the opportunities at a national level. However, acknowledging the global reach of the Internet focus has shifted towards trans-national collaboration in the present generation of e-business, e-government, and e-learning.

Businesses were among the first players to observe and explore the opportunities created by the Internet in the form we know it today. The collaboration among businesses at a trans-national level has been researched intensively within the realm of e-business for quite a while. Research has mostly focused on issues related to the traditional dimensions of firms’ internationalisation. These dimensions are among others related to 1) the internationalization patterns of firms (products and value chain activities, operation methods and control, markets and geographical spread) and 2) internationalisation capacity of firms (technological resources and production economies, human resources and expertise, financial resources)(Petersen and Welch 2003). Common for the list of activities represented in the dimensions is that they aim at improving the profitability of the firms involved in the arrangements.

Another type of institutions, which have taken the opportunity to deploy the new means of collaboration due to “re-birth” of the Internet are universities. The adoption of the Internet among universities has contrary to the private businesses been driven less by profitability. In the early days when the Internet was still known as the ARPANET universities and other research institutions benefited from the network in their scientific activities (Kalakota and Whinston 1996). However, another central task of universities, which has prospered from the massive diffusion of the Internet is teaching. Consequently, e-learning came on the agenda after the Internet had diffused into households in the Western part of the world. Some universities have offered full or partly education over the Internet thereby creating new opportunities for those hindered in participating in the Socratarian way of knowledge acquisition (Dreyfus 2001). Other universities have found other ways of utilizing the media by creating curriculum where the foundation for teaching and participation has been the Internet. An example of such a curriculum is the GEM-programme (the Global eManagement, Executive MBA). The GEM-programme facilitates virtual teaming for distance learning and meeting technologies so participants can interact electronically (www.gem.cbs.dk). Given that universities and business schools from six European countries and Mexico participates the GEM-programme represents an illustrative example of trans-national collaboration fuelled by the Internet.

Common for trans-national business and teaching is the necessity for mutual confidence and commitment from those parties involved. The objective of this paper is to present how a platform for trans-national collaboration takes shape and how the involved parties prepare the implementation among the players involved a recently launched project, which focuses on establishing trans-national collaboration.

The empirical setting and research method

In June 2003 four countries, Austria, Croatia, Italy, and Slovenia, inaugurated a trans-national collaboration project aiming at creating a single electronic market in the region. The Internet is to be used as the communication infrastructure. The project aims at strengthening e-collaboration between the countries and to develop single electronic markets in the region. The notion of single electronic markets should be understood in the broadest possible sense given that it involves a number of sectors and institutions from the countries involved. One of the activities within the collaboration between the four countries is the ALADIN project (the ALpe ADria university INitiative). The ALADIN project focuses on the strengthening of the collaboration on e-commerce teaching between universities in the region. The network is historical in the sense that the trans-national collaboration is based on the Internet as a means for communication. By using the Internet the project reaps the benefits of having an established infrastructure as a means for communication and collaboration from day one. External researchers, who will monitor the developments in the project, will follow the project closely. The objective of the research is to investigate how new ways of trans-national collaboration are being established in the region. The investigation will consider which sectors and institutions are first-movers and particularly what their motivation for joining the project is. The research will provide a critical analysis of the implementation processes associated with the establishment of the trans-national collaboration. The results will potentially contribute to an understanding of the qualitative characteristics of the collaboration. The results should be used to manage the collaboration structure toward a sustainable cooperative relationship. Other regions and disciplines hoping to institute similar cooperation networks can learn from these results and potentially replicate the successful aspects of the processes.

The main data collection technique applied in the study of the trans-national e-collaboration project was active participation in project meetings and events organized on behalf of the project. The data was analysed using qualitative research instruments.

REFERENCES

Dreyfus, H. L. (2001). On the Internet, Routledge, London.

Kalakota, R. and Whinston, A. B. (1996). Frontiers of Electronic Commerce, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc..

Petersen, B. and Welch, L. S. (2003). “International Business Development and the Internet, Post-hype.” Journal of International Business, 1(43), 7-29.

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