Using critical realism and reflexivity to explain broadband non-adoption in rural Australia

Document Type

Journal Article


University of Canberra * Faculty of Information Sciences and Engineering

Place of Publication



Centre for Innovative Practice / School of Business and Law




Originally publishes as: Dobson, P., & Jackson, P. (2017). Using critical realism and reflexivity to explain broadband non-adoption in rural Australia. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 21. Original article available here.


Australia is conducting a substantial nationwide provision of broadband. It is primarily a fixed line network but includes wireless and satellite networks in more remote areas. The rollout is under the control of the NBN Co, whose goal is ensuring access to fast broadband for all Australians. The NBN Co has recently recognized the importance of adoption by including premises activated as a KPI alongside service provision. Coverage and adoption reflect the two faces of the NBN rollout - as a technical program and as a social program. Adoption will be the ultimate measure of the success of the NBN as a social program. Ubiquitous Internet adoption across all sectors is necessary to maximize the promised benefits. The adoption of broadband is an important first step in achieving this. International experience suggests that broadband adoption is plateauing and this has prompted our proposal that there needs to be focus on non-adoption rather than adoption. We suggest that it is important to be able to explain the mechanisms by which individuals respond to the promise of the Internet. Only by so doing can we address issues. We contend that there needs to be more focus on those disenchanted or disinterested "non-users" who are never likely to adopt without specific targeted strategies. We argue for a critical realist perspective, more particularly reflexivity, to better represent the adoption context and to provide a grounding for explanations of the causes behind the decision not to adopt. We also propose possible common-sense strategies to reverse non-adoption



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