Inter-Organisational Knowledge Sharing in the Public Sector: The Role of Social Capital and Information and Communication Technology
This thesis explores the dynamics of knowledge sharing, through the context of interorganisational collaboration in the public sector. The growth of collaboration across public sector organisations places increasing importance on knowledge sharing, yet it is an area that has historically proved difficult for the sector. Knowledge sharing research increasingly emphasises the importance of social capital in facilitating and influencing knowledge sharing behaviours, yet the public sector’s approach to knowledge sharing has predominantly focussed on the use of information and communication technology (ICT) tools. The aim of this research is to better understand the dynamics of knowledge sharing, and the roles that social capital and ICT play in knowledge sharing. This is a contemporary and important research topic. Public sector commitment to increasing collaboration requires a strong focus on inter-organisational knowledge sharing. This multiple-case, multi-method research incorporates a research design that blends qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis. The research extends and deepens current understanding of the dynamics of knowledge sharing and contributes to the existing body of knowledge in the areas of knowledge sharing, social capital, and ICT. It also provides valuable empirical evidence relating to public sector based sharing at the inter-organisational level. The research found that social capital is a significant concern for collaborative teams. Factors such as trust, group identity and shared purpose and goals were identified as important considerations for team members. Despite the sector’s focus on ICT tools as key knowledge sharing mechanisms, the actual availability of tools was limited. Further, individuals’ use of tools was low due to their perceptions of the available tools as difficult to use and of limited usefulness. A key outcome of the research was the development of a conceptual framework that can be used to support the work of academics and practitioners engaged in the field of collaboration and knowledge sharing. The framework identifies six important antecedents that influence the development of social capital, and the availability and use of ICT. These antecedents include collaboration design, leadership, the perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness of ICT, and individual technical ability. The final antecedent identifies individual’s commitment to the ‘intrinsic value of public sector work’ as a key collaboration factor.