Applying Technology Acceptance Research to Information Systems Implementation in the Fire Service

John Steward

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The role of a firefighter has remained relatively static over the years, but the way a firefighter documents an incident and accesses logs, maps, and a range of forms is changing from existing paper-based practices to digital media and its related systems. Staffing, incident reporting, response mapping, resource allocation, supply tracking, and water system testing are all processes that are currently moving to digital media and its related systems. The purpose of this integration of information systems technology is to improve efficiency and quality of work.
Fire department members and administrators alike resist new technologies for multiple reasons, such as time and money. Members may see the new technology as more work due to the effort required to learn a new process. Administrators may be concerned about the cost of training, equipment, and downtime. While the drivers of behavior may vary depending on the perspective of the user, they remain important variables for predicting acceptance. Attitudes, beliefs, experiences, and perceptions about new technology are just some of the behavioral aspects that may play a role in the acceptance of new technology.
Researchers and practitioners from sociology, cognitive psychology, and information sciences have produced a significant amount of theoretical and empirical research related to the larger problem of explaining factors that influence product and service adoption.
While the literature from the aforementioned fields does provide important empirical and theoretical contributions that explain and predict the adoption of products and services and, in the information sciences, user acceptance of information technology, prior research related to technology acceptance has not fully considered the unique environment of the fire service. The fire service environment is unique in that it shares some specific traits such as fraternity, shift structure, and social networking with other work environments, the overall combination of which is not identical to any other field. This type of environment warrants further research to identify which variables explain the variance in for technology acceptance in fire services.
A better understanding of the variables that are most relevant to influencing firefighters’ acceptance of technology will help improve the success of the implementation of new ideas. The purpose of this thesis is to develop a model specific to the fire service and to gain a better understanding of the variables that influence technology acceptance in that field. A better understanding of the variables that influence technology acceptance may help improve the actual use of the systems and, subsequently, the efficiency and quality of work.
There is a significant volume of empirical work on the problem of technology acceptance from the domain of information systems that supports the efficacy of the relationships between perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, and behavioral intention. Likewise, the same body of research from information systems strongly supports the relationship between behavioral intention and actual use. Based on the aforementioned, the development of the current model was built upon and extended the foundational behavioral intention models, such as the theory of reasoned action and related technology acceptance model (TAM), in developing a model to explain technology acceptance in the fire service. Working from these foundational models, the next step is to identify antecedents of the core variables that are supported in the fire service environment.
Self-efficacy captures the individual’s assessment of their own ability, while perceived behavioral control encompasses the individual’s perceptions about their control over the behavior. Self-efficacy asks the question, “Do I have the skills, knowledge, and ability to complete the task?” One important variable that influences external beliefs of technology acceptance in the fire service is social influence. Social influence refers to any variable that derives from what the individual believes others in the peer group think and/or how that will affect the individual’s standing in the group. The role of facilitating conditions in technology acceptance has also been supported in multiple fields. One challenge in using facilitating conditions as a variable is that it generalizes several other similar but unique variables. However, since the goal of this model is to help fire service administrators better understand the variables that influence technology acceptance, it is appropriate to include the variables for which likely have the most control. Administrators ultimately have the most control over the facilitating condition like training, access to resources, and technical support.
The research question for this thesis is, “How can technology acceptance research be applied to the fire service to better understand and influence the acceptance of information technology?” Through a literature review, proposed model, and thought experiment, the author was able to identify and test three important variables influencing technology acceptance in the fire service. The identified variables were computer self-efficacy, facilitating conditions, and social influence. The thought experiments provided support for all three variables as antecedents of acceptance.
The primary objective of this research is to help fire service administrators better understand the variables that influence technology acceptance. Davis stated, in his original work developing TAM, that his goal was to provide a tool for technology developers and implementers to help them predict successful acceptance of a new technology. Like Davis, this author strives to provide fire chiefs and their technology teams with a model that helps them select, design, and implement technology tools that have a high likelihood of successful acceptance.
The model constructed from the literature was tested, using two thought experiments, while considering a proposed type of information technology. The first thought experiment took the form of a retrospective hypothetical scenario of technology implementation. The model was tested by analyzing the implementation with consideration of the proposed variables and relationships. One additional relationship was added to the model as a result of the initial scenario and a second prospective scenario of technology implementation was conducted with consideration of the proposed variables and relationships. The thought experiments provided support for all three variables as antecedents of acceptance.
The success of fire service technology is dependent on the acceptance by the men and women who serve and protect our communities. By better understanding and leveraging the variables that affect technology acceptance, fire administrators can improve the likelihood of acceptance. This improvement will ultimately result in a more efficient and effective workforce which, in turn, improves overall public safety.

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