Purpose - This article sets out to draw on new empirical research to illustrate how the process of technological change is shaped by a combination of contextual elements that relate to the political and social history of Sudan. The developments in infrastructure, relationships with economically powerful industrialized countries, and the attitudes and perceptions of key decision makers are discussed. Design/methodology/approach - Primary data were collected from fieldwork conducted in Sudan for six months, and this was combined with secondary data that were collected from several conventional sources. The design adopted a dual methodological approach that comprised a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques. This article draws mainly on the qualitative data set, although a summary is provided of some of the main results from the questionnaire survey. Findings - The findings highlight the need for bank general managers and IT managers to collaborate in the establishment of IT strategies and in ensuring that there are sufficient staff and budgetary resources for successful implementation. There is also a need to develop comprehensive banking policies in Sudan in order to support the replacement of traditional manual methods of banking with more advanced computer-based systems. Managing this process is not simply a technical issue, but a complex socio-political challenge that requires management sensitivity to the context within which change is taking place. Research limitations/implications - Fieldwork in Sudan was constrained by both time and limited financial resources, and further frustrated by a number of unanticipated access difficulties. Some of the survey findings may have been affected by missing data, and some of the interview data may have been affected by translation from Arabic into English. However, the multi-strategy research employed in this study did prove effective in generating useful data. Originality/value - In the case of developing countries, the data sets and literature available are in short supply, and as such the findings contribute to this limited knowledge base in presenting new empirical evidence and analysis. The study highlights the importance of three broad categories - social-political context, business economic and technological environment, and the historical and cultural climate of Sudan and the banking industry - in shaping the uptake and introduction of new technology in the Sudanese banking industry.