Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Information and Communication Technology


This thesis breaks new ground by providing the first detailed study of smart card innovation during its first twenty years (1974-1996). The overall aim is to apply sociotechnical principles to further our understanding of the innovation process as it relates to smart card technology. By using a sociotechnical framework, this study also seeks to illustrate the limitations of conventional innovation theory when applied to new information technologies such as smart card: The central thesis posited, is that to develop our understanding of the underlying innovation processes that have occurred during the development of this new information technology, it is necessary to study the interactions between three actors that have all appeared to play a role in the process of smart card innovation. These are smart card technology; the potential users and the organisations. However, in stating this, it is also important to realize that one tacit assumption underlying the work reported here is that new technologies are only adopted if the technological parameters (technology focus), the market needs (user focus) and the entrepreneurs (organisational focus) meet.

At a more abstract level, the work has also endeavoured to consider whether a sociotechnical approach applied as a framework for understanding the process of innovation for smart card is, in fact, a reasonable and useful paradigm for developing our understanding from both a theoretical and applied perspective. Thus the multidisciplinary process approach adopted is not intended to lead to a complete alternative theory: nor is it intended to be merely a synthesis.

What the current work has achieved, is to provide the very first insights into the understanding of smart card innovation. The sociotechnical framework adopted as a theoretical organiser and, which emphasises the role of the user, has also served to highlight the need for a multidisciplinary approach to develop our understanding of smart card innovation. The view upheld is that the paradigm emerging from these analyses based on traditional innovation thought, both demands and empowers the view of smart card innovation as a sociotechnical process. One of the main outcomes has been to demonstrate that smart card innovation provides a case in point highlighting the benefits of adopting a broad and evolutionary approach to innovation and based on a sociotechnical framework. This is in agreement with recent paradigm shifts in technology innovation thought. For the practitioner, these findings also illuminate new possibilities for the development theoretically informed smart card systems, thus placing the smart card design team in a position to significantly and positively influence future smart card innovation patterns.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.