Information technologies are socio-technical in that they consist of people (the human or "socio" side), non-human resources (the technical side), and the interaction between these two. They cannot be culture-free because the cultural factor associated with the human component will always be present. An information technology that is appropriate in one national culture is not necessarily appropriate in another. This paper reports an empirical study of group decision support systems (GDSS) conducted in Singapore. It describes the cultural differences between the USA and Singapore and discusses how these differences may affect the application of the existing body of GDSS findings to Singapore. This cross-cultural analysis of GDSS research findings is based on two studies carried out in the USA and Singapore. By adopting a very similar research design and employing the same GDSS software and research task, the authors are able to eliminate most of the contextual variables and the situational factors that might possibly account for the differences in research findings and explain these differences in terms of cultural factors. The key findings of the cross-cultural analysis are: 1. The anonymity feature of a GDSS allowed dominant members in Singaporean GDSS groups to openly express negative opinions about other group members' contributions, a behavior that would otherwise be culturally unacceptable. This, in turn, led to dissatisfaction and lower post-meeting consensus among group members. This phenomenon was not obvious in the American GDSS groups. 2. While structure facilitated expression of agreement or conflict in the American groups, it did not help Singaporean groups. Structure forced group members to be direct and open, a feature that is undesirable in Singaporean culture in which members prefer to express disagreement in an indirect manner so as to preserve harmony. 3. Use of a GDSS led to more even member influence in American groups but resulted in less even member influence in Singaporean groups. The anonymity feature of a GDSS allowed more equal member participation in both cultures. However, it also allowed a dominant member in a Singaporean group to gain influence without direct confrontation with other group members. This resulted in lower equality of influence in the Singaporean GDSS groups.
Hao, T. H.; Raman, K. S.; and Watson, Richard T., "GROUP DECISION SUPPORT SYSTEMS: THE CULTURAL FACTOR" (1989). ICIS 1989 Proceedings. 38.