The Market Infrastructure Perspective

Of all the four perspectives, the market infrastructure perspective comes the closest in integrating the impact of entrepreneurs on the diffusion process. The perspective itself is most closely associated with the discipline of geography, and its essence is summed up best by Brown when he writes:

Unless some government, entrepreneurial or non-profit organization makes the innovation available at or near the location of the potential adopter ... that person or household will not have the option to adopt in the first place.46

The need to pay greater attention to the availability of an innovation was also recognized by Griliches,47 who noted that 'it does not make sense to blame the Southern farmers for being slow in acceptance, unless one takes into account the fact that no satisfactory hybrids [seeds] were available to them before the middle nineteen forties'. More recently, analysts of diffusion from a more marketing-orientated background have also recognized that 'an empirically observed diffusion pattern may however be governed by bottlenecks on the supply side (production capacity, distribution and so on), so that the natural demand process is decelerated or retarded'.48

The research corollary of identifying availability as a key constraint on adoption is to direct attention to the supply side:

Focus is upon the process by which innovations and the conditions for adoption are made available to individuals or households, that is, the supply aspect of diffusion.49

In particular, Brown is interested in the activities of what he calls 'diffusion agencies', defined as 'public or private entities through which an innovation is distributed or made available to society at large'.50 Diffusion agencies can be 'commercial' entities, such as shops run by dealers and distributors of an innovation, or 'government' entities, such as local agricultural extension offices, or 'non-profit' entities, such as local family planning units.

Examination of diffusion agencies and their activities is particularly relevant to what Brown calls 'infrastructure-constrained innovations'. Where an innovation is infrastructure-constrained, the implication is that 'diffusion will in general occur only where there is the required infrastructure and not else where'.51 Obvious examples include cable television, high-yielding varieties of seeds which are dependent on irrigation technology, or the internet and telephony in rural areas - for example in India a new approach is being piloted of bringing the internet and telephones to towns and villages through the underemployed communication cables that connect the country's 8000 railway stations.52 Less obvious but equally infrastructure-constrained innovations are those that must be serviced regularly, or where access to maintenance and repair services is critical, such as photocopying equipment or, as we shall see, solar technology.

Brown then looks behind the local diffusion agency to the propagators, defined as 'profit or non-profit motivated organizations or government agencies acting to induce the rapid and complete diffusion of the innovation'.53 Diffusion is explained by the propagators' establishment of diffusion agencies and the strategies adopted to promote diffusion, including pricing, promotional communications, market segmentation and channel development. Of the relevant propagators, it is found that diffusion 'may in large part be explained by entrepreneurial actions rather than social interactions',54 and ultimately that:

the traditional social science models of diffusion, which focus on adoption behaviour, are found wanting in not considering the role of the entrepreneur in propagating innovations.55

This perspective now starts to touch upon the interests and subject matter of this book. Brown has gone further than most in recognizing the variety of ways in which entrepreneurs can affect the diffusion process. As one commentator writes, Brown's analysis represents a shift 'away from the adopter of a new technology to the individuals or organizations working hard to push innovation into the marketplace', and as such it offers 'a way to look at diffusion as a result of entrepreneurial activity, a point of view that is particularly important in assessing the spread of high-technology'.56

But Brown does not go one step further to consider what it is that makes the entrepreneurial firm more or less effective in its efforts.57 Brown does recognize that a propagator's access to capital can affect the rate of diffusion,58 but this is almost in passing, and he does not develop a specific proposition about the impact of this variable. By contrast, other analysts of diffusion have concluded that diffusion research needs to give greater attention to the 'resource commitments' of propagating firms, since 'the greater the allocation of marketing resources, the more rapid the diffusion process and the higher the diffusion level'. These same analysts lament that 'diffusion research almost totally ignores these intentions and resource allocations of the firms marketing innovation'.59

The Productive Entrepreneur

The Productive Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs and business owners. Discover 45 Insightful Tips To Motivate, Encourage And Energize You To Become A Successful Entrepreneur. These Tips Will Move You Forward Towards Your Goals As An Entrepreneur. Use It As A Handbook Whenever You Need To Get Motivated.

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