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The aim of this research is to examine rural entrepreneurship and digital competency challenges and opportunities with a focus on regional Victoria in Australia.
There is growing recognition of the important role of adoption of digital technology in Australia (Alam & Imran, 2015) so also as internet is presently transforming the economy of Australia (Deloitte Access Economics, 2011 ). Though starting up a business depends on individual skill set and confident use of information communication technology (ICT) for work which is different from one person to other. Nevertheless, the foundation of new businesses is important for national and regional economic development (Stathopoulou, Psaltopoulos, & Skuras, 2004) together with an understanding of how digital technology works. Entrepreneurship and Digital Technology are very important in developing regional areas because of wide acceptance of digital technology. Although, various government had introduced numerous programs to develop businesses in rural areas for the purpose of economic and employment growth and development (Sternberg, Bergmann, & Lückgen, 2002), there are some regional areas that are less technologically advanced and are unable to take the advantages of information and technology to boost their social-economic activities (Alam & Imran, 2015).
Entrepreneurship and Digital Competency are broad topic that can be seen from different perspectives. Interestingly, very little is known about what entrepreneurs might face in doing their business in regional areas with capabilities to adopt digital technology to enhance their access to information for their daily business activities.
Rural entrepreneurship is identified as one of the newest areas of entrepreneurship research and is also one of the economic development factors in regional areas (Wortman Jr, 1990). Rural entrepreneurship is one of the most important mechanisms for local economic development strategy (Fuller-Love, Midmore, Thomas, & Henley, 2006).The internet has become a central part of Australians’ everyday activities and for many it might be difficult to envisage life without digital modes of communication (Alam & Imran, 2015 ; Philip, Cottrill, Farrington, Williams, & Ashmore, 2017).
Although regional locations are less developed areas that need strong economic divergence, there are some crucial opportunities that emerge in these areas, such as: entrepreneurs’ talent, investment from new migrant residents, plus some business owners value local areas with rural amenities as the place to do business as their personal choice (Stathopoulou et al., 2004). Bergmann (2002) states that challenges and opportunities are different in terms of diversity in regional entrepreneurship cultures. At the same time, there are some rural environment characteristics that exist, such as business premises availability, transport infrastructure, small and local market and access to information technology and finance (Smallbone, 2009). Nevertheless, entrepreneurs in rural areas might face complex information and communication barriers if they are not competent in using digital technology communication effectively and independently due to inadequate knowledge to access and skills to use technology (Lloyd, Anne Kennan, Thompson, & Qayyum, 2013). On the other hand, Dabson (2001) argues that entrepreneur are disadvantaged in rural communities in terms of geographic locations. This is viewed as a challenge which entrepreneurs face in attracting talented and skilled workers to the regional areas. Still, some significant changes have been observed in regional Victoria recently, such as transportation changes, house changes and technological advancement changes which should be a source of attractiveness to the entrepreneurs (Victorian Government,2016), with ongoing rollout of high speed National Broadband Network (NBN) and which had been linked to booster social economic growth and social wellbeing in both rural and regional Australia (Alam & Imran, 2015; Broadbent & Papadopoulos, 2013; Dwivedi, Williams, Ramdani, Niranjan, & Weerakkody, 2011; Lloyd et al., 2013). This will give way to new opportunities for entrepreneurs to progress their businesses in Australian regional arears with the successful implementation of the NBN broadband rollout in regional Australia. This is very significant to be the pillar of the regional ICT development thus challenges of using ICTs might hinder their businesses from rising into drivers for development (Wolcott, Kamal, & Qureshi, 2008) because the rate at which Australians are accessing the internet through a mobile device has increased from 15% (2009) to 37% (2011) (ABS,2014; Ewing & Thomas, 2012).
The studies on regional issues in Australia are inadequate, especially on the issues of entrepreneurs in rural areas with incapability of using digital devices in operating/driving their businesses. Most studies focus on digital divide and digital competence in education in small cities and towns (e.g. Broadbent, 2013;Erdiaw-Kwasie & Alam, 2016) and not related to entrepreneur’s involvement and confident in using digital technology to drive their businesses. Therefore, there is significant gap of information on the opportunities and challenges faced by entrepreneurs in doing their business in regional areas even with the availability of broadband network.
1.3. Statement of the Purpose
Entrepreneurship is a complex concept that has many definitions and meanings. In the context of small business, entrepreneurship can be described as the creation of new ventures or innovation within a product. (Lumpkin & Dess, 1996). Rural entrepreneurship had been underestimated, which had been brought about by changes in the regional society. This may be due to economic restructuring and loss of manufacturing firms which have caused the continuing displacement of workers in some of the regional areas (Wortman Jr, 1990). Rural Entrepreneurship is viewed as alternative sources of income which encouraged new ventures with the aim of employment increment as well as providing stability and growth in rural communities (Wortman Jr, 1990). However, Krumsvik (2008) believe that digital literacy and digital competence are so crucial for everybody to familiarize with in this digital society. Small businesses are formed by entrepreneurs and they employ less than 500 people but they typically have problem in adopting Internet Technology (IT) (Riemenschneider, Harrison, & Mykytyn, 2003). It is, therefore, crucial to the entrepreneurs to understand and be involved in meeting the digital technology needs and requirement to improve their businesses.
Yet, there are research gaps on entrepreneurial and digital competency perception regarding rural business in Australia which is worth filling. Knowledge of what entrepreneurs’ encounter in regional areas will be useful for practical implementation in several ways. As the Information and communication technology (ICT) open opportunities to the entrepreneurs to drive and improve their businesses. However, the challenges of using this ICT such as digital devices might impede their business into growing development (Wolcott, Kamal, & Qureshi, 2008).Therefore, the purpose of the study is to discover opportunities and challenges from entrepreneurships perception in competent using ICT via digital technology in this era of digital disruption in the case of small firms in regional areas of Victoria in Australia.
1.4. Research objective
The broad objective of this study is to highlight the challenges and opportunities in doing business in regional Victoria with the aim of identifying the key components of digital competence in terms of skills, knowledge and attitude for the entrepreneurs in the regional areas to be digitally competent with a view to proposing some recommendation to assist in alleviating the challenges and opportunities.
Besides, the study will focus on Victoria’s regional areas of Geelong and Ballarat. Geelong and Ballarat are known to be two of the most entrepreneurial regional areas in Australia (OECD,2012). This study will focus on small firms, as they are the most abundant in these areas and in keeping with the work of Curran & Storey (1993) who opined that it is important to focus on small firms because their structures in the regional areas are strong.
1.5. Research Questions
This current study, seeks to understand the following:
- What are the main challenges and opportunities that small firm entrepreneurs face in adopting the technology in regional Victoria?
- Do rurality of areas affect small firms in terms of structure, development and digital inclusion?
- Is there any special skill or difficulties for entrepreneurs to possess in the regional areas in terms of the access and use of digital technology adoption?
1.6. Significance of the study
It is predicted that this study might make a theoretical input to the body of knowledge of rural entrepreneurship in adopting digital technology in developing the economy of Victoria’s regional areas. Also, the study will contribute to the existing rural entrepreneurships research by introducing some pragmatic views in theoretical context on regional opportunities and challenges with digital technology inclusion from entrepreneurs’ perception. Additionally, understanding rural entrepreneurship embodied will be assembled from those who have specified a desire to partake in the project (e.g., established business owners in the regional areas, the Ministry of Innovation and Victoria Business Department officials). In this way, it will be possible to trail the perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs who aspire to start up a business in the Victoria’s regional areas by allowing them to know in advance what complications they may meet, where to look for opportunities and how the opportunities could be exploited.
Overall, the result of this research work will be to produce a publishable study on rural entrepreneurship and digital competency in regional areas for policy intervention by state agencies and development partners.
2.0 Literature Review and theoretical frame work
2.1 Literature Review
Over the years, rural entrepreneurial nexus had been broadly contested in mainstream of economic development and with a swift advance in ICT which had successfully changed the small business landscape in Australia and this changes in technology such as digital disruption are believed to be the breaking the entry barriers to entrepreneurs (NBN Business,2016). However, rural areas lower levels of education and skills could have a negative impact in use of ICT (Salemink, Strijker, & Bosworth, 2015). Additionally, digital competence had become a vital concept of discussion in recent years per to the skills and knowledge the learners needed to know in the society of knowledge. Thus, digital competence has been interpreted in different ways in policy documents and in academic literature (e.g. Digital Literacy, Digital Competence, literacy, e-Skills, et al). These terms climax the need to handle technology in the digital age (Ferrari, 2012; Gallardo-Echenique, de Oliveira, Marqu, , & Esteve-Mon, 2015).
There are host of academic debates involving entrepreneurship and ICT with not much research into rural entrepreneurship and digital competence in understanding regional areas seems to have been done, though the issues of access and use of digital technology had been previously discussed which arose from digital divide as a gap between those who did and who did not have access to digital technology (Alam & Imran, 2015) . Digital Competence was initially seemed to be used in the education sector (Calvani, Cartelli, Fini, & Ranieri, 2008), however, its application must extend to rural entrepreneurship where it is highly needed to drive businesses. Consequently, the relationships between ICT, entrepreneurship and regional areas economies are knotted with each comprehends overlapping cultural, technological and socio -economic elements (McQuaid, 2002), but how entrepreneurship and digital competence are interconnected is not yet fully understood with no clear theoretical framework that linked them together.
(Gartner, Carter, & Reynolds (2010) had investigated entrepreneurs and small firms in understating of new business, economic growth and job creation, thus, one crucial aspect from his concept is that Gartner et al (2010) posited that new business has an impact on economic development.
Economic development and entrepreneurship are extremely interrelated because entrepreneurships enhance the economy and the economic state also foster entrepreneurship (Wong et al., 2005). Therefore, economic development creates opportunities and challenges to the entrepreneurs. Wong et al, (2005) found the optimistic relationship between entrepreneurs and economic growth and studied the potential impact of various types of entrepreneurship on economic growth. The findings suggest a positive study on economic growth because of technological origination which have been mainly silent on the role of new firm creation using cross-sectional data on the 37 countries participating in Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the level of technological origination is linked to this concept without any link to the knowledge gap of skills to the technological origination (GEM, 2002). So, with their strong relationship, economic theories could be used to analyze the challenges and opportunities to rural entrepreneurship.
A few studies have also shown that entrepreneurs are critical in new job creations that enhance economic growth (Birch, 1987; Broersma & Gautier, 1997; Picot & Dupuy, 1998). A new business does not happen by a chance, hence there must be a motivator for striving business (Schjoedt & Shaver, 2007).
Now that the internet could be accessed everywhere via WiFi connections,3G and 4G mobile network and other devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones are cheaper ,Blank & Groselj (2015) had suggested that there will be a shift from digital divides to digital skills/literacy, autonomy of users in accessing the internet, social support and the extent to which individuals can be integrated into techno culture and Schumpeter (1942) had argued that entrepreneur implement new product and method of production and opening of new market thus the changes in the ICT had opened many opportunities on which products to be produced and services available with the linked to the relationship between various organization and ICT. Research had indicated that digital technology could be accessed but many user are lacking in the ability to use the complexity of the computers and the internet (Alam & Imran, 2015; Lenhart, 2003).
According to Krumsvik (2008) concepts of knowledge such as digital literacy and digital competence are linked to citizens on need to use technology in the digital society and Palfrey, Gasser, Simun, & Barnes (2009) state that the main issue is not about the use or access to ICT but ability to use the digital technology Their concept of knowledge further state that business must address skills issues for both themselves and the communities they operate (Borisov & TANŢĂU, 2013).
Calvani, Fini, & Ranieri (2009) defined digital competence as the skill to explore the new advanced technology in a flexible manner in other to be able to analyze, evaluate data and information credibly .Furthermore, Calvani, Fini, & Ranieri (2010) states that focus shifted to the way where it is possible to take the merit of advanced technological with awareness in ethical behavior and social responsible practices in the years 2000 – 2010 . For the new millennium, there are different features of pocket able devises that are capable of accessing internet connections in anywhere in the globe (Scuotto & Morellato, 2013).
Nevertheless, entrepreneurship tends to have a positive effect on regional development with previous studies showing the importance of entrepreneurship in regional development process which led to an exciting question on entrepreneurship, digital competence and regional development on what are the common things within them and what are their differences as entrepreneurs need to invest in digital competence technological, cognitive and ethical level.
By way of an aspect of conceptual understanding, a literature review displays that most of the scholars pay more attention to economic growth and ignored entrepreneurship and digital competence. This study will combine the focus of the three literatures i.e. entrepreneurship, digital competence and regional development and it will attempt to dig into understanding relationship that exists between them.
Accordingly, regional development involves a dynamic approach that includes time and historic dimension, regional and spatial dimension (Johannisson & Dahlstrand, 2009). While, it seems that there are some complicated agreements that link regional development and entrepreneurship (Fritsch & Mueller, 2004), yet, regional development studies focused on environmental and economic conditions only. Contrarily, the literature of entrepreneurship highlights the needed actions for regional development (Hjorth & Johannisson, 2008). Nonetheless, in Australia, little has been done to enlighten entrepreneurs on opportunities and challenges of rural entrepreneurships. Therefore, more research on the regional development needs to be conducted for regional development legitimacy to be ascertained (Ciaramella & Dettwiler, 2011).
Since entrepreneurship plays a vital role in the economic growth as mentioned above, their benefits are equally vital for the entrepreneurs to start a new business such as getting good income, wealth and jobs creation. Hence, researchers believe that entrepreneurship cares for economic development through creating a new idea into new business and innovates the ideas into new products and creates new jobs for the economy (Hazlett, Henderson, Hill, & Leitch, 2006).
Australian researchers have carried out research on entrepreneurship. For instance process of regional entrepreneurships and barriers in South Australia have been investigated (Mazzarol, 2003). . Studied on international new venturing on Tasmanian firms have also been conducted (McGaughey, 2007). Other studies include; sustainability of SMEs in regional Australia (Salimzadeh, Courvisanos, & Nayak, 2013) and the dynamics of employment and productivity growth in Australia using Expanded Analytical Business Longitudinal Database to examine the contribution of start-ups in relation to job creation between 2001-2011 (Hendrickson, Bucifal, Balaguer, & Hansell, 2015) explored.
In Australia ,Rennie, Crouch, Wright, & Thomas ( 2013) found that some regional areas in Australia are unlikely to have internet at home. Therefore, accessibility to digital technology for businesses and households in Australian regional areas are worrisome (Department of Broadband, Communication and Digital Economy ,2011). Bowels (2013) study also suggested that in the digital economy, regional Australia lack the ability to possess the specific ICT skills which they considered to be a challenge in this era of digital economy (Bowen,2012).
Previous researches have also shown that ICT can have a positive bearing on an individual on a social inclusion and communities activities (Broadbent & Papadopoulos, 2013). Having access to ICT is measured to be critically influence to economic growth which proved the crucial aspect of internet in strengthened societies (Broadbent & Papadopoulos, 2013).
As emphasized above, there is a gap concerning research that identifies the challenges and importance of rural entrepreneurship and digital competence in regional Australia as some of the previous studies on rural entrepreneurship focus mainly on policy and employment growth, therefore, it will be supportive and very vital for entrepreneurs to know the challenges and opportunities they might face before starting up of business in regional Victoria.
2.2 Theoretical Framework
The frame work will be presented for overview to draw out challenges and opportunities encountered by rural entrepreneurs using digital technology to drive their businesses.
Entrepreneurship has been previously studied by various scholars for ages. Thus, the subject of entrepreneurship is a major factor for economic development (Wong, Ho, & Autio, 2005), this has been a source of motivation for researchers who had examined a number of literature. According to Jones (1999), entrepreneurship is a process that describe individuals who identify opportunities in order to satisfy their needs and gather resources to meet those needs. Also, entrepreneurs are regarded as the individuals who initiate ideas and are responsible for the change and growth (Jones, 1999). This is a comprehensive definition that is capable of framing different concept such as entrepreneurship in the context of human behavior and external factors. Thus, despite the disagreements in the definition, researchers agree that entrepreneurship can be performed by individuals and this is a dynamic perception (Hébert & Link, 1989) .
Entrepreneur is a person who direct and owns the entire business in a firm (Wennekers & Thurik, 1999). This is viewed as a centralized management usually characterized as part of small firm feature. The link between the entrepreneur and small firm is potentially established.
However, according to (Blanchflower & Oswald, 1998), entrepreneur in general encounter both liquidity and financial constraints. Still, they are pleased with their jobs than their workers because they have more autonomy (Benz & Frey, 2008) .
There is personality and mind-set that are associated with entrepreneurs. Part of its traits are risk-tolerance, creativity and innovativeness (Obschonka, Silbereisen, Schmitt-Rodermund, & Stuetzer, 2011). Besides, entrepreneurs are influenced by family, environment and society they mature in.
2.2.3 Entrepreneurship as a process of entrepreneur
For the input part, entrepreneurs need to demonstrate personal attribute, capital and social resources to attain their goals. Altogether, the procedure is influenced by economic, social and physical factors of environment (Stathopoulou et al., 2004). Output part are connected to the entrepreneur several gains such as opportunities of increasing their independence, influence and impact. According to (Kawaguchi, 2008), self-employed are more pleased with their work because of the nature of their work schedules in terms of autonomy and flexibility they drive.
Furthermore, Audretsch & Keilbach (2004) suggest that solid positive entrepreneurships have influence on the economic development of a region. It is therefore argued that entrepreneurship contributes to growth than traditional factors such as research and development and education. The findings of (Audretsch & Keilbach, 2004) go in line with essential part of economic growth; thus the economic situation on the other hand forms incentives or obstacles for entrepreneurship to progress. In addition, (Freytag & Thurik, 2007) revealed that cultures that please entrepreneurship are usually of high-growth economies.
This study will share a view that the entrepreneurship process is influenced by certain opportunities and challenges imposed by environmental factors. Hence, business location is a major factor for developing entrepreneurship.
On the other hand, rural areas have their own specific opportunities and challenges, this study will focus on discovering the opportunities and challenges of small firm in regional Victoria. As previously highlighted by some authors, that all types of small business are needed either by those with potential high growth and also those designed for life style purpose or those with self-sufficiency that mainly serves the local needs (Dabson, 2001).
2.3 Rural entrepreneurship
According to Saxena (2012), rural development is connected to entrepreneurship continually. Thus, entrepreneur play a vital role in the development of rural areas. Rural entrepreneurship is the same as the rural industrialization. Rural entrepreneur could be defined as an aid of taking risk in other to gain opportunities, they mobilize human, materials and financial resources in order to achieve their rural areas project (Saxena, 2012).
There are huge differences between economic performance of rural areas and urban, rural areas are more disadvantaged than urban areas (Smallbone, 2009).
2.3.1 Entrepreneurship process in rural areas
In this work, the challenges and opportunities to rural entrepreneurship in regional areas which are diverse in nature due to some factors such as physical environment, social environment and economic environment will be investigated. The study will use qualitative method of data collection and analysis to address the opportunities and challenges that are yet to be addressed in the context of rural entrepreneurship framework in regional Victoria.
But what are the challenges that prevent entrepreneurs in rural areas to benefit from their location? Why is it not necessarily correct to assume that there are opportunities for entrepreneurs to contribute to the social capital of a region in other to modify the social relationship, interactions and confidence which comprises the social capital needed for the formation of new business network to benefit rural entrepreneurs (Lee, et al, 2005). The precise answer to these questions are still a matter of debate and research.
2.4 Entrepreneurship and new information technology
Grosh & Somolekae (1996) argued that small business plays a vital role in the development of economies by creating jobs and significantly adding to the socio-economic development of their communities.
Use of selective digital technology such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality devices that can display image in 3-dimensional (3D) format. Advanced Video Collaboration, Data analytic which capable to accumulate information with high volume of business like banking can be a significant benefit to Entrepreneurial. ICT assist business to better gain access to information and communication as well as the technical know-how to improve the business in terms of skills and knowledge needs to grow and run the business well (Qureshi, Kamal, & Wolcott, 2010; Wolcott et al., 2008) . Hence, in other to realize the benefit of ICT in small business, ICT must be viewed from marketing , economic ,and management perspectives (Brady, Fellenz, & Brookes, 2008).
2.4.1 ICT adoption by small businesses
Entrepreneurialpossess littleskill or no training to adopt ICT benefits awareness that might boost their business which is major barrier to IT adoption (Wolcott et al., 2008). Evidence from the studies conducted by Wolcott et al. (2008) showed that capabilities, resources ,attitude towards use of ICT are challenges to small business owners which could be tagged as digital incompetency.
3.1. Research Method
This research will be conducted in the regional town of Geelong and Ballarat in the state of Victoria, Australia. “Ballarat has around 7,473 businesses and a workforce of approximately 41,300 people out of 101,686 inhabitants, approximately 105 kilometers (65 mi) west-north-west of the state capital, Melbourne. It is the third largest population for an inland city in Australia while Geelong is a port city of Victoria with a population of over 190,000, Geelong has a diverse and strong economy of approximately 15,711 businesses and a workforce of around 81,000. It is the second largest city in Victoria after Melbourne. Geelong is located 75 kilometers south west of Melbourne (Victoria’s state capital city)” (ABC,2017; Victorian Government, 2016).
The purpose of this study is to examine the challenges and opportunities of rural entrepreneurship and digital competency in regional Victoria, Australia. To collect data appropriate to answer that purpose, a qualitative method will used via thematic analysis. The reason for using this method is to capture the small business owners experience and thoughts about a specific phenomenon which is greater extent than quantitative method (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). Hence, qualitative research methods clarify why things are the way they are and why people act the way they do (Morgan, 1998) and thematic analysis will be employed to identify the vital themes from the group of interviewees discussion. In contrast, quantitative research method is used to investigates things that can be observed and measured accordingly (Creswell, 2013).
The study design will involve semi-structured interviews with senior personnel who manage the firm business using face-to-face method to receive comprehensive and reliable information.
The study will be narrowed to small firms, small firms vary in size ranging from sole traders up to the businesses that employs less than 30 workers and over 30 workers are tag as medium or large business (ABS, 2016). We will seek the assistance of the industry skills councils, industry peak bodies and the providers working in regional Victoria, about 80 firms will be approached to participate in the research.
Furthermore, with the method goal, data collection will be tailed by data analysis. The study intends to use thematic analysis between the small firms’ cases which would be in-depth and analytical approach analysis where the transcripts of interview will be reviewed initially to discover patterns in the data and later sorted to generate codes then cluster to form categories that would provide analytical in depth. This category will then be reviewed and group according to the theme they are related to. Each theme will have a name and quotes would be verbatim which would be used to define the important themes.
Conversely, the study will also be based on the secondary data review where the theory and standing academics works will be initially analyzed such as the survey discussed previously by other researchers.
These will be refined further following initial consultations with several industry bodies and 80 firms. Qualitative data from the interviews will be analyzed. To be able to analyze and advance the theoretical findings, secondary data will be employed systematically.
Accordingly, for the comprehensive data collection and analysis, the study will also adopt Entrepreneurship Process Model EPM (Stathopoulou et al., 2004) .The EPM involves the input that entrepreneurs and environment have in the entire rural entrepreneurship. This model is believed to be enough to discover the challenges and opportunities in establishing business in regional areas.
Furthermore, since thematic analysis offers a strategy that interprets qualitative data to create a narrative knowledge which will assists to organized the similarities and differences in participants description of their individual experiences (Crowe, Inder, & Porter, 2015).This would happen by collecting the data into three themes.
3.2. Data Collection
The data for the study will be collected via the use of both primary and secondary data sources. However, the primary sources will be the original materials which will be formed at the period of the study and it will involve interviews via transcript into 3 different themes as : ( a).basic themes ( lowest order evident in the text),(b) organizing themes ( categories of themes grouped together to precise more abstract principles and ,(c) Global themes ( themes encapsulation the major comparison in text as whole ) (Attride-Stirling, 2001) . Hence, the secondary sources will be the original materials that are obtained elsewhere. Both primary and secondary sources will be used for this study accordingly.
Questionnaires will be distributed to operator of small firms or business owners for first-hand information for processing towards the research question.
The primary source data will be based on face-to-face interviews with up to 80 different small firms in regional Victoria. Yet for this study, face-to -face interviews are preferred because it presents accurate screening where the individual being interviewed will be unable to provide false information, it captures both verbal and non-verbal questions, and it also facilitate participants ability to focus without distraction that may arise from use of certain technology.
Besides, the study will be based on interviews of up to 80 different type of small firms, the interviews will be necessary for thinking about and probably potential new topics that might be raised during the meeting with the interviewees and then focus on the small firms which differ in features.
The study will recruit up to 80 small firms in Victoria. Small firms (30 employees) are scattered across Victoria regions. These regions are known to be strong base of entrepreneurship, small firms in Australia are most entrepreneurial according to their activities and approaches and small firms do take opportunities and encounter various challenges during their star-ups phases (Curran & Storey, 1993). On the other hand, medium and big firms are flexible compared to small, medium or big firms have many stakeholders and on the contrary, small firm are flexible because of the small number of employees they have which can easily be manipulated. Small firms are more advantageous for this study than the medium and large even though both have the same aim of being profitable and successful. In fact, their experiences will be investigated in terms of challenges and opportunities. Most importantly, the small firms’ representatives will be interviewed to identify how they overcome challenges, their impacts on decision making and how they utilized their opportunities they gained as its arise as a business owner.
Furthermore, the selected small firms will be in Geelong and Ballarat regions, these areas are rural according to OECD 2012 definition of rural areas.
Potentially, interviewing 80 diverse small firms in these areas might reveal the firm’s differences per to opportunities that they might have encountered and utilized as well as challenges they might had faced and how they overcame the challenges.
The selection process will be basically objective, where there will be no past connection with the potential firms which might be difficult to attain. The location will be priority for this study by considering the time limitation and convenience factors and with Geelong and Ballarat are convenience because they are just about 1 hour away from Melbourne, thus it will be difficult to find areas in regional Victoria that are more into businesses and are approximately 1 hour away from Melbourne. As a matter of fact, the business type will be considered during the study as well, because it is believed that the potential companies to be selected will possess different characteristics which will shed more light on how they are thinking in relations to attitudes towards prospective opportunities and challenges they face.
In total, the study will be interested to see if the regional areas attractiveness might differ in numerous places and maybe there some tangible existing factors that attract business owners to establish their business in the regional areas.
Interviews and questions
The best techniques to collect information and acquire knowledge from people are known as interviews (Kvale, 1996).There are different types of interviews ; structured interviews, semi-structured interviews ,unstructured interviews and non-directive interviews (Kvale, 1996). Potentially, all the interviews might be conducted over 6 months and during these periods the researcher will make repeated visit to the selected firms.
However, there are different methods of collecting data such as personal meeting, telephone interviews or video conference (Wahlbin & Johnston, 2001) .Hence, the study will adopt personal meetings. During this personal meeting, semi-structured interviews will be held as it is assumed to be the best method in relation to the study problem because it allows to change the questions order and give room for extra questions to be asked. Thus, semi-structured stretch an opportunity for investigation of an ideas and hence views the interviewee opinions which is more relax than the structured interviews, also it provides opportunities for the interviewer and interviewee to move beyond surface talk to be able to attain vital discussion and feelings (Maykut, Maykut, & Morehouse, 1994).
The firms’ leaders from different companies will be the participants and be interviewed and these leaders are entrepreneurs themselves who can share their experiences relating to the challenges and opportunities they encounter in rural areas.
Definite guideline will be followed for each of the interview conducted, thus, this guideline will be used as a list to cover the interest area and interview questions will be followed according to the guidelines consisting of about 20 questions and these questions will be structured according to the Entrepreneurship Process Model (EPM) (Stathopoulou et al., 2004) and will be divided into three parts.
The first part of questions will be about the physical environment where the information about the firms location will be gathered, secondly, the questions about the social environment will be asked in other to know about the social capital, governance and cultural legacy of the firms and thirdly, the questions about economic environment will be asked to be able to know about the business network and ICT and infrastructure of the firms and the last part questions will be open-ended which could not be answered by “No” or “Yes” and it will not have wrong or right answers which could provide more in-depth basic information of the studied companies.
During the periods of these interviews, voice recorder will be used with the consent of the participants, auto recorders will help to interpret the interviewee’s voice tone which will be molded into a text.
Apparently, with the secondary data, the theories and information in the rural entrepreneurship will be collected from various databases such as Expanded Analytical Business Longitudinal Database (EABLD), Emerald, JULIA et al. The University of Southern Queensland library will be useful in finding books and accessing many search systems and catalogues searching for diverse articles in rural entrepreneurship.
Secondary data evaluation
Basically, secondary data are existing data, therefore there will be an infinitesimal time to be spent on collecting data unlike primary source. The sample size to be collected will reduce non-responses risk and its effect on the study. Although, the quality results of selecting secondary data and its method are difficult to validate (SØRENSEN, Sabroe, & OLSEN, 1996).
As stated above, in order to validate secondary data, the study will search for the data that is related to the research question, search for how the other scholars had progressed in some comparable situations, data that uses substitutions and the reliability will be checked through test repetition and check for the consistency in the data with other reliable sources.
Thematic qualitative in-depth analysis will be used with a concentration on potential cause and effect relationship midst firm’s characteristics, environment and various opportunities and challenges. Furthermore, the selected firms will be analysed to be able to discover the differences in rural location of various small firms. The theoretical framework will be applied simultaneously to the analysis which might provide the outline for interpretation as well as compares to the findings to other scholars.
4. VALIDITY & RELIABILITY
Validity and reliability are essential for measurement features (Miller et al., 2003). Hence, reliability measures if a method produces the similar results on continual test, though validity ascertain the truth result position of the study being investigated (Miller et al., 2003).The purpose of this study is to examine and deliberate on firms’ understandings in the aspect of their challenges and opportunities in regional Victoria areas only and not for the general state of Victoria. Therefore, the results of our findings will be meant for regional Victoria, still whether the source is reliable or realistic meant nothing. Nevertheless, validity is when an instrument measures what required to be measured (Kimberlin & Winetrstein, 2008).Validity needs an instrument to be reliable but the instrument could be reliable but not valid (Kimberlin & Winetrstein, 2008). To validate this study, the research asking questions will be directly related to the research title and the entrepreneurs will be directly interviewed to be able to cover the interest and all the questions will be directly being connected to the title.
5. STUDY LIMITATION
The study will acknowledge the academic experience limitations which might minimize the reliable investigation such as time, finance, trying to contact the entrepreneurs, among others. Also, there are limited articles in rural entrepreneurship and digital competency in Australia.
6. ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
Any data that is based on individual from people in a social research must involve consent, access and associated ethical issues (Punch, 2000). To interview the participants, the general protocols and procedures must be met. The proposed study will ensure that the participants were duly informed and obtained their consent before the interview commence. Though, they might need full information about the research which might include why they were chosen to participate. The participants’ privacy and anonymity will be kept confidential and consent forms and letter from USQ will be provided.
7. RESAERCH TIMETABLE
This research study is expected to be completed within the duration of a Doctor of Business Administration (DBAR) candidature (3years). It is expected that literature search and review and the development of research proposal would be completed in the first six month. A pilot study of about 80 participants will be carried out for another six-month period. Appropriate analysis will be carried out in a one-year period. The last six months will be used for writing and publishing the findings of the thesis and the final standard thesis draft will be submitted for evaluation. Please see the below details research timetable;
February – June: Thesis outline, detailed proposal and literature review.
July – October: Detailed proposal, Permission to firms and literature review, search for secondary data, drafting of questionnaire, first round interview and check participant.
November -December: Second round of interviews and complete Secondary data analysis.
January – March: Completion of transcription,
April – May: Primary sources data developing.
June-August: Compare the data and analyses and draft chapters’ analysis development.
September –December: Draft of the theory chapter; implication and conclusions, Revise first three chapters: Rationale, Literature Review, Research Methodology and Designs
January – Revise data analysis and theory chapters and Revise for final submission.
Tapes – $150
Photocopying – $ 250
Travel – $800
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