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Knowledge sharing in public service : a case study of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Human Resource Development Forum.

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Knowledge sharing has been identified as the core process of knowledge management. The aim of this study was to explore knowledge sharing practices in the South African public service through the lens of communities of practice. The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Provincial Human Resource Development Forum (PHRDF) was used as a case study in order to explore the following objectives: how knowledge sharing occurs, what factors affected knowledge sharing, what the challenges experienced regarding knowledge sharing were and what strategies were used to overcome these challenges. The study also assisted in adding to the literature regarding knowledge sharing in human resource development communities of practice. Knowledge sharing practices were identified through the lens of motivation theory, Klein’s framework of communities of practice theory, the Socialization, Externalization, Combination, and Internalization (SECI) model and social exchange theory. The study used the triangulation approach where both the qualitative and quantitative methods were used, with the quantitative method being the dominant method. Both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered simultaneously during a single phase of data collection. The primary purpose was to gather quantitative data through a structured questionnaire consisting of both closed and open-ended questions. The secondary purpose was to gather qualitative data thorough a semi-structured interview schedule. The population surveyed consisted of 23 respondents from the PHRDF and the interviewees were ten Senior Managers in Human Resource Development (HRD) from ten different Provincial departments. The quantitative and qualitative data analyses were kept separate and the results for the quantitative analysis were established using Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS) whilst the results for the qualitative data analysis were established using Non-numeric, Unstructured Data*, Indexing, Searching and Theorizing software known as NUD*IST which was later known as NVIVO. The findings of the study revealed that the level of knowledge sharing in the PHRDF was high and knowledge sharing was regarded as very important by both the respondents and the interviewees. Knowledge sharing mainly occurred through interactions during the PHRDF meetings such as discussions of pertinent items in the agendas, presentations of new developments in HRD by experts from national departments as well as documents posted on the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) website. It was clear that the Socialization phase of the SECI model took prominence over other phases during knowledge sharing in the PHRDF. The findings also revealed that members of the PHRDF were intrinsically motivated to share knowledge and extrinsic motivators such as incentives and rewards did not influence the willingness to share knowledge. Challenges regarding knowledge included the absence of an institutional repository or knowledge portal that kept knowledge shared during PHRDF meetings and for storing organisational memory. There was low use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as social media, emails and online discussion forums in a virtual community for sharing knowledge. Irregular PHRDF meetings further compromised opportunities for members to meet and share best practices and new developments. Strategies to overcome these challenges as suggested by the study’s findings included the development of a knowledge management policy or strategy which would enable knowledge sharing to be formalised as well as developing a knowledge portal. The findings also suggested the exploitation of modern communication technology such as social media, however, it was emphasized that social media needed to be managed and controlled for work-related knowledge sharing purposes. Based on the results and findings of the study, recommendations were made at the end of the study. Recommendations included the development of a knowledge management framework and policy that would accommodate the formalisation of knowledge sharing, the establishment of knowledge management units in the Provincial Departments, the improvement of the use of ICTs other than websites and inclusion of modern knowledge sharing systems, the establishment of knowledge repositories for ensuring access to organizational memory and the development of knowledge sharing strategies such as rewards and incentives during performance assessments.


Doctor of Philosophy in Library and Information Science. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2015.


Knowledge management--South Africa--KwaZulu-Natal., Local government--South Africa--KwaZulu-Natal--Management., Government information--South Africa--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses- Library and information science.