Exploring knowledge sharing through social media among members of the African Community of Practice.
Mbasera, Sarlomie Farisai.
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This study sought to examine the extent of social media use for knowledge sharing among members of the African Community of Practice (AfCoP), a distributed community of practice of development practitioners. It also sought to find the factors affecting knowledge sharing through social media among AfCoP members. The study followed a pragmatic approach using mixed methods to collect data through a survey, semi-structured interviews and content analysis on the AfCoP knowledge sharing platform. The study revealed that social media is providing new ways through which tacit and codified knowledge is shared in distributed communities. Several types of social media were found to support various knowledge sharing activities including learning, networking, collaboration and expert location. Social Capital and Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) factors were found to play an important role in knowledge sharing behaviours among AfCoP members. Social interaction ties, trust, norms of reciprocity, identification, shared language and shared vision significantly correlated with the knowledge sharing intentions of AfCoP members and the quality of knowledge shared on the AfCoP platform. Perceived usefulness also correlated with both knowledge sharing intentions of members and the quality of knowledge shared on the platform, while perceived ease of use correlated with the quality of knowledge shared on the AfCoP platform. Members were also motivated to participate on the AfCoP knowledge sharing platform by a desire to improve their career practices and to encounter professional opportunities on the platform. The challenges members encountered in their pursuit of sharing knowledge on the AfCoP platform included: lack of time and an unwillingness to exert the necessary effort to meaningfully participate on the platform, lack of participation, insufficient incentives for participation and lack of financial guarantee for the sustainability of AfCoP. The study demonstrates that social media can bridge challenges of distance and physical location through facilitating the sharing of tacit and explicit knowledge despite one’s location. To encourage knowledge sharing through social media, social capital and TAM factors must be addressed. The study also adds to empirical evidence on the role of social media in facilitating knowledge sharing among development sector practitioners from an African context.