October 2001 // Volume 39 // Number 5 // Research in Brief // 5RIB3

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Factors Influencing Adoption of Extension Technology: The Case of PowerPay Debt Reduction Software

The case study reported here surveyed users of the PowerPay Debt Reduction software to examine factors that influence the adoption of technology developed by Extension to expedite the transfer of ideas or applications. Respondents were classified into sectors labeled Extension, Military, or Business users. Each of these client segments rated "ease of use" and "product quality" as the major influences on their decision to acquire the software. The "cost of software" was a greater influence for the Business sector, while "administrative attitudes" were more of a factor in Extension and the Military.

F. Dean Miner, Jr.
Agriculture Extension Agent
Internet Address: deanm@ext.usu.edu

Judy L. Harris
Family Life Extension Agent
Internet Address: judyh@ext.usu.edu

Utah State University Extension
Provo, Utah


Numerous computer programs have been developed by Extension professionals to leverage their ability to expedite the transfer of new ideas or applications. An example of this approach is the WEEDS 2.0 expert system (Callihan, Dobbins, & Carson, 1993). This type of tool may be designed for use by both other professionals and their clientele. This article reports the results of an evaluation survey of an Extension software product in an effort to determine some of the factors that may influence the adoption of such technology by their intended audiences.


In 1993, Utah State University released the PowerPay Debt Reduction Software. This product was designed for financial counselors, advisors, and educators. The software enabled these facilitators to personalize the debt reduction options of their clients and offered previously unavailable details in a very rapid fashion. The software was adopted by several state Extension systems and by dozens of private/public financial counselors and was incorporated into several family support programs within the United States military.

In 1999, the software was improved and upgraded to version 4.0 for Windows. In June of that year, an announcement of the upgrade was sent to every owner of record of the previous DOS version of the software. Each owner also received an evaluation survey asking about his or her use of the software. Those owners who had purchased site licenses that allowed multiple users were asked to forward the survey to others within their organization who had used the software.

Users of the software were asked to evaluate eight factors that may have influenced their adoption of the PowerPay software (Table 1). Four of the factors dealt with the general quality of the software. Users were asked to consider the influence of the following factors in their decision to acquire the PowerPay software:

a) Product cost,
b) Ease of use,
c) Availability of alternative products, and
d) Product quality.

Each factor was rated as being a (1) strong or (2) slight barrier to adoption; (3) not a factor in adoption of the product; or having (4) encouraged adoption or (5) strongly encouraged adoption.

The four other factors listed in the survey addressed organizational attitudes toward adoption of technology. The developers of the software speculated that large organizations like Extension were influenced by other issues beyond general product quality. For example:

e) Would a state Extension service be less likely to use a software product from another university than one developed in-house?
f) Would the ability to personalize printouts from the software with the local institution's name make it more likely to be adopted?
g) How important is the relevance of the software to institutional goals and objectives?
h) In large organizations, how influential is the attitude of supervisors or administrators on technology adoption?

The survey recipients were asked to evaluate these factors in the same manner as the others.

Table 1
Survey Form for Factors Influencing the Adoption of PowerPay

Table One: Survey Form showing a five-point rating scale


For the purpose of data analysis, PowerPay users were categorized as "Extension," "Business," or "Military" users. Business users included both publicly funded organizations (e.g., Consumer Credit Counseling Service) and for-profit financial advisors. Table 2 summarizes the survey distribution and response patterns of the three categories. A single survey sent to a site license holder often resulted in multiple responses as individual users returned forwarded surveys. All site license holders returned at least one survey. A total of 244 surveys were returned.

Table 2
Survey Distribution and Response Patterns

Table Two: Survey Results, by Extension, Business, and Military

Table 3 summarizes the responses. For each client segment (Extension, Business, Military), the factors influencing adoption are listed in descending order according to the percentage of respondents listing that factor as having played a role, whether positive or negative, in the adoption of the PowerPay software.

Table 3
Contributing Factors Influencing Adoption

Table Three: Factors and percentage of respondents by category (Extension, Business, and Military)

Data Highlights

For each client segment, ease of use and product quality were the most significant factors influencing adoption of the PowerPay software.

The cost of the software was named as a factor by a higher percentage of respondents in the Business sector (74%) than of either Extension (45%) or Military (59%) respondents.

The influence of Administrative or Supervisory attitudes was named as a factor by a much higher percentage of Extension (55%) and Military (48%) respondents than by those in the Business segment (28%).

The capability of personalizing printouts with the local institution's name was not considered as important as the software developers had anticipated. Only in the Business sector did more than half of the respondents list this factor.

The fact that the software was not an in-house product was the least influential of all of the listed factors.

Discussion and Implications

The results of this evaluation survey suggest that well-crafted, relevant, and reasonably priced software products will be readily adopted by Extension clientele. Respondents from all three sectors listed these three categories as having the greatest influence upon their adoption of the PowerPay software.

Cost was a more important factor in the Business sector than it was for either Extension or Military users. This may be because Military and Extension users were more likely to have their PowerPay software due to an institutional site license and therefore received their copy at a reduced or zero cost.

Conversely, the attitude of Administrators and Supervisors was much less an influence in the Business sector compared to Extension and the Military. For Extension, this likely reflects the ability of specialists to direct technology adoption via budget or program development discretion.

The ability to personalize the PowerPay printouts to reflect the name of the facilitating organization was not nearly as important as the developers anticipated. Along the same lines, the fact that the software was not internally developed was deemed the least influential factor by all three categories of respondents.

Virtually all respondents were interested in purchasing the new version of the software. Their responses, therefore, would certainly be skewed towards a favorable view of the product. Nevertheless, their identification of factors that influenced their adoption of the technology offers useful insights for Extension professionals providing similar technology-based products to further the knowledge transfer mission.

The implication for Extension educators developing software for clientele use is straightforward: Concentrate on producing a quality product, and don't worry too much about organizational politics being a barrier to adoption of technology.


Callihan, R. H., Dobbins R. T.,& Carson S. L. (1993). WEEDS 2.0 expert system. University of Idaho, Moscow, ID.

This article is online at http://joe.org/joe/2001october/rb3.html.