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Socio-geographic perception in the diffusion of innovation: Solar energy technology in Sri Lanka

Understandings of the diffusion process have tended to emphasize either the adoption perspective, which focuses on individual characteristics, or the market perspective, which focuses on institutional context. In this paper we bring these two perspectives together by recognizing that people are embedded in socio-geographic contexts that affect their perceptions of their situations, which in turn shape the innovativeness of individuals and places. Focusing on the diffusion of Solar Home Systems (SHS) in Sri Lanka, we explore the role of context at the village (by comparing adoption rates among villages) and individual (by comparing time-to-adoption among household decision makers in a case-study village) scales. At the village scale, we find that expectations of government policy based on interactions related to ethnicity and politicians’ previous power-grid connection promises are significant drivers of SHS adoption, along with perceived tolerance levels in the village for non-conformist behavior. Among household decision makers within the case-study village, we analyze relative adoption time and the duration of the innovation-decision process and find that perceiving strong village-level social control inhibits SHS adoption decision making. The results add to innovation diffusion theory and provide policy recommendations for agencies promoting solar energy in developing countries.
Menzie McEachern, Susan Hanson
Alberta Environment, Department of Geography, Clark University
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