Understanding the challenges of blockchain technology adoption: evidence from China’s developing carbon markets
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date16/05/2024
Blockchain promises to be a globally disruptive technology for industry and society. Although academic researchers and practitioners have engaged with and supported this prediction for years, actual adoption rates of blockchain significantly lag predictions. This lag in adoption is exemplified in an industry for which blockchain offers an obvious solution to a globally distributed challenge: the creation of global carbon markets. Here, extant knowledge of blockchain and its adoption is still limited due to perceptions of blockchain’s nascency and technical complexity. To facilitate efficient carbon market operation through blockchain technology, the challenges that inhibit its organisational adoption require better understanding by Information Systems (IS) scholars. This thesis employs a critical realist philosophical standpoint to explore blockchain adoption challenges and implications for carbon markets at an organisational level. During the study, a systematic literature review was conducted to present the state of the art of blockchain adoption research and identify research questions. Going beyond the dominant economic-rationalistic paradigm of IS innovation adoption, the study uses technological frames of reference (TFR) theory as an exploratory lens to examine pre-adoption challenges in China’s carbon markets. A set of complementary theories of organisation change is introduced to provide depth and resolution in the challenges discussion. The empirical focus of the thesis is a case study of China’s developing carbon markets that collected data from semi-structured interviews with 15 experts representing three expert communities: IT experts in carbon markets; carbon market experts with conceptual knowledge of blockchain and carbon market experts with practical experience in blockchain projects. The qualitative data were analysed using NVivo version 12 and triangulated against secondary sources. The findings highlight distinctive and incongruent framing challenges, of which the technical challenges are not the most significant. These challenges are discussed by differentiating between permissioned and permissionless blockchain use in carbon markets. Instead of just identifying, categorising and describing them, the research reveals that these challenges arise from the fact that different stakeholders perceive challenges differently from three novel blockchain adoption frames: nature of technology, strategical use of technology and technology readiness. The research also discovers that frame incongruences are related. This study contributes to the literature on blockchain adoption challenges in three aspects: 1) it offers empirical evidence and theoretical underpinnings to the predominantly descriptive and conceptual literature on blockchain adoption, and examines, extends and further explains current knowledge of adoption challenges; 2) it identifies the blockchain adoption frames which enable organisations to effectively take advantage of blockchain in carbon markets and beyond; 3) its discussions on frames relationship and the frame incongruences contribute to the literature of a stakeholder-specific view that facilitates the understanding of the blockchain adoption phenomenon. Finally, theoretical and practical implications are discussed, identifying limitations and topics for future research.