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User acceptance of systems for archiving and securing degree certificates and related documents.

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Myeza, Philisiwe Joyce.

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Changing economic circumstances have led to the investigation of alternative solutions to economic problems. This has had an impact on communities who see academic qualifications as a solution to securing employment. With the increase in job opportunities requiring suitable qualifications, an increase in ‘qualification competition’ has occurred. This has resulted in academic qualifications being seen as a ‘key’ to securing employment. Unfortunately, such a perception has caused many individuals to pursue opportunities using ‘quick fix’ solutions and acquiring academic qualifications through breaches of security around these qualifications. Higher Education is one of the many sectors that is battling with security issues of this type. In South Africa alone, for the past few years, there has been a considerable increase in cases of persons who have been found to have faked either their senior certificates or university degrees, including doctorates. This is becoming a growing concern as it taints the image of the higher education sector in South Africa, and places at risk international relationshipsin higher education and beyond that the country has enjoyed over many years. Many education sectors are based on security systems in which the basic data of a person’s name and surname, for example, are retained when they graduateand the qualification they have legitimately received is recorded. This data is used when a re-print of a certificate is required. Though this method has been working well for some time, it has developed major flaws, in line with the sophistication of information and communications technology in general. This applies especially to the ability to edit e-versions of a certificate using image processing software. Thus, proper verification of the data captured in an e-version or hardcopy of a certificate (when reprinted, for example), represents an increasing risk, and, in some cases, results in a breach of security. Furthermore, some individuals have found ways to e-edit and print their own certificates, which look effectively identical to the authenticated certificates. While the emerging trend in various sectors is to store all data using the appropriate technology tools as a security measure for protecting information, organizations are becoming exposed to cybercrimes. As a result, data security has increasingly become a cause for concern. What is most disturbing, is that computer security breaches have increased, and in many cases, shown to be the result of ‘insider misuse and abuse’ of the information security measures established by an organization. It is for this reason that the current study and the work reported in this thesis has been undertaken and involves a focus on understanding what causes users to accept and follow an organization’s information systems security measures. The study is informed by the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT), as a framework to explore securing and archiving academic transcripts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). The results showed that the intention of the UKZN staff to use the system positively, relates to their performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influence and facilitating conditions. The use of UTAUT in a mixed methods study within an academic environment assesses the existing measures of securing and archiving academic transcripts and identifies various weaknesses in the current system. Based on the findings of the study, the steganographic method is demonstrated and suggested as an improved method of securing and archiving academic certificates at UKZN. The original contribution is an in-depth study at UKZN that answered the user acceptance research questions and demonstrated the practical application of the steganographic method in securing and archiving data.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.