• software exports policy;
  • institutional theory;
  • action research


Software industry development is acknowledged as an important engine of economic growth for many developing countries. The role of national policy has been identified as a catalyst to software industry and software exports development. Academic and practitioner frameworks have emerged to guide policymakers to the factors that are critical to success. This article adopts an institutional theory perspective on the strategy-making and implementation process and examines how historically rooted, taken-for-granted assumptions limit the possible courses of action and may also simultaneously open up new opportunities. Certain complexities and contradictions are highlighted through a longitudinal case study of Costa Rica where there is an ongoing strategic planning effort to increase software exports. Key findings from the research are related to improving our understanding of how software exports policy is influenced by local, emergent institutions that have been shaped by particular historical circumstances. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.