CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK OF BUSINESS INFORMATION SYSTEMS

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Contextual analysis of Uganda’s economic development with specific

reference to northern Uganda According to newafrica.com (1999), Uganda has settled down, politically, and is on the path to economic recovery. The government of Uganda has been implementing an ambitious and successful programme of macro-economic adjustment and structural reform since 1987 – with strong support from multilateral and bilateral creditors and donors. The government’s continued implementation of appropriate fiscal and monetary policies – and its programme of substantial economic liberalisation – has maintained high growth, low inflation, a steadily improving balance of payments and an increasingly vibrant and diversified private sector (Uganda Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development 2002). During the 2003/04 financial year, Uganda’s economy registered a strong growth of 6% compared to a growth rate of 5.2% in 2002/03 (World Fact book 2004). Solid growth in 2003 reflected an upturn in Uganda’s export markets. According to the World Bank’s estimates, the average growth of Gross Domestic Product over the years has increased from 3.4% in 1979 to a record 7.4% in 1999. This is shown in Figure 1.1.

The Actor-Network Theory (ANT)

It is vital to understand the main actors that drive information systems processes – both human and non-human. According to The Actor-Network Theory (ANT) – society is regarded as a socio-technical web where technical objects participate in building heterogeneous networks that bring together actors of all types – whether human or nonhuman (Braa and Hedberg 2002:114). ANT claims that any actor, whether it is a person, an object or an organization, is equally important to a social network. As such, societal order is an effect caused by a smooth-running actor network (Actor-Network Theory Encyclopaedia 2006). ANT is distinguished from other network theories in that an actornetwork contains not merely people, but objects and organisations. In developing an information system where a bottom-up alignment of heterogeneous actors is required, the ANT is important to consider. In terms of this theory, Monteiro (2000) – in Braa and Hedberg (2002:115) – sees it as heterogeneous in that there is an open-ended array of “things” that need to be aligned, including work routines, structures, training and societal roles. This is important because it provides a theoretical base to consider: when drawing up the information flow of a system, the institutional structure of the sector should also be identified (Braa and Hedberg 2002:119). For instance, how should the BIS interface with the environment in which it is operating? Should the BIS be a closed or a flexible one? This theory taught the researcher about the need to identify the institutions at a macro level to interface with the BIS (see Figure 8.2).

The Systems Theory

Systems theory or systematic is an interdisciplinary field which studies systems as a whole (Wikipedia 2007). System theory is basically concerned with problems of relationships of structures, and of interdependence, rather than with the constant attributes of objects (Hong…et al n.d). The factual content regarding information systems can also be viewed from the Systems Theory enunciated by Lucey (1987:29) who maintains that the systems approach – also known as systems thinking or General Systems Theory (GST) – does not provide a ready made list of answers to organisational or societal problems. Instead, it recognises organisations or communities as an example of complex entities with multiple relationships and helps to avoid taking a blinkered and mechanistic approach to the examination of organisational operations and problems. Rather than being an end in itself, the Systems Theory is a way of looking at things.

e 1970s the rise of the Systems Theory forced scientists to view

organisations as open systems that interacted with their environment (Walonick n.d). Information systems often incorporate – or build on – the requirements of the stakeholders. Strassman’s research (1985 and 1990) notes that in collecting data from firms that have invested in – and have hope in – a system, managerial effectiveness is the most significant factor predicting the success of information system innovations. This theory raises the question of managing the flow of information at a district level of each of the sub-regions in northern Uganda. Although this study does not claim to have included the structural and managerial arrangement of the local government system in Uganda and of the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry – based on the organisational theory – it was imperative to make the respondents decide on possible appropriate managerial structures for business information in the districts. A question to this effect was developed and the results reported in Chapter 6, Section 6.8 and discussed in Chapter 7, Section 7.10.3.

THEORETICAL CONCEPT OF THE CULTURE-NEUTRAL

INFORMATION SYSTEM A culture-neutral information system refers to an information system that is designed free of a set of beliefs [culture] that affect its functioning within a community (Harvey 1997 and Galliers 1998). The study carried out by Coombs, Doherty and Loan-Clarke (1999:145) notes that community information systems have – to date – been modest with all the average successes within communities. This does not mean that the implementation of other community information systems has succeeded. Galliers (1998:89) warns that among the various factors that affect the implementation of information systems cultural factors are often cited as being important for the success of an information system. An attribute of information that can influence its usefulness as a development resource is that it is culture dependent – involving conceptual and cognitive differentiation (Meyer 2005).

2 Relevance to the business activities

A fundamental objective of the design of an information system is to ensure that it supports the business activities – established during the analysis phase – for which it is developed. One essential business objective is the timeliness of access to the required business information. A system that slows the movement of information hampers business. The design implication of this for the study is that the preferred means or channels of information access by northern Uganda business enterprises need to be established. For instance, if the system is designed in such away that access to information should be through notice-boards, then how long will it take for the business enterprises to access this information? The means of access by business enterprises were explored through the literature review in Chapter 3; established and reported in Chapter 6; discussed in Chapter 7; and included in the proposed design in Chapter 8.

TABLE OF CONTENTS :

  • SUMMARY
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
  • DEDICATION
  • DECLARATION
  • TABLE OF CONTENTS
  • LIST OF TABLES
  • LIST OF FIGURES
  • LIST OF ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS
  • CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY
    • 1.1 Introduction
    • 1.2 Background to the Study
      • 1.2.1 Global trends
      • 1.2.2 Conceptualisation of information for business
      • 1.2.3 Contextual analysis of Uganda’s economic developmentwith specific reference to northern Uganda
    • 1.3 Statement of the Problem
    • 1.4 Research Gap
    • 1.5 Purpose of the Study
    • 1.6 Objectives of the Study
    • 1.7 Significance of the Study
    • 1.8 Scope, Limitations and Exclusions
    • 1.9 The Research Process
    • 1.10 Operational Definition of Key Concepts
      • 1.10.1 Business information
      • 1.10.2 Economic development
      • 1.10.3 Information system
      • 1.10.4 Systems design
      • 1.10.5 Business Information System (BIS)
      • 1.10.6 Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs)
    • 1.11 Thesis Structure
    • 1.12. Summary
  • CHAPTER 2 INFORMATION SYSTEMS: CONCEPTS, THEORIES AND DESIGN
    • 2.1 Introduction
    • 2.2 Information System Concepts
      • 2.2.1 Input
      • 2.2.2 Processing
      • 2.2.3 Control
      • 2.2.4 Output – quality information
      • 2.2.5 Procedures
      • 2.2.6 Feedback
      • 2.2.7 System interface
    • 2.3 Relevant Theories
      • 2.3.1 The Metcalf Theory
      • 2.3.2 The Actor-Network Theory (ANT)
      • 2.3.3 The Systems Theory
      • 2.3.4 The Organisational Theory
    • 2.4 Theoretical Concept of the Culture-Neutral Information System
    • 2.5 Information System Design Strategy
      • 2.5.1 Preliminary investigation phase
      • 2.5.2 Analysis phase
      • 2.5.3 Design phase
    • 2.6 System Design Strategic Direction
    • 2.7 Summary
  • CHAPTER 3 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK OF BUSINESS INFORMATION SYSTEMS
    • 3.1 Introduction
    • 3.2 Business Activities and Information Needs
      • 3.2.1 Business information user, needs and the system
      • 3.2.2 Types of communities operating within and outside business enterprises
      • 3.2.3 Types of business information needs
    • 3.3 Business Information Sources
      • 3.3.1 Informal business information sources
      • 3.3.2 Formal business information sources
      • 3.3.3 Business information sources and users’ trust
      • 3.3.4 The Internet as a source of business information
    • 3.4 Business Information Processing
    • 3.5 Business Information Quality Control
    • 3.6 Means of Access to Business Information
    • 3.7 Business Information Accessibility Problems
      • 3.7.1 Lack of a shared and coordinated vision
      • 3.7.2 Management problems within the business sector at the level of both individual entrepreneurs and support programmes
      • 3.7.3 Societal problems
      • 3.7.4 Institutional problems
      • 3.7.5 Physical problems
      • 3.7.6 Perception problems
      • 3.7.7 Lack of skills
    • 3.8 Setting the Macro Environment and Effective Interface
    • 3.9 Summary
  • CHAPTER 4 OVERVIEW OF SMEs AND BUSINESS INFORMATION PROVISION STRATEGIES
  • CHAPTER 5 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
  • CHAPTER 6 PRESENTATION OF FINDINGS
  • CHAPTER 7 DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
  • CHAPTER 8 PROPOSED BUSINESS INFORMATION SYSTEM DESIGN (BISD) FOR SMEs IN NORTHERN UGANDA
  • CHAPTER 9 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

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BUSINESS INFORMATION SYSTEMS DESIGN FOR UGANDA’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: THE CASE OF SMEs IN NORTHERN UGANDA

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