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On-going Research (Since April 2008): The Role of Handheld Information Technologies in Controlling Inter-organisational Data Transactions.

Currently, there is inadequate understanding of the use of handheld technologies to control electronic data transactions between public and private sector organisations. This problem has come about because the following circumstances have not been taken into account in current research on the exercise of technology control by public sector organisations:

• the same use of the handheld computers satisfies the different motives of the focal and remote organisations, which motives may even be contradictory;
• the focal organisation is seeking to monitor and control its remote activities which are performed by organisations whose employees are not its own;
• the remote activities are only small parts of the entire activities of the remote organisations; and
• these remote organisations are interested in and preoccupied by their own activities which are largely not subject to the control of the focal organisation.

Therefore, this research seeks predominantly to explore these circumstances to proffer insights that will improve our understanding of public sector use of information technology for control. This exploration will be conducted in an empirical study of a pilot implementation of handheld card-reading payment technologies (called electronic cash registers) for value-added tax (VAT) administration in Ghana. The VAT Service will deploy these technologies to selected enterprises across the country to monitor and control data transactions and VAT payments. This deployment is a typical instantiation of the research problem that is replete with these circumstances.

To this end, the objectives of this research are:
1. to investigate the use of handheld computers for controlling inter-organisational data transactions by
(a) examining how the socio-political dynamics in public sector organisations shape the use of handheld information technology
(b) examining the role handheld information technologies play when an organisation seeks to control transactions conducted by remote organisations which are not subject to their control.

2. to analyse the dynamics of technology control in the face of
(a) an interplay between different and, possibly, contradictory organisational motives
(b) institutional forces such as culture and politics

By the end of this research, I want to contribute • a theoretical model of the dynamic roles that handheld information technologies play in the control of inter-organisational data transactions • a theoretical model of the appropriate socio-technical systems of control that ensure smooth implementation of inter-organisational information systems • practical guidelines on how to effectively arrange the organizational and technological factors of inter-organisational relationships into efficient information systems that will enhance VAT administration .

Post-Doctoral Research (completed in April 2007): Social, Organizational and Cultural Aspects of Global Software Development.

Note: This research was conducted as part of ongoing research in Lero (The Irish Software Engineering Research Centre) and sponsored by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

Many companies in the ICT sector now have a global reach. This move towards globalization has been prompted, not simply to ensure a presence close to different customer bases, but also for economic reasons. Skilled labour has become very expensive in the West, and there are huge savings to be made by having signifi-cant parts of the company based in other parts of the world. Thus we now find that many EU and US corporations employ significant numbers of professionals in their offices in India and China, for example. Often “core” activities are kept in the West, but this too is changing. Nowadays it is quite common to find software development projects that are distributed across the globe, with team members from North America, Europe and the Far East. Another phenomenon that is occurring is the outsourcing of significant software projects from EU and US corporations to independent Asian outfits, who offer turnkey solutions. Again, the main motivation is the lower cost of professional labour in the latter. For many, these significant changes are exemplars of the “network society” in Castells terms, where due to developments in ICT, the barriers of distance are supposedly overcome, and indeed, companies can benefit from having work progress over a 24-hour period in different offices across the globe.

However, offshoring and outsourcing, while having tremendous direct cost savings, create a plethora of problems concerning project management. The belief that communication and collaboration among software teams spread across the globe can be ensured through the use of standard platforms, software tools, and procedures, aug-mented by occasional video-conferences, and emails has come to be seen as naïve. Certainly many such com-munication tools and explicit procedures are necessary for the coordination of distributed work, but there is an increasing realization, especially among those software managers “at the coalface”, that they are not sufficient. Successful leaders of distributed teams argue for the crucial importance of additional “soft” factors, concerning such issues as respect, privacy, trust, empathy and care, which are essential to ensure successful international collaborations.

Issues that are currently the focus of research investigation may be categorised as being centred on a number of areas: Strategic, Tools, KM, Communications, Organizational, Social and Cultural challenges.

At a strategic level some research has focused around means to build and maintain confidence in process and project management, issues such supervision, awareness, identifying contributions and allocating rewards. The actions of the individual team members in accepting or rejecting any transition to a GSD organization impacts on the effectiveness of the tools deployed and is fundamental factor in the organization’s resistance to GSD. This resistance often surfaces because of misalignment between senior and middle management on the intent and perceived benefits of GSD. Individuals may believe their jobs are threatened, feel they are experiencing a loss of control, and fear the possibility of relocation and the need for extensive travel. This in turn influences the type of coordination model that is most appropriate. With multiple vendors and a wide range tools being developed worldwide to address different aspects of the soft-ware design and development process, technical issues can arise centred on tool integration and compatibly, maintenance, reliability, performance, usability and even availability whether due to legal or market reasons. This can lead to heterogeneous development environment across a GSD organisation. Research into the potential of an open source model to address these issues has grown in recent years.

Knowledge Management, the challenge for organisations undergoing rapid change to retain the knowledge and expertise of the workforce is of particular relevance to the Software Development domain. The knowledge of the practitioners is the very basis of the organisation's value. Traditional methods of knowledge capture and transfer have been augmented by technology; research is proposing and exploring the potential of new technologies to create entirely new means to collect and distribute knowledge.

While there are strong anecdotal experiences of GSD, research has uncovered evidence from statistical models and surveys that GSD with tasks that span multiple sites encounters delays and difficulties that can be impacted by communication and coordination.

Previous research indicates that cross-site communication and coordination issues cause a substantial loss of development speed. Recent research investigations have examined relationships among delay, communication, coordination, and geographic distribution of work, in order to shed light on the possible mechanisms responsible for introducing delay. Contrastingly with the appropriate selection of sites, the temporal and geographical dis-tances involved could be made to work in the development processes favour. With adequate handover proce-dures and tools, the productive work time on a project can theoretically be increased to almost 24 hours per day, without deviating from normal local work patterns.

The absence of the richness of face to face and collocated working in GSD and the infrastructural deficiencies of some locales has lead to non-technological solutions being explored. It has been suggested by some such as Carmel and Agarwal that one way to minimise the impact of a lack of opportunity for effective collaboration is to reduce the requirement for collaboration to take place. Other research has empirically examined the impact of distance on teamness, team interactions and relative responsiveness to distant team members.

There are a variety of research programmes that are relevant to understanding these issues of distributed soft-ware development and global software work more generally. Within the software engineering domain, there are a number of individuals and research groups that have been studying aspects of the problem. The early work of Herbsleb, Grinter and colleagues at Bell Labs is an early case in point. Herbsleb has been involved in related more recent work since his move to CMU. (see refs below.) Some of this work attempts to develop models of collaboration and to perform quantitative studies of performance in distributed teams. Erran Carmel has been one of the early figures to write and conduct interviews in this area, and his book on Global Software Teams (1999) is still a useful base. Within the computing field more generally, there have been some notable early em-pirical projects done investigating issues of collaboration and communication in development teams, such as that by Curtis and others.

The whole area of CSCW has produced a number of interesting studies on articulation work and coordination theory (Schmidt, Bannon, Malone, Crowston,….) in general as well as the exploration of various kinds of media spaces to enhance collaboration( Xerox PARC, Bell Labs, MIT Media Lab..). While much of this work is not ex-clusively focused on the software engineering domain, there are many useful lessons to be learnt from the de-tailed studies of coordination in the workplace, and the use of various media for collaboration support.

Other literature relevant to the problem exists in the Information Systems field, where the names of Walsham, Sahay and Nicholson are prominent. These researchers tend to assume an interpretivist stance to their research object, and are often influenced by conceptual frameworks such as actor-network theory and socio-technical sys-tems theory. While the level of granularity in these studies is often quite large, the work is quite relevant in under-standing the organizational issues involved. Re. the latter, there is also a body of work within project management and organizational studies more generally that is applicable to understanding global development organizations. Likewise, as we attempt to engage with the tricky problem of culture, both national and professional, much of the extant literature has emerged within organization and information systems studies, rather than within the SE sec-tor. Even within these sectors, models or accounts tend to be borrowed from general management texts or else from anthropology, often leading to poorly understood use of concepts from these fields.

The socGSD research project aims to explore, through case studies, how organizations attempt to manage the coordination of engineering work via a variety of mechanisms, from the formation of closely-knit, though distrib-uted, teams through to the use of outsourcing, which still requires project management skills in order to ensure the quality of the output, and the integration of the output into the overall product. The work will explore the di-versity of ways in which distributed teams shape their work practices, and come to a joint understanding of their objectives. The analysis of these cases will be conducted utilising a variety of conceptual “lenses”. A major ori-entation in the project will be to the ways in which members through their practices, formal and informal, manage to cope with the organizational rules and formalizations they are required to use, even when these, at times create problems in accomplishing the work. Earlier CSCW work has shown the artful ways in which people mesh and interleave their work practices with and through technologies in order to accomplish their objectives. The CSCW work on interdependencies in work, the construction of common objects, “boundary objects”, and translation and interpretation of concepts among and between different communities of practice will be investigated.

Compiled by Prof. Liam J. Bannon (Project Leader)

PhD Research (completed in January 2005): Mobile Computing in Work-Integrated Learning: Problems of Remotely Distributed Activities and Technology Use.

The continuing digitalisation of our social and analogue lives has assumed a new dimension. This dimension has resulted from of the introduction of portable information and communication technologies (ICTs) – notably mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), laptop computers, smart phones and tablet computers – whose physical, instrumental and functional properties provide opportunities for mobility of interaction, information processing, learning and work. A parallel development along this dimension is the contemporary remote distribution of erstwhile-localised human activities, subsuming some dissolution of distance and time boundaries by portable ICTs.

This is a dissertation about the problems of remotely-distributed activities and technology use, in general; and specifically about the mutual shaping between remotely-distributed work-integrated learning and mobile computing. The study is underpinned by a developmental psychology perspective to purposeful human activities being seen as processes which are mediated by psychological and physical tools.  It explores this mutual shaping by addressing related parameters such as motives, mobility, power, control, distribution and mobile computing. The aim is to unearth an understanding of how this mobilisation of technology, humans and mobile computing shape each other within the framework of purposeful mobilised activities.

The analysis carried out after an in-depth theoretical and empirical study of these relationships reveal the following: a paradoxical relationship between human mobility and flexible computing; a high tendency for ICT users to reconstruct portable artefacts based on a drift in utility between the satisfaction of objective and personal motives; power relations between remotely-separated authorities of an activity translate into control of workers’ or learners’ actions (including computing actions) and contribute to reconstruction of artefacts. Based on these findings, this dissertation makes a theoretical contribution through the proposal of an action-based model of remotely-distributed activity that can be drawn upon to analyse computing in contemporary technology-mediated distribution of work and learning.

Title Page
Dedications and Acknowledgements
Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Tables
Chapter One: Research Issues
Chapter Two: Portable ICTs, Mobility and Work-Integrated Learning
Chapter Three: Research Methodology
Chapter Four: Learning as an Activity
Chapter Five: Mobile Computing in the Training of the PSP
Chapter Six: Mobility of Computing and Work-Integrated Learning
Chapter Seven: Problems of a Remotely Distributed Activity
Chapter Eight: Conclusion

Related Essay
Commentary on 'Normal Science and its Dangers.'

MSc Project (completed in September 2002): Information Strategy in Local e-Government: The Case of Lambeth Borough Council.

Recently, advances in digital electronic communication brought about by the Internet and World Wide Web have introduced new pressing demands for Local Government institutions to deliver electronic services to their customers. E-government has thus become a central theme catalysing public services delivery. For most Local Council’s, however, they have lacked the strategic path for information use and communication which is required to embark on optimal e-governance. Since there are complexities surrounding the interplay of customers’ changing information needs, culture and organisational learning issues, the need for information strategy to optimise the use of Information and Communication Technologies for e-government becomes imperative. The primary objective of this study, therefore, is to investigate these complexities in a Local Council and appraise the council’s response to challenges they hold for information strategy.

Title Page
Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Tables
Section One: General Introduction
Section Two: Literature Review
Section Three: The Lambeth Borough Council: A Context Analysis
Section Four: Information Strategy at Lambeth Borough Council
Section Five: Information Strategy Guidelines

BSc Project (completed in July 2000): An Assessment of the Post-Commercialisation Performance of the State Housing Company Limited (SHC Ltd.) in the solution of Housing Problems in Ghana. Focus on Kumasi.

There has been sustained government support in the housing sector in Ghana since the colonial era. However, the public housing schemes embarked upon by successive governments through the State Housing Company Limited have only succeeded in providing housing for the few who are relatively rich. In fact, the huge public investments in housing throughout the years have produced less than the expected results. The obvious is an acute shortage of housing in Ghana.

Public housing delivery has undergone ideological transformation in Ghana's history. Until the early 1980s, housing was regarded as a social service, which was to be enjoyed by all - rich and poor. In the light of high incidence of absolute poverty, income inequality and acute housing shortages in Ghana, the consideration of housing as a social policy became a matter of critical necessity. Public housing by the State Housing Corporation therefore reflected this ideology until it was realized that this approach had left the Corporation seriously indebted and liable and even unable to house the poor.

A general shift in national ideology in Ghana in the early 1980s when the economy was liberalised, resulted in a re-orientation of the approach to public housing delivery. Housing is now seen as an economic commodity, which is produced and sold for profit. The corresponding institutional response was the metamorphosing of the State Housing Corporation into a limited liability company, which is expected to show maximum returns on investments in housing.

However, public housing has and is still not meeting housing demand in Ghana. Besides, the houses supplied are widely not suitable for the users. Grave housing inequalities are therefore visible in our urban areas in the form of slums and squatters.

To what extent then can we reschedule this conventional approach to solving our housing problem in order to bring housing delivery to an appreciable level and to gain equal dignity and satisfaction within the context of changing values and needs? There is the need for housing policies and strategies to be reviewed and the appropriate programmes pursued to house more Ghanaians. The primary objective of this study therefore to appraise the State Housing Company Limited’s approach to housing delivery within the wider scope of the search for solutions to meet housing demand in the country.

Title Page
Acknowledgements and Dedication
Tabe of Contents
List of Tables
List of Figures
Chapter 1: General Introduction
Chapter 2: Literature Review
Chapter 3: The New State Housing Company Ltd (SHC Ltd)
Chapter 4: An Examination of Consumer Satisfaction with SHC Ltd Estates - Case Study of Kumasi
Chapter 5: Recommendations and Conclusion

Dr. Gamel O. Wiredu
PhD in Information Systems

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