Information Systems (IS) and Technology Issues in Developing Countries
Technology has changed society in a manner much like the Industrial Revolution of the 17th century. The technology revolution started in the U.S. And the countries of Western Europe, in a manner similar to the industrial revolutions. The benefits of this revolution were immediately obvious in the improvement of productivity and the quality of life in the countries. Realizing the benefits that can be obtained by implementing information systems and technology systems many developing countries are looking towards using the technology to improve their standard of living and quality of life.
Technology is changing the way we live and work. Its influence is observed in all strata of population and throughout the world. The implementation and use of IS and technology in developed countries has existed for a number of decades. The developing countries are however, racing to catch up with their developed counterparts in this arena with varied successes at different levels. The Internet and Globalization has eliminated the geographical boundaries of the past. People and companies at one location on the globe have the ability to influence the economy in another section of the world. China, for example, is emerging as a manufacturing powerhouse; India, as a technology region; and, Brazil and Argentina as specialized manufacturing regions. Many globalization changes are driving the need for IS and technology updating in the developed countries. These are supporting technology needs of the industry and the economy of many countries. For example, the increased outsourcing of tasks and services requires state of the art technology infrastructures. Countries that have been able to set up these infrastructures in the shortest possible time have been able to reap the maximum benefits of information technology in recent decades. Using Information Technology (IT), companies and organizations are now able to understand salient trends and demands based on the quick analysis from the information.
1.2 Purpose and Objective of this study
The advantages of implementing an information and technology system in any country are numerous. There are however, many hurdles and constraints. These have to be overcome prior to the implementation of these systems. These issues are further compounded in developing countries, which might not always have the necessary supporting infrastructures such as telecommunication and supporting services (qualified personnel) needing for the smooth running of the entire system. The great strides made by China and India is recent times with respect to the advancement and development of IT systems however, are testimony to the fact that even developing countries with limited prior infrastructure can makes great leaps in their economies through use of information systems and technology.
The objective of this study to identify potential hurdles and problems that are associated with information systems and technology setup in developing countries. This study also identifies the current issues existing in many developing markets and the effects that these conditions have on information system implementation. "Studies indicated that politics, law, culture, economics, technology infrastructure, and the availability of skilled personnel have greatly influenced the difference of key issues in IS management between developed and developing countries." (Pimchangthong, Plaisent, & Bernard, 2003) It is considered important therefore, to understand countries' IS needs and requirements. The information gained though this study will help an individual review the conditions that exist in any region and review factors that have the potential to vary the results.
1.3 Limitations of the study
No data was collected for he purpose of this study, rather existing published material on this topic in scholarly journals and reputable magazines and periodicals. This thesis has been conducted as a secondary research study. It is assumed that personal opinions and viewpoints are an integral part of any printed and published opinion. Sufficient collaborative information was used. For any given point-of-view, information was verified prior (through more than one source) to introducing the concept in the thesis. The variables discussed in this thesis are not exhaustive. As this study encompasses a wide variety of developing countries without emphasis on any one country the recommendations and suggestions offered in Chapter 5 are generic and might require customization for any given country based on factors that are unique to that nation. Identifying all the issues affecting IS and Technology implementations is beyond the scope of this study but some of the more salient and important aspects will be discussed. This thesis is viewed as an introductory exploration into a complex and intricate area of study that depends of an infinite number of variables that are difficult to identify, quantify and define metrics for measurements. Social and political influences also play an important role in the understanding of the decisions that can be made in developing countries. With this in mind, the study should be used as a tool to start the process of understanding conditions that might exist in a country without depending solely on the results of the study.
Chapter: 2 Literature Review
Realizing the benefits of implementing technology and information systems in countries is encouraging many of the developing countries to race ahead with plans and programs for setting up the necessary structures within the country. One of the most significant hurdles encountered in this planning process is the lack of preparedness of countries in recognizing the importance of computerization and the technology infrastructure needed for this process. Many developing countries do not have the required telecommunication requirements needed to even set up the most basic channels for computerization. (Pimchangthong, Plaisent, & Bernard, 2003) Old, outdated and often, poorly maintained infrastructures exist in most developing countries around the world.
Developing countries are defined as those that "are in the process of becoming industrialized but have constrained resources with which to combat their environmental problems" or "countries in which the average annual income is low, most of the population is usually engaged in agriculture and the majority live near the subsistence level. In general, developing countries are not highly industrialized and are dependent on foreign capital and development aid." (Google, 2004) The per capita income of the population in a developing country is very low (generally below $1,890 GDP as defined by World Bank in 1986) and the population experiences a low quality of living (limited access to schools and education; medical facilities and opportunities for improvement and personal growth) and is very dependent on institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations for many supporting benefits offered. It is worthy to note however, that the classifications of developed and developing countries does not enjoy support from all nations from both sides of the fence and this classification often becomes very controversial and biased.
"An information system provides a societal capability based on the use of information that encompasses its full context of people, institutions, policies, processes, incentives, data, information technology, and infrastructure." (World-Bank, 2004) IT encompasses design, installation and maintenance of computer hardware, software, and a forum for collection, processing, storage, presentation, archiving and retrieval of information. In this process, data (raw facts that are collected by observation or monitoring) are filtered out to identify trends and organized into information that is used for planning and decision-making. (Yahya & Goh, 2002) Information and knowledge get transmitted through networks. "National information infrastructure consists of both the telecommunications networks and the strategic information systems necessary for widespread access to communications and information services. Typical among the strategic systems are sector-wide information systems for education, health, public financial management, and transportation. Electronic payments, university and science networks, trade facilitation, disaster prevention and management, property and business registries, and national statistics might also be considered strategic systems." (World-Bank, 2004) The concepts of processing information collected using all the capabilities of a computer (hardware, software, databases and storage technology) and the networks linking the components of computers together to share information as and when needed is referred to as Information Technology. "Telecommunication infrastructure consists of fixed, wireless, and satellite telecommunication networks, telecommunication software and applications." (Okunoye, 2003)
It is clear that "the information system, based on information and communication technologies, constitutes the organizational memory and processes data and information to support operations (value chain, data bases), management and decision-making (management system, model and knowledge bases), as well as the relations between the organization and its environment." (Raymond, 2003) Information is the key to maintaining high quality standards. Every government and organization, no matter what size, requires some form of structure or formalized arrangement of relationships and work duties in order to survive and grow.
It is important to note that the GDP is not the most accurate metric for defining a developing country with respect to technology development. An ideal example is India, when compared to countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia the GDP is substantially low, but the infrastructure and support personnel needed for IS and technology is very high in India. So much so that India has the potential to export "personnel" to different locations. Technology issues are more complex in developing countries however as little concern is offered to long-term…