Learning with Information Systems: Learning Cycles in Information Systems Development

By Simon Bell | Go to book overview

5

LEARNING CYCLE 1: A DEPARTMENT OF ROADS

The process of analysis and design as discussed throughout this book is integrally linked to the observation (first discussed in Chapter 1, pp. 15-17) that much development work undertaken in the developing countries is sponsored by grant and loan money from the richer countries via government development agencies (e.g. the UK Overseas Development Administration) and internationally funded organisations such as the agencies of the United Nations (e.g. the Food and Agriculture Organisation) and the World Bank. The observation made in Chapter 1 on the interventionist nature of development recognises that much intervention is sponsored by aid. The basis for the following case studies is consultancy funded by aid money in one form or another. This factor will not just have implications for the analyst undertaking the research (e.g. the potential, due to external funding, to be ‘remote’ and unsympathetic to the recipient community), it will also affect the recipient’s reaction to what is being planned in the systems analysis and design process (e.g. the rejection explicitly or implicitly of the ‘foreign expert’). An observation arising from the work of Biggs and Farrington (1990) is that much aid-funded research is looking for rapid, researcher-led change. The following case studies were undertaken recognising that this approach is problematic. In the words of Georgiades and Phillimore (1980) it is based in part upon the myth of the ‘hero innovator’:

This then is the myth of the hero-innovator: the idea that you can produce, by training, a knight in shining armour who, loins girded with new technology and beliefs, will assault his organisational fortress and institute changes both in himself and others at a stroke. Such a view is ingenuous. The fact of the matter is that organisations such as schools and hospitals will, like dragons, eat hero innovators for breakfast.

(Georgiades and Phillimore 1980, p. 315)

In the following case studies the action-research approach was adopted in order to include the researcher as one actor amongst many in the problem context and to avoid an overly self-important, heroic role for the researcher. The research is intended to analyse vigorously the role of analyst, context and

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Learning with Information Systems: Learning Cycles in Information Systems Development
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures viii
  • Tables x
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • Summary of Contents xv
  • Part I - Introducing the Context 1
  • 1 - Introduction and Background 3
  • 2 - Information Systems and Planning in Developing Countries 30
  • Part II - The Question and the Approach 57
  • 3 - The Question for This Book 59
  • 4 - Selecting the Research Approach 62
  • Part III - Action-Research Learning 83
  • 5 - Learning Cycle 1: a Department of Roads 85
  • 6 - Learning Cycle 2: an Administrative Staff College 123
  • 7 - Learning Cycle 3: a Board for Technical Education 148
  • Part IV - Overview and Conclusions 175
  • 8 - An Overview of the Learning Process 177
  • 9 - The Next Steps 195
  • Notes 208
  • Bibliography 210
  • Index 224
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