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Explaining 'irrationalities' of IT-enabled change in a developing country bureaucracy: the case of Ghana's Tradenet

Atta A. Addo

LSE Research Online Documents on Economics from London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library

Abstract: Through a case study of Ghana’s TradeNet, a business-to-government (B2G) Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) implemented to automate and integrate customs clearance, this article investigates ‘irrationalities’ of IT-enabled change in the context of a developing country bureaucracy. Our data revealed that despite TradeNet’s potential for full automation and integration, bureaucrats sometimes preferred manual, face-to-face, paper-based practices. We explain such outcome—often depicted in the literature as a kind of ‘irrationality’—by drawing upon the theoretical notion of institutional logics to trace underlying logics of TradeNet-enabled change. We investigate two specific TradeNet-enabled practices—Import Declaration Form (IDF) processing and risk controls—and show that where ‘irrationality’ was present (IDF processing), the managerial logic of TradeNet contradicted existing bureaucratic logics. We therefore interpret ‘irrationality’ as ‘good enough’ or satisficing when new logics of IT and old bureaucratic logics contradicted. Our findings move beyond success or failure interpretations typical in Information Systems in developing countries (ISDC) and ICT for development (ICT4D) research. We also enhance knowledge of IT-enabled change in developing country bureaucracies by moving beyond the organizational milieu to emphasize broader institutional forces in developing countries such as neopatrimonialism. Such theorization advances ISDC/ICT4D research where reconciling micro with macro accounts remains daunting.

Keywords: institutional logic; neopatrimonialism; rent seeking; managerialism; bureaucratic reform; IS in developing countries; trade facilitation; TradeNet; ICT4D (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: L81 N0 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016-11-01
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Published in Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 1, November, 2016, 77, pp. 1-22. ISSN: 1681-4835

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