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    E Readiness Assessment Tools E Readiness Assessment Tools Document Transcript

    • ARTICLE IN PRESS International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 212–223 www.elsevier.com/locate/ijinfomgt An evaluation of e-readiness assessment tools with respect to information access: Towards an integrated information rich tool Stephen M. Mutulaa,Ã, Pieter van Brakelb a Department of Library and Information Studies, University of Botswana, Botswana b Faculty of Business Informatics, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa Abstract This paper is an offshoot of the findings of a doctoral thesis carried out at the University of Johannesburg (formerly Rand Afrikaans University) in South Africa on the assessment of e-readiness tools with respect to information access. The paper argues that information is a key component in the e-readiness equation and yet it is not given much emphasis in the e-readiness extant tools, but is instead subsumed under Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The paper notes that the various major segments of e-readiness as synthesised from existing tools are scattered in different tools making their use painstakingly cumbersome. The paper proposes a new e-readiness integrated tool that emphasises information access and also collocates the various segments of organizational, ICT, human resources, and external readiness into one single tool. r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: E-readiness; Information access; ICTs; Digital divide; Information management 1. Introduction E-readiness is a relatively new concept that has been given impetus by the rapid rate of Internet penetration throughout the world, and the dramatic advances in uses of information technology (IT) in business and industry (Choucri et al., 2003, p. 2). The e-readiness concept was originated by the intent to provide a unified framework to evaluate the breadth and depth of the digital divide between more and less developed or developing countries during the later part of 1990s. The first efforts in defining e-readiness were undertaken in 1998 by the Computer Systems Policy Project (CSPP) when it developed the first e-readiness assessment tool known as Readiness Guide for Living in the Networked World. CSPP defined e-readiness with respect to a community that had high-speed access in a competitive market; with constant access and application of ICTs in schools, government offices, businesses, healthcare facilities and homes; user privacy and online security; and government policies which are favourable to promoting connectedness and use of the network (Bridges.org, 2001). ÃCorresponding author. E-mail addresses: mutulasm@mopipi.ub.bw (S.M. Mutula), vanbrakelp@cput.ac.za (P. van Brakel). 0268-4012/$ - see front matter r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2006.02.004
    • ARTICLE IN PRESS S.M. Mutula, P. van Brakel / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 212–223 213 Since the development of the first e-readiness tool several e-readiness tools have emerged through efforts of development agencies, research organisations, academia, business enterprises and individuals. Some of the organisations that have been on the forefront in developing e-readiness assessment tools include but are not limited to: McConnell International (MI), a global technology policy and management consulting firm(with its Ready?Net.Go tool), the Centre for International Development at Harvard University(with its Network Readiness Index tool), the Economist Intelligent Unit (with its E-readiness Rankings), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)(with its ICT Development Index), the United Nations Development Program (with its Technology Achievement Index ), and the Mosaic Group(with the Framework for Assessing the Diffusion of the Internet ) (Rizk, 2004). Largely, all the e-readiness tools measure the e-readiness phenomena at national level across key sectors of the economy and in general each of the tools uses a different definition of e-readiness and techniques of its measurement (Bridges.org, 2001). Docktor (2002) alluding to these variations observed that the diversity of e-readiness definitions represented the multiple levels of ICT development and the exact definition of what constituted ‘e-readiness’ was still open for debate. The Centre for International Development at Harvard through its macro Readiness for the Networked World tool defines e-readiness in relation to a society that has: the necessary physical infrastructure (high bandwidth, reliability, and affordable prices); integrated ICTs throughout business, communities, and government and universal access (Bridges.org, 2001). Likewise, MI tool defines e-readiness in relation to a country that, has: extensive usage of computers in schools, businesses, government, homes; affordable reliable access in a competitive market; free trade; skilled workforces and training in schools; a culture of creativity; government-business partnerships; transparency and stability in government and an evenly enforced legal system; secure networks and personal privacy; regulations allowing digital signatures and encryption; consumers’ trust in e-commerce security and privacy; more trained workers; lower training costs; less restrictive public policy; new business practices adapted to information age, and lower costs for e-commerce technology (Bridges.org, 2001). Despite the variations in the definitions of e-readiness by different tools, they on average, measure the level of infrastructure development; connectivity; Internet access; applications and services; network speed; quality of network access; ICT policy; ICT training programs; human resources; computer literacy; and relevant content. By and large information access tends to be subsumed under ICTs and consequently gets crossly under-valued. E-readiness assessments have largely adopted quantitative approaches that assign to countries numerical scores depending on how well they have performed on specific components of e-readiness measures. A weighted average is calculated based on the relative importance accorded to these components to determine the level of e-readiness of countries (Rizk, 2004). The results of e-readiness rankings of countries have regularly been published annually by some agencies. For example, the Economist Intelligence Unit publishes annually a comprehensive ranking of countries on the basis of their measured e-readiness. The ranking categorises countries on the basis of their overall e-readiness as calculated across such dimensions as connectivity, business environment, consumer and business adoption, legal and regulatory environment, supporting services, and social and cultural infrastructure. The consequence of the calculations is the classification of the world’s largest economies on the basis of their perceived adopter category. For example, ‘leaders or innovators’ are countries with most of the elements of e-readiness in place. On the other hand, ‘contenders’ are countries that have both a satisfactory infrastructure and business environment but are lacking in some other areas. Furthermore, ‘followers’ are countries that lack the sophistication of the leader and contender but have seen the importance of the Internet and are moving towards establishing the necessary infrastructure to support it. Finally, ‘laggards’ are countries that are at risk of being left behind. They have serious obstacles in terms of infrastructure and lack support to take advantage of the opportunities that the information economy can engender (Economist Intelligence Unit Limited, 2001). Globally, countries that have attained significant levels of e-readiness are invariably situated in the developed world and include among others, the United States, Canada, Singapore, Sweden, Japan, Finland, Britain, Norway, and Australia to mention a few (Consulting and Audit Canada, 2004, p. 6). On the other hand, most of the countries of the developing world including those in Africa, it would seem, are still striving to implement relevant infrastructures to attain reasonable levels of e-readiness to be able to integrate in the emerging global information economy (Docktor, 2004).
    • ARTICLE IN PRESS S.M. Mutula, P. van Brakel / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 212–223 214 2. Importance of e-readiness assessments There are various reasons why there is increased impetus among countries in assessing their e-readiness statuses. By and large, countries are striving to become inclusive global information societies where all persons without distinction are empowered to create, receive, share and utilise information for their economic, social, cultural and political development (Consulting and Audit Canada, 2004, p. 1). Moreover, in the current Internet age, competitiveness of countries is being increasingly associated with their level of e-readiness (Bridges.org, 2001; Economist Intelligence Unit and IBM Corporation, 2004, p. 26). Countries with high level of e-readiness can use the Internet to improve services and create new opportunities and have a competitive edge over those whose levels of e-readiness are low. For example, countries such as Denmark, United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Finland and the United States that are ranked top in e-readiness have also competitive business environments (Economist Intelligence Unit and IBM Corporation, 2004, p. 26). Furthermore, the potential of the Internet and its associated technologies to enable global e-commerce has been widely documented (Lee and Clark, 1997, p. 113; Montealegre, 1999, p. 207; Weingarten, 1994, p. 17). Internet-based market structures, and broadly the extension of global telecommunication networks offer firms in developing countries new exchange mechanism that will enable them to compete on more equal basis in - world markets (Moodley, 2001, p. 90) citing Goldstein and OC onnor (2000). For business enterprises ICTs are expected to enhance their operations and management, save time, improve quality, reduce manpower requirements, increase cost effectiveness, provide better presentations, share information, improve general skills of employees, and facilitate access to trade information (Maksoud and Youseff, 2003). The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited (2003) pointed out that globally, information and communication technologies (ICTs) had changed the nature of global relationships, sources of competitive advantage and opportunities for economic and social development. Other changes that have been brought about by ICTs are in the way businesses now interact with key stakeholders such as suppliers, customers, employees and investors. Increasingly now than before, success in the information age is dependent largely upon the widespread integration of ICTs into the society at large. Technologies such as the Internet, PCs and wireless telephone have turned the globe into an increasingly interconnected network of individuals and firms communicating and interacting with each other through a variety of channels. As the Internet continues to pervade all aspects of the social fabric of countries, large private and small enterprises alike and public sector organisations were increasingly changing their business models to take advantage of the information highway. Furthermore, high level of e-readiness allows enterprises to transact business electronically in order to achieve less turn-around time, faster delivery of services, enhanced product selection, international competitiveness, a broader market reach, increased convenience for customers, reduced procurements costs, decreased average transaction costs, efficient purchasing processes, enhanced profitability, faster and limitless access to new customers and suppliers, increased depth of communication, exchange of information, and enhanced open standards allowing start-ups of small companies. The Commission of the European Communities (2002, p. 2) pointed out that the information society had much untapped potential due to the growing technological developments of broadband access and these developments were opening up significant economic and social opportunities. Similarly, most of the top ranked countries in e-readiness status are also leaders in business competitiveness and have in general thriving business environments. For example, Singapore and Hong Kong are reputed to have rapidly growing e- trading platforms because of their high levels of e-readiness (Economist Intelligence Unit and IBM Corporation, 2004, pp. 13, 26). High level of e-readiness can make available quality information to individuals, reduce the digital divide between firms and the outside world, creates new business opportunities, maintains interconnectivity across nations and overcome virtual and physical isolation. The Commission of the European Communities (2002, p. 8) noted that e-readiness of enterprises ensured any time, anywhere access to information, thus contributing to effectiveness. E-readiness assessments are also useful in understanding and identifying the most key and relevant ICT- based development opportunities. For example, to put ICT to effective use, a country must be ‘e-ready’ in terms of infrastructure, the accessibility of ICT to the population at large and the effect of the legal and regulatory framework on ICT use, benchmarking progress, collaborations, determining vision, strategy, and priorities (Docktor, 2002). An e-readiness assessment should lead to the development of a strategy and the
    • ARTICLE IN PRESS S.M. Mutula, P. van Brakel / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 212–223 215 preparation of an action plan that would address the opportunities and constraints identified in order to further the objectives of a country in the area of ICTs. Furthermore, e-readiness assessment enables governments to set, measure and achieve realistic goals for an information society, information-based economy, or e-government. It is important to develop and conduct an e-readiness assessment so that the results can be leveraged to catalyze action, improve global competitiveness, and use limited resources wisely. In addition a well-conceived assessment will map a country’s regional and global position, improve competitive strengths and promote those areas where a country has an advantage over others. Understanding other countries’ e-readiness strengths and weaknesses can also help a country to leapfrog technologies and policy decisions to position itself ahead of its neighbours. Moreover, e-readiness assessments can help stakeholders make difficult decisions on how to use scarce resources and how to turn existing strengths into new revenues. E-readiness assessments can also reveal which bottlenecks are worth the investment of time and money to be removed, and which can be worked around. Using a globally recognised e-readiness assessment methodology can be helpful in securing the necessary funding to develop an e-strategy and implement e- programs. The SADC E-readiness Task Force (2002, p. 12) noted that the value of e-readiness assessments was based on the theory that countries with pervasive information infrastructures that used ICT applications possessed advantages for sustained economic growth and social development. Ramsay, Ibbotson, Bell, and Gray (2003, p. 251) citing Gray and Lawless (2000) noted that top performing organisations made use of ICTs especially the Internet and the World Wide Web. Ramsay et al. (2003, p. 253) further pointed out that adoption and implementation of new technologies such as the Internet was essential to the survival and growth of the economy in general and the small business sector in particular. 3. Importance of information access in e-readiness assessments Consulting and Audit Canada (2004, p. 26) noted that the competitiveness of business enterprises, around the world was being closely associated with their preparedness(e-readiness) to leverage ICTs to effectively identify, collect, organise, process, and disseminate information for informed decision making. Moreover, the importance of ICTs for economic development in the networked world lay largely in their potential to facilitate the identification, acquisition, organisation, dissemination and application of information. Burt and Kinnucan (1990, pp. 176–177) noted that the way information was structured, stored, retrieved and manipulated through the formalism of information modelling was of critical importance in e-readiness assessments. They pointed out that it was important that e-readiness assessments included how information systems connected the users to an information source relevant to their needs with expectations that the user would be able to retrieve and internalise that portion of information required to achieve knowledge that would satisfy the need. Holtham (1998, pp. 43–44) on the other hand, noted that information was more critical to business success than IT, but IT got most of the attention and the great bulk of the investment in managerial time, financial investment and media attention. However, he pointed out that the continuation of this imbalance would be at the heart of failure to achieve the full benefits from the business information systems. Though the existing e-readiness tools subsume the notion of information under ICT, this should not be the case. Thom (1998, pp. 81–82) noted that though organisation were driven to spend large sums of money on hardware, such as disk store, terminals and even central computers, it was important to understand that these were disposable tools. Moreover, what the organisations were really investing in was the information that was put in these systems. The information persisted and if organisations were to benefit from it, they needed to protect it. Furthermore, information was the fourth resource and worth far more than the technology, and access to information and the ability to know how and when to apply it brought power to organisations. The importance of the information component in the e-readiness frameworks need not be over-emphasised. Information has long been regarded as a very important aspect of informed decision making and more so in business environments. Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly, difficult to participate adequately in today’s global economy without proper information management as a fundamental part of all productive and commercial activities. Furthermore, the importance of information in economic development demands that a sustainable learning society be established in conjunction with any national economic development plan (Consulting and Audit Canada, 2003, p. 7).
    • ARTICLE IN PRESS S.M. Mutula, P. van Brakel / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 212–223 216 Forgione (1991, p. 577) noted that, information was needed by a variety of users for various purposes within enterprises. For example, the global economy relied on producing high technology goods and services within an information society. In such a society, enterprises transformed human effort, materials and other economic resources into products and services that met consumer demand. Managers on the other hand, utilised these resources to plan, organise, staff, administer and control activities in ways that best achieved the enterprise’s objectives. Furthermore, in the information society environment, successful enterprises would produce high technology goods and services. However, for business enterprises to achieve success, they would need high quality information and effective systems to deliver such information. Forgione (1991, p. 581) further observed that information had attributes that were useful to a variety of people and groups in various organisations and enterprises which could serve as an essential communication and decision-making tool for all levels of management and as an invaluable commodity or product. Additionally, since individuals and groups had different objectives within unique organisations’ settings, all attributes could not be of equal value to each user, but instead, separate but related information systems were needed to deliver the desired attributes to the different users. Such information systems, would include, those that: supported decision making, provided an effective interface between users and computer technology, and made available information for the management of day-to-day routine operations of the enterprises in support of the unique needs of professionals. Dawes (1996) in a study of inter-organisation information sharing amongst government managers stated that information was valuable for: (a) better, more integrated planning, (b) policy development and program implementation across agencies, (c) providing more comprehensive and accurate data for decision making and problem solving, (d) enhancing productive use of scarce staff resources, and (e) providing better interagency and professional relationships. Huber (1984, p. 938) on the other hand noted that the ability of an organisation to realise its goals depended on how well the organisation acquired, interpreted, synthesised, evaluated and understood information, and how well its information channels supported organisational processes. Similarly, Culnan (1984, p. 143) stated that, one of the prime factors that influenced the use of information was accessibility. He noted that accessibility significantly influenced both the level of use of an information system and a user’s evaluation of the obtained information. Auster (1985, p. 201) likewise observed that one dimension of accessibility was the extent to which individuals obtained information indirectly through search analysts who retrieved specific information requested by individuals or directly as end users. Rice (1987, p. 67) similarly noted that how one accessed the information system, what one’s tasks were, what kinds of databases one used and the problem solving needs of one’s organisation, represented some of the central influences on one’s ability to evaluate and use information. Likewise, Hiltz and Johnson (1989, p. 386) pointed out that research on computer information and communication systems had found that greater use of these technologies was often associated with improved availability of information, productivity, quality of work, effectiveness and efficiency in accomplishing tasks. Minton (2003) noted that through the use of ICTs, enterprises could gain from developing capabilities for managing information infrastructure for business, acquire the ability to utilise external information resources, develop capacity for information gathering and dissemination on international scale, and gain access to free and rapid flow of information. Minton (2003) moreover observed that there was a clear correlation between information wealth and economic prosperity. On the other hand, Moodley (2001, p. 91) noted that enterprises used the Internet to develop close information-based links with suppliers and enhance access to information. Information provides a framework upon which a country could become part of the inclusive global information societies where all persons without distinction could be empowered to create, receive, share and utilise information for their economic, social, cultural and political development. Similarly, information wealth would provide governments with the capacity to make better responses to vital long standing issues such as poverty reduction, wealth creation as well as education. Furthermore, information provides a baseline that could be used for planning and also for making comparisons across regions, countries, and organisations. Finally, information asset is being used to provide information gathering mechanisms that would assist when planning strategies for ICT integration. Information is therefore an important component that should ideally form the axis of e-readiness assessment tools. Consulting and Audit Canada (2003, p. 34) pointed out that the evolution of e-readiness was the driver of a knowledge-based society where ICT plays an important role in accelerating the creation and
    • ARTICLE IN PRESS S.M. Mutula, P. van Brakel / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 212–223 217 sharing of knowledge. To share information, four components were identified, namely ICT infrastructure, language tools, structure and content. The ICT infrastructure refers to the physical equipment to the Internet such as computing devices or hardware required to store bits of data. The structure on the other hand, facilitates the information transfer. The ICT language tools and services are the means required to transform ideas into digital format. They provide the ability to codify information be it text, video, and graphics so that it can be transmitted along the electronic highways. Information access is therefore important and should occupy a central position in the e-readiness assessment tools. 4. Towards an integrated e-readiness tool with emphasis on information access Despite the importance of e-readiness assessments, the existing e-readiness tools fail to adequately address the issue of information access. A review of the e-readiness assessment tools of reputable organisations such as the Centre for International Development, Harvard University (2004), Economist Intelligence Unit and IBM Corporation (2004), the Computer Systems Policy Projects (2004); the United Nations Development Programme (2002); the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (2003); and McConnell International (2001) reveals a discernible lacuna especially with respect to information access. Bridges.org (2001) noted that e-readiness tools focus more on infrastructure and business environments. For example, the Harvard University’s tools looks at how ICTs are currently used in society while the APEC tool focuses on government policies for e-commerce. The rest of the e-readiness tools generally or individually seek to measure e-economy metrics and e-society indicators. Rizk (2004) observed that a common parameter in e-readiness assessments tools was the inclusion of some measure of physical infrastructure/usage (e-infrastructure) and education (including knowledge of ICTs). These represented the lowest common denominator in assessing the macro e-readiness of countries, and were complemented by policy and economic environment settings. In spite of the central value information should play in the e-readiness assessments, the e-readiness tools ignore the information factor which is now universally regarded as the most influencing competitive tool more than physical resources. This paper premises that information should be regarded equally as an important component of the e-readiness assessment and the e-readiness tools should explicitly reflect this fact in their frameworks in addition to ICT, business considerations, human resources and legal and regulatory factors. It is against this premise that a new e-readiness tool that emphasises information access is proposed and developed in this paper. The proposed e-readiness tool is designed around five major segments, namely; information readiness; enterprise readiness, human resources readiness, ICT (infrastructure) readiness and external environment readiness. Around each of these segments can be built a set of variables to measure the degree of e-readiness within organisations, communities or countries with information access taking its rightful place as a key determinant of competitiveness. The proposed tool contain a generic set of variables that have largely been derived from the existing e-readiness and reputable information/digital literacy competencies frameworks such as IFLA, SCONUL, ALA, IRMT, information society metrics, and the information utilisation potential (IUP) model. The variables are generic making the tool applicable to both macro level (country level) and micro level (sectoral level) assessments situations. The generic nature of the tool also means that different questions can be flexibly developed to solicit information during any e-readiness assessments. The tool is also modular in the sense that it can be used as a generic integrated tool but also model individual e-readiness separately or jointly. This tool is many in one and researcher does not need to apply different tools of e- readiness to achieve the purpose of e-readiness assessments. The information rich e-readiness tool that has been designed in this paper is premised on the fact that information and digital literacy competencies are needed for an individual to effectively partake in an information society. These competencies are clearly covered variously by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) of the American Library Association and Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) of UK, the International Records Management Trust (IRMT) of UK, the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), information society metrics designed by UN-WSIS and the e-Europe Action Plan model for building skills in an information society. According to ACRL’s information literacy competency standards for higher education, information literacy is defined as a set of abilities requiring individuals to: determine the extent of information needed; access the needed information
    • ARTICLE IN PRESS S.M. Mutula, P. van Brakel / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 212–223 218 effectively and efficiently; evaluate information and its sources critically; incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base; use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose; understand economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information; access and use information ethically and legally; manage and maintain information; have knowledge of using different information resources; organise information; provide the means of access to information; search for information; and gather, evaluate and use information (American Library Association, 2003). Similarly, SCONUL defines ‘‘information literacy as an understanding and set of abilities enabling individuals to recognise when information is needed and have the capacity to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information.’’ SCONUL’s model of information literacy or competencies is built around seven pillars, namely the ability of an individual to: recognise a need for information; distinguish ways in which the information ‘gap’ may be addressed; construct strategies for locating information; locate and access information; compare and evaluate information obtained from different sources; organise, apply and communicate information to others in ways appropriate to the situation (Horrocks & Haines, 2004). Moreover, information literacy spans a wider skill set than computer skills. Consequently for people to operate effectively in an information world, they need to develop skills for searching, evaluating and managing information. IRMT (2004) on the other hand, in its e-record readiness tool outlines a number of key effective information management indicators such as: training programmes for information management staff; ability of staff to recognise importance of well managed information; provisions for storage and retrieval of information; access to information through electronic means; information management policies and responsibilities; tools and procedures for information management; availability of information management products and technologies; internal and public awareness programme of information management; compliance with information management procedures i.e. security, backup, confidentiality; documentation standards and system engineering procedures for ICT; guidelines for management of electronic records; standards formats for storage and retrieval of data; information management policy on centralisation/decentralisation; basic classification schemes for information in place; policy on how information should be organised; ease of access to records or information; presence of information management unit; regular budget to support information management; published rules of access to information; supportive legal and regulatory framework for information management; and freedom of information and protection of privacy. Similarly, IFLA model of information society defines the pre-conditions for participating in an information society to include: universal and free access; effective environment for making use of ICT to access information; information and records management as a necessary condition for good governance and investment in new technology (IFLA, 2003). The World Summit on Information Society (UN-WSIS, 2003) similarly provides a declaration of principles of information society which outline information variables that are critical to operating in a networked world. In particular, the Summit points out that the information that we seek to build is one which is inclusive, where all persons without distinction of any kind are empowered freely to create, receive, share and utilise information and knowledge in any media and regardless of frontiers. The environment that define information society includes but is not limited to institutional capacities to collect, organise, store and share information and knowledge; stimulate the creation, processing, dissemination to all people and conserve local content; enable access by all people to information through use of ICTs; create, receive, share and utilise information in any media regardless of frontiers; develop high-quality ICT networks; and facilitate free flow of information and ideas from diversity of sources. The IUP model is an information society tool that represents the relative present and future strengths, and weaknesses of information activities of a given organisation. The IUP model has two composite indices- structural and functional. The structural IUP is broken down into three distinct components, namely; background or enabling conditions, information needs and uses, and information services and activities. On the other hand, the functional IUP is comprised of seven distinct components that form intermediate composite indices corresponding to the major roles of the various constituencies in the information sector (Grigorovici, Schement, & Taylor, 2003, p. 26). The IUP model attempts to use the information situation or context as a unit of analysis thus being able to account for more than an information product-based measure. Grigorovici et al. (2003, p. 25) pointed out that the IUP model suffered least among e-assessment models as far as validity deficiencies were concerned. Accordingly, they recommended IUP model as the most appropriate
    • ARTICLE IN PRESS S.M. Mutula, P. van Brakel / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 212–223 219 for providing the theoretical and measurement for constructing an information society index (ISI). The scope of the IUP model was expressed in the following equation: IUP ¼ ðA þ B þ C þ DÞ, where A is the Information resources and activities, B the Information needs and uses, C the Physical, social, administrative environment variables, D is the dynamics of (A+B+C). The advantages of the IUP model include among others the fact that: it uses standardised measures and it is able and flexible enough to account for the variables bundled into final indices. This last aspect is important because the major source of dissatisfaction with current metrics is that a single index solution cannot account for specific factors that make a ranking and comparison different than another. After aggregation and factor analysis of the variables included in the IUP model, the indices arrived at, offer the possibility of switching between two levels and depending on the level of analysis and objectives of measurement, using either the lower level composite indices (intermediate functional and intermediate structural) or two overarching ones (Grigorovici et al., 2003, p. 27). The importance of IUP to e-readiness studies is in the provision of the variables that are critical to the formulation of an information model. Such variables would include among others; information resources and services, information needs and services, physical, social and administrative variables. The e-Europe Action Plan model for building skills in an information society on the other hand focuses on the following areas as far as information is concerned: digital literacy; accesss and effective use of ICT; addressing digital divide issues; and information literacy specific skills to cope with the vast amount of information being generated (e-Europe Action Plan, 2004; eEurope+, 2003). Based on the above information and digital literacy competencies models, the following are key segments identified to form the proposed integrated e-readiness assessment tool. The tool as already stated comprises of five segments, namely information readiness; ICT readiness, enterprise readiness, human resources readiness and external environment readiness. Each segment with the associated variables are perceived as generic upon which questions can be drawn when designing either an interview schedule or a questionnaire for e-readiness assessments. The different e-readiness segments should not be perceived as prescriptive but indicative and a memory aid in developing instruments for data collection during e-readiness assessments. The key segments of the model are summarised in Table 1 and depicted diagrammatically in Fig. 1. Fig. 1 clearly depicts the information segment taking its rightful position within the new e-readiness tool and fills the void that exists in the current e-readiness tools. In addition the information aspects are also to some extent covered under human resources and ICT segments making this model ideally information rich. Table 1 Segments of proposed integrated e-readiness assessment tool (A) Enterprise e-readiness segment This component of e-readiness assessment focuses on:  Number of employees  ICT enterprise core business  E-readiness strategy  Potential for exporting ICT services and products  Market share of company  Compliance with quality ICT international standards  Information value perception for productivity and profitability  Presence of information management post as part of organization structure  Level of information management post  Comparison of senior information management post with similar posts in the enterprise  Responsibilities and functions of senior information management post  Existence of separate information management unit  ICT and information strategy/policy  Information security and disaster recovery plans  Information /ICT strategy revision plans  Policy on information centralization or decentralization
    • ARTICLE IN PRESS S.M. Mutula, P. van Brakel / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 212–223 220 Table 1 (continued )  Capacity building strategies incorporating information management  Life long education and training programmes  Adequacy of budgets for ICT and information management functions  Integration of ICTs throughout business of the enterprise  Online business transactions implementation in the organization  Management initiatives to promote ICT use  Adequacy of electricity power supply  Chief executive ICT educational qualifications and prior ICT experience  Impact of use of ICT on for example productivity, profitability, and cost reduction  Enterprise status of e-readiness to participate in global internet age  Mechanism for information systems analysis, design and implementation  Methods for promoting ICT products and services  Readiness to partake in the internet age (B) Human resources readiness segment This component of e-readiness assessment focuses on:  Ability to determine own information needs  Staff understanding of economic and legal issues of information  Ability to evaluate information and its sources  Ability to organize information  Ability to manage and maintain information  Ability to access, analyse, and use information  Frequency of success in identifying and retrieving information  Staff understanding of benefits of well organized and managed information  Staff success rates in searching and retrieving information  Staff levels of awareness towards ICTs  Diversity of staff ICT educational qualifications and skills  ICT professionals needed most  Information management skills available in the enterprise  Professional skills lacking in the organization  Remuneration of information management staff vis-a-vis other senior staff `  Availability of most sought for ICT skills  Technical support adequacy  Attitudes towards use of ICTs by staff for business transactions  Usage of ICTs (C) Information readiness segment This component of e-readiness assessment focuses on:  Information needs definition  Provision for access to various sources of information  Access to information through electronic means  Ease of access to information  Mechanism to collect, store and retrieve information  Standards formats for information organization, storage and retrieval  Adequacy of information retrieval tools  Ability to generate local content  Diversity of information systems used  Free and rapid flow of information within the enterprise  Means of sharing information within and outside the enterprise  Information storage and retrieval tools adequacy and their ease of use  Provision of documentation of system transactions  Guidelines for managing e-records  Information currency  Ensuring authenticity and completeness of information  Compliance with information management practices e.g. backups  Senior staff position for information management functions  Provision for information management functions  Information management functions integration in business processes  Barriers of access to information
    • ARTICLE IN PRESS S.M. Mutula, P. van Brakel / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 212–223 221 Table 1 (continued ) (D) ICT readiness segment (UN-WSIS, 2003; IFLA, 2003; Bridges.org, 2001; SADC E-readiness Task Force, 2002; The World Bank Group, 2002; Minton, 2003) This component of e-readiness assessment focuses on:  Pervasiveness of ICTs in the enterprise  Access to own computer or sharing  Internet connectivity  Access to Internet and the World Wide Web by staff  Use to which internet is put in the enterprise  High bandwidth availability for accessing the network  Quality of connectivity to the network  Website availability for business promotion  Use to which website is put in the enterprise  Access to radio and TV  Use to which radio and TV are put in the enterprise  Availability of LAN  Use to which LAN is put in the enterprise  Diversity of ICTs in use for identifying, storage and retrieval of information  Type of connectivity  Affordability of Internet access  Mechanism for keeping abreast of development in ICTs  Diversity of communication channels available  Sophistication of online business transaction implemented-e.g. ecommerce  Broadband access availability  Ease of access and use of the network  Level of online security. (E) External environment readiness segment (UN-WSIS, 2003; IFLA, 2003; Bridges.org, 2001; SADC E-readiness Task Force, 2002; The World Bank Group, 2002; Minton, 2003) This component of e-readiness assessment model focuses on:  Enabling legislative and regulatory frameworks  Quality of telecom services including adequate bandwidth  ICTs affordability from the service providers  Legal and regulatory framework to address information management issues such as  intellectual property rights  Legal and regulatory mechanism for e-commerce  Freedom of information legal and regulatory framework  Quality of nationwide ICT infrastructure  Adequacy and reliability of national power grid  Security and reliability of network to support e-commerce  E-business environment  Obstacles to trade investment and any other observations  Government support  Credit facilities  Universal access  National information policy  National ICT network security for business transactions  Adequacy and affordability of bandwidth  Taxation regime  Competition policy  Consumer protection policy 5. Conclusion The importance of information as a vital resource on which organisations and countries depend to assist in the for management decision making and competitive advantage has already been underscored. It has been observed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to participate adequately in today’s global economy without
    • ARTICLE IN PRESS S.M. Mutula, P. van Brakel / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 212–223 222 Enterprise readiness Human resource ICT readiness readiness E-readiness External environment Information readiness readiness Fig. 1. An integrated information rich e-readiness assessment tool. proper information management as a fundamental part of all productive and commercial activity. Furthermore, the importance of information in economic development demands that a sustainable learning society be established in conjunction with any national economic development plan. The existing e-readiness assessments have largely subsumed the information factor under ICTs and in the process failed to underscore the importance of information as a critical component in the organisations’ or individuals’ ability to leverage ICTs in the global information age. The new information rich e-readiness assessment tool is however not expected to be as already pointed out prescriptive but a generic guide to developing instruments that take cognisance of information access. The tool hopefully fills a big void in the existing e-readiness tools with regard to information access. Similarly, the tool brings different segments of e-readiness that are separated into several the existing e-readiness tools into a single tool. References American Library Association. (2003). Information literacy competency standards in higher education [Online]. Available at: http:// www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlstandards/informationliteracycompetency.htm [Accessed 7 November 2004]. Auster, E. (1985). Intermediaries in information collection transfer. In Progress in communication sciences, Vol. 6 (pp. 199–230). Norwood, NJ: Ablex. Bridges.org. (2001). Comparison of e-readiness assessment models [Online]. Available at: http://www.bridges.org/eredainess/tools.html [Accessed 16 July 2003]. Burt, P. V., & Kinnucan, M. T. (1990). Information models and modeling techniques for information systems. In M. E. Williams (Ed.), Annual review of information science and technology (ARIST), Vol. 25 (pp. 175–197). Center for International Development, Harvard University. (2004). Global information technology report; readiness for the networked world [Online]. Available at: http://www.weforum.org/gitr [Accessed 16 April 2004]. Choucri, N., Maugis, V., Madnick, S., Siegel, M., Gillet, S., O’Donnel, M., et al. (2003). E-readiness for what?. Cambridge: MIT [Online]. Available at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id ¼ 535762 [Accessed 26 August 2004]. Commission of the European Communities (2002). e-Europe 2005: An information society for all-an action. Plan presented at the Seville European Council, Lisbon from 21–22 June 2000 (pp.1–23). Computer Systems Policy Projects, CSPP. (2004). About CSPP [Online]. Available at: http://www.cspp.org/aboutus.asp [Accessed 14 September 2004]. Consulting and Audit Canada. (2003). Transformation for the digital age: The development of Botswana’s National ICT policy. Consultancy report on the formation of a national information and communication technology policy technical bid (pp. 1–81). Toronto: Government of Canada. Consulting and Audit Canada. (2004). Transformation for the digital age: The development of Botswana’s National ICT policy. Preliminary report for consultancy for the formation of a national information and communication technology policy technical bid (pp. 1–81). Toronto: Government of Canada. Culnan, M. (1984). The dimension of accessibility to online information: Implications for implementing office automation systems. ACM Transactions on Office Automation Systems, 2(2), 141–150. Dawes, R. M. (1996). Theoretical model of individual agency-to-agency information sharing [Online]. Available at: http://64.233.161.104/ search?q ¼ Consulting and Audit Canadahe:fqFa7g-WNOAJ:etd02.lnx390.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-0619103-214616/unrestricted/ 03CHAPTER2.pdf+Dawes+1996+and+innovation+diffusion&hl ¼ en [Accessed 6 May 2004].
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