Toward a Theory of Information Systems Partnership Success

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Addis Ababa University


Due to multidimensional problems, nowadays Africans continue facing poor Public Information Service (PIS) which hindering their daily activities. To improve the Africans’ delivery of vital electronic PIS, it requires the joint efforts of the private, public, and voluntary actors of various sectors. The question is, while this issue is observed in many African countries, including Ethiopia, how best to synergize the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) efforts continues to be a topic of ongoing debate. One of the issues is, how can academicians and practitioners accurately examine the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) of PPPs for feasible Information Systems Partnerships (ISPs) amongst private and public sectors envisioned for transforming the delivery of electronic public service to citizens? Despite the high failure rate of Information System (IS) projects worldwide, especially in the third-world context, studies fail to provide plausible explanation how public agencies and private sectors should negotiate on alternative strategies such as PPPs amongst each other. Minimal attention is also given to evaluate how success factors of a partnership account for the IS projects success in the developing countries with no PPP laws such as Ethiopia. To this end, this study develops a theoretical framework (i.e., a Theory of IS Partnership Success) for a deeper understanding of the case. The study applies positivist qualitative research paradigm to extract the interdependent technical and multidimensional success factors that explain the degree of information asymmetry in order to determine a partnership success/failure. Partnership is a complex process which requires frequent re-negotiations among an agent and a principal. The existence of any flaw during ISPs may potentially lead to information asymmetry and opens various gaps. Designed on a qualitative research methodology, the theoretical framework of this case study is based on Agency Theory. Systems Thinking approach which includes Soft Systems Methodology is also consulted as an analytical tool. The ongoing “Lehulu” (for-All) PPP is studied in Ethiopia. Lehulu is initiated by the Ethiopian Government after incorporating seven stakeholders (six public sector principals and a private agent). The data collection was conducted via interviews, indirect observations, and document analysis. Based on the findings of the study, three research propositions are developed to depict how both Technical and Multidimensional Critical Success Factors (i.e., TCSFs and MCSFs) impact the degree of information asymmetry and consequently influencing the Partnership Success. The research findings have both theoretical and practical implications for understanding the role, sustainability, and success of ISP under a PPP model for national PIS and ICT infrastructure transformation in developing economies. In sum, the research contributes to both IS and PP



Agency Theory, Information Asymmetry, Partnership Success, Public Information Service, Public-Private Partnership, Soft Systems Methodology