Abstract - The Information Society 18(2)

Information Systems and Developing Countries: Failure, Success and Local Improvisations

Richard Heeks

This paper presents evidence that - alongside the successes - many information systems in developing countries can be categorised as failing either totally or partially. It then develops a model which seeks to explain the high rates of failure. The model draws on contingency theory in order to advance the notion of design-actuality gaps: the match or mismatch between IS designs and local user actuality. This helps identify two high risk archetypes that affect IS in developing countries: country context gaps and 'hard-soft' gaps. The model is also of value in explaining the constraints that exist to local IS improvisations in developing countries. Overall, the paper shows how model and theory help understand IS cases in developing countries but, equally, how those cases provide valuable data to help develop IS models and theories.

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