A systems approach to investiging the effectiveness of using a web portal to enhance information sharing in the Ugandan construction industry.
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Over the last fourteen years the construction industry in Uganda has experienced an annual average growth rate of 7.8%, markedly higher than the national GDP of 5.5%. However, the disparity bet construction information and the lack of an organised system of sharing it betwweeneen industry partners has resulted in the poor performance of construction projects. This is due to the fact that it is inadequate, inaccurate and inconsistently disseminated. This research project investigated the effectiveness of using a web portal to enhance information sharing in the Ugandan construction industry. The work is meant as a step towards the establishment of a web portal for the industry. It is envisaged that the web portal will improve construction project planning and management through the provision of basic construction information. The study population consisted of 233 construction and consulting firms. A multi-method approach was employed in the research. This included the conducting of a questionnaire survey of 80 (Le. sample size) firms, and an interview survey of 9 representatives of key stakeholders in the industry. A systemic approach was used to elicit the perspectives of stakeholders in the industry and to develop a holistic view of the research problem. The results of the research have shown that the Ugandan construction industry participants have adequate IT infrastructure and Internet access capacity to benefit from the web portal. 97% of t~e participants have computers and 77% are connected to the Internet. 83% consider the web portal to be an effective means of sharing information and 93% are willing to share the information produced by their organisations. During the study, two conceptual models (a user's information needs model and a data flow model for stages of a construction cycle) were developed and validated by six experts in construction industry practices and communication. The research underscores the fact that the successful implementation of the web portal will not only depend on the "hard" (or technical) factors but also on the "soft" (or people) factors, such as changing the users' thinking and methods of work, developing trust and building partnerships amongst participants. In essence, the project proposes the establishment of a building information centre to house and coordinate the web portal and,its related activities.