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The effective management of information overload within shipping companies in South Africa.

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For time immemorial, humans have shared information – from cave wall paintings to modern computing devices. The medium and channels of communication have evolved and improved. The ever-growing number of information sources coupled with the development of the Internet and other electronic communication technologies has resulted in escalating amounts of data and information that users need to process. This has resulted in a situation commonly known as information overload. Information overload can be described as a situation where people are inundated with more information than they are able to usefully use. The overall aim of this study was to establish whether information overload exists in South African shipping companies and if it is being formally managed. Although a growing body of empirical research has assessed the impact of information overload in organisations, little is known about its effect on shipping companies. To fully understand the problem, the impact of information overload was assessed in 12 shipping organisations located in Durban. Quantitative data was gathered using an online questionnaire from a sample of 491 employees in the 12 organisations. Twelve decision makers, one in each organisation, were interviewed by means of semi-structured interviews. The quantitative data showed that employees are overloaded with information and the level of information overload varies across the different organisations. Qualitative data from the interviews showed that the decision makers are overloaded and admit that their staff are also overloaded. Furthermore, none of the companies had specific initiatives in place to help staff who were overloaded with information. Several countermeasures to reduce information overload have been suggested in the literature; however, none of them have been proven to eliminate the problem. By integrating the findings from the literature review, quantitative data and qualitative data, this study suggests some guidelines of good practice for managing information overload which includes information management training, information personal management system, good office ergonomics practices, technology, external service providers, correct communication technologies and monitoring of information.


Doctoral degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.