IIDE Proceedings 2014 – The Informal Sector And Local Economic Developments In South Africa: An Evaluation Of Some Critical Factors

Photo: www.cosatu.org.za

Photo: www.cosatu.org.za

The importance of achieving the goals of a better life for all highlights a critical need to expand our economic development policy levers. Accordingly, the objective in this paper is to examine the critical link between informal sector and the challenges of development in South Africa. Given the heterogeneous nature of the sector, policy instruments aimed at developing the sector cannot be one size fits all. Finally, this paper reveals a number of concerns which can be addressed in future research including policy guidance and methodologies that can be used to incorporate gender into the overall planning of local economies.

1. Introduction
South Africa continues to face key development challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Given the importance of achieving the goals of a better life for all South African citizens, there is a need to explore development alternatives which can lead to a more inclusive form of economic development and economic growth. More specifically, one of the economic sectors that has often been overlooked in economic policy analyses is the informal sector. The increased focus on informal sector is based on the observation that it employs a large number of people and therefore can contribute to poverty reduction. Again, the increased interest in the informal sector is partly driven by an observed increase in the size of the sector. For example, statistics highlight that between 1997 and 2005, about 1.1 million jobs were created in the informal sector (Altman, 2007). Typically, in 2007 it was estimated that there were 3,65 million people in non-agricultural informal employment in South Africa (Wills, 2009). Within the informal sector, street vending remains a dominant form of economic activity. It makes up 15 percent of non-agricultural informal employment, with over 500 000 street vendors in informal employment of whom about 360 000 were women (Wills, 2009). Consequently, the informal sector can be recognised for its role particularly in addressing the development challenges of poverty and unemployment. However, what needs to be recognised is that the informal sector remains largely neglected within the conventional policy making processes. Indeed, an improved understanding of the nature, workings and potential contribution of the informal sector is critical if we want to ensure a more inclusive form of economic development.

The objective in this paper is to examine the link between informal sector and the challenges of development in South Africa. Likewise, the contention in this paper is that improving the performance of informal sector may contribute to a more inclusive form of economic development. Therefore, the emphasis in this paper is to highlight the importance of expanding opportunities for those that continue to be marginalised within the national economic policy development. Overall, the efforts to improve the performance of informal sector should be seen in light of the potential contribution of the sector in increasing the overall performance of the national economy. Read more

IIDE Proceedings 2014 – About IT Unemployment: Reflecting On Normative Aspects Of The ‘Broken Link’

Photo: www.mylespaul.com

Photo: www.mylespaul.com

The widespread use of information and communication technologies has given rise to some moral challenges that deserve particular attention. One such is the discrepancy between productivity growth and technological unemployment. This paper argues that if subsequent undesirable consequences of technological unemployment are to be avoided, there is a need for additional research to embed normative considerations into a scientific context, by linking technological progress with the ‘Ought to Be’ of the economic and societal order.

1. Introduction
Since the emergence of modernity and industrialism, humans have developed and introduced advanced machines to facilitate their work in various manners. Firstly, machines were created to replace human physical labor and “mechanization” became an integral element of our life. Secondly, “automatization” of human mental capabilities became an objective need to process and manipulate the vast amount of information. The introduction of various sophisticated information communication technologies (ICT) into human, social, business and industrial affairs created several kinds of effects with different degrees of predictability and desirability. For example, among positive ICT opportunities for human development, Sartor (2012) highlights economic development, reduction of administrative costs, access to education and knowledge for everyone, elimination of distance, and moral progress. At the same time, technological development brings the risk of undesired consequences of technology use. Examples of the risks arising from the use of ICT include reduced privacy and increased control over individuals, discrimination and exclusion, ignorance and indifference, separation and loss of communication, class division, war and human distraction, and the undesired replacement of humans with ICT. Although these ICT risks can be seen as nightmares, some of them may soon become reality.

A key risk listed is when ICT replaces human labor which may potentially give rise to unwanted unemployment. Brynjolfsson and McAfee (2011; 2014) elaborate this extensively and raise an informative and provocative discussion by providing recent statistics on the effect of information technology on the level of employment, income distribution inequality, skills, wages and the economy. They identified that even if job creation in the US were to be doubled per month, it would take a few decades to fill the gap in employment opened by the last Great Recession. Moreover, although companies experience profit growth and continually invest in new technologies, the level of hiring people remains unchanged (ibid.).

Several decades ago, economic scholarship established a causal link between IT deployment contributing to productivity gains which in turn increase market demand and therefore decrease unemployment (Cesaratto et al., 2003). However, according to recent economic investigations, we are now experiencing, for the first time, early signals of a split of that correlation between productivity growth and the level of unemployment, due to technological advancement (Brynjolfsson and McAfee, 2011). It is projected that the increased use of IT and widespread automation will increase productivity and long-term structural unemployment at the same time (Brynjolfsson and McAfee, 2014). In accordance with the economic forecasts, spending on ICT will reach 5 trillion dollars by 2020 (Barnard, 2013). This is 1.7 trillion dollars more than it is today. At the same time, it is expected that GDP per capita will grow enormously in developed and developing countries. Yet, the effect of technological progress on the level of unemployment generation is anticipated to be tremendous for both developed and developing countries (The Economist, 2014, p. 7). Read more

IIDE Proceedings 2014 – Toward Post Systems Thinking In the Conception of Whole-Part Relations

ThinkingBookSystems thinking represent a diverse intellectual body that aims to support conception of phenomena. Systems thinking may be regarded as a reaction against the micro-reductionism inherent within the modernist scientific approach; more specifically in the latter’s conception of whole-part relations. While the propositions offered by systems thinking overcome that reductionism, we show that due to its biotic root-metaphor it instead imposes macro-reductionism. We proceed then by drawing on two alternative approaches that facilitate our conceptions of relations between a whole and its parts, in terms of encaptic relations and assemblage relations. A key conclusion advanced is that any utilization of analytical thinking and systems thinking must be conducted carefully and self-critically, due to their inherent limitations. As a consequence, this suggests an initiative for intellectual development of a post systems thinking approach, with regard to the conception of whole-part relations.

1. Introduction
We start this essay with an exposition of the micro-reductionism of modernist scientific thinking, called here analytical thinking. We then expose both the remedy offered by systems thinking and the macro-reductionism it imposes. We continue with our suggestion for a post systems thinking approach, where the whole-part relation is re-conceptualized to eliminate both micro-reductionism and macro-reductionism.[iii] This is done with the support of two rather different bodies of social ontology: Dooyeweerdian encaptic relations and DeLanda’s notion of assemblage relations. Our overall aim is to direct a further development of the conception of the whole-part relations so that more justice can be done to our experiences of the complexities of social affairs. The content of the paper follows the structure of the argument outlined; however it is also includes an illustrative case of the dramatic and tragic event of the Soviet submarine K-19, which we present in the remaining part of this Introduction.

1.1. K-19
As the end of World War II had produced major tension between western countries and the Soviet sphere states, the cold war was established. Both sides raced to produce the most sophisticated and threatening weapons with the aim of demotivating the other from any aggressive actions targeted at the other side. Perhaps the most sophisticated weapon developed during the cold war was the nuclear submarine. Such a sub utilizes nuclear technology in two ways; one is that it is capable of launching ballistic missiles from the ship, which is equipped with nuclear bombs. The second means that the ship is powered by its nuclear power station and is thus independent of re-fueling operations for years, which makes it much harder to detect and strike against. USA was the first country to develop and introduce nuclear submarines in its weaponry arsenal, which in turn created an imbalance, where Soviet perceived a major threat. This motivated Soviet to develop and launch its own nuclear submarine, the so-called 658 class of which K-19 was the first submarine introduced (Huchthausen, 2002).
On June 4th, 1961, while K-19 was on its maiden voyage conducting exercises outside southern Greenland, it developed a major leak in the reactor coolant system, causing the temperature to rise uncontrollably and putting the whole ship in a very dangerous situation – with no chance of external assistance … Faced with the choice of either abandoning ship or attempting its repair, the Captain First Rank Nikolai Vladimirovich Zateyev put together a team of eight crew members with the objective to implement a new cooling system and thereby prevent a disaster; this effort succeeded. Yet, the eight crewmen died of radiation exposure within a month and fifteen more died within two years (ibid.).
The recent release by Russian authorities (ibid.) of classified information about K-19 and its accident, has led to the 2002 film dramatization, entitled “K-19: The Widowmaker”. In the early part of that film, we can see young men boarding K-19; some of them have to leave their fiancées and family members behind, and they promise to be back soon… One of these men is later chosen to participate in the special taskforce to repair the cooling system. We can follow this man’s anxiety, desperation, refusal to cooperate and his finally being forced to do ‘his duty for his mother country’ – the men died onboard. Read more

IIDE Proceedings 2014 ~ Cognitive Time Distortion As A Source Of Risk In Economic Organizations: Conceptual Foundations

Photo: www.officemuseum.com

Photo: www.officemuseum.com

This paper introduces two kinds of risks present in any economic organization: the risk of cognitive time distortion and the risk of economic distortion. These two kinds of risks are related in a complex and non-linear manner, so that the cognitive distortion risk gives rise to the economic distortion risk. By monitoring the cognitive distortion risk, managers may also control the economic distortion risk. Basic conceptual foundations for the conception of these two kinds of risks, originating in unconditional human cognitive time distortion, are elaborated in this paper.

“.. if economic organization is formidably complex, which it is, and if economic agents are subject to very real cognitive limits, which they are, then failures of alignment will occur routinely.” – O.E. Williamson, 1991: 79

1. Introduction
Whether we like it or not, our lives are highly dependent upon, and conditioned by, a large number of economic organizations, such as hospitals, schools, banks, pharmaceutical companies or governmental bodies. At the same time, today’s economic organizations are exposed to a never before experienced amount of challenges of various kinds. To handle these challenges successfully, a manager’s job includes the identification and management of various organizational risks. To this end we introduce here two kinds of risks present in any economic organization, yet not previously articulated. These are the Cognitive Time Distortion Risk and its consequence, the Economic Distortion Risk.
The first-mentioned risk constitutes a source of economic inefficiencies, output quality deficiencies, and human ill-being. The second-mentioned risk articulates the economic inefficiencies. Both risks may be identified and monitored, which constitutes an opportunity for their management. This paper provides the conceptual foundation for the conception of the two kinds of risk.
The approach of the concept distortion of risk is inspired by systems theory, though this paper is focused on elaborating the operationalization of distinct mathematical metrics. In this paper, the term “risk” is applied since it has a mathematical definition in economic and psychological science based on probability theory. In systems theory however, the term “risk” is not applied or defined, but we interpret the systems theoretical concept of “variety” as being a proper connotation of ‘variance’ or ‘standard deviation’. Therefore, we will conclude this paper with a more general discussion about risk, variety and system homeostasis.
We will start with a brief recapitulation of the notion of an economic organization and some of its central characteristics pertinent for this elaboration, including the temporality of an economic organization, and then introduce the central notion of cognitive time distortion, unconditionally inherent to all human activities. This cognitive time distortion is then introduced into the conventional profit equation and further transformed into a workload equation, which results in the expression of the risk of economic distortion introduced here. A brief illustration of the model introduced here is provided followed by a discussion where we put the risk distortion concept into a systems theoretic perspective. The paper ends with some key conclusions. Read more

IIDE Proceedings 2014 – Information – The ‘I’ In 21st Century Organizational IT Systems: An Informed Systems Methodology

Photo: everybodyreadingbooks.tumblr.com

Photo: everybodyreadingbooks.tumblr.com

In development for over a decade in three North American academic libraries, the Informed Systems Methodology offers transferable organizational development for fostering workplace learning empowered by catalytic relationships among information, technology, and people. With an explicit emphasis on using information to learn, ‘soft’ systems design tools aid co-creation of communication systems and professional practices that enable information sharing and knowledge creation processes. When contextualized by local values, experiences, and purposes, the ISM fosters organizational transformation and creative innovation.

1. Introduction
The development of information technology during the last decade or so has produced vast consequences and opportunities for many professionals. As an example in the academic environment, teachers in educational settings have had to adopt various Learning Management Systems and related pedagogy, and also to offer web based courses and programs. This radical departure in higher education from campus based teaching and face-to-face interaction with students necessarily requires significant re-thinking about how students learn within a virtual environment, and how teachers interact to engage students in learning experiences.
A second related example, which has been in our research focus for more than 10 years, concerns libraries and librarians’ changing professional roles. This context has driven our slong-term research efforts towards developing a methodology for designing and implementing new workplace processes, organizational structures, co-design tools, and conversation patterns by engaging library practitioners (Mirijamdotter & Somerville, 2008; Somerville & Mirijamdotter, 2014).
Before the development of web based technology, libraries and librarians were viewed as gatekeepers to information. Traditionally, library professionals described information objects through cataloguing metadata for indexing inventory, and manipulated information-finding tools through reference, research, and instruction services (Somerville et al, 2006). This mediation role originated as ‘reader services’ in the days of inadequate indexes (or no indexes) to published scholarly content. Then, in the early stages of computer-generated indexing, librarians were necessarily ‘intermediaries’ between the inhospitable ‘native interfaces’ to electronic databases of publisher(s) aggregated content. However, all this changed as searching algorithms for ‘born digital’ content permitted ‘disintermediated’ Google-like searching, without need of a librarian coach (Somerville et al, 2012). More recently, new researcher productivity tools (Somerville & Conrad, 2014a; 2014b) accentuate the possibilities for independent research unaided by library science expertise. At the same time, librarians are experiencing decreasing gate counts and diminishing consultation transactions, despite increased student enrolment (Mirijamdotter & Somerville, 2009). Even as libraries and librarians became increasingly marginalized in the academic environment, advanced information and communication technologies (ICT) and plentiful digital information resources encouraged heightened expectations from academic library users. These developments necessitated re-thinking within academic libraries about professional purposes, conventional processes, and traditional relationships. Read more

IIDE Proceedings 2014 – A Dooyeweerdian Understanding Of Affordance In Information Systems And Ecological Psychology

Photo: arstechnica.com

Photo: arstechnica.com

Affordance is attracting considerable interest but it poses significant philosophical challenges, around meaningfulness and the subject-object relationship, as well as less fundamental methodological challenges, such as complexity and translation of idea from one field to another. At this point, the fields in which the notion of affordance is discussed, from ecological psychology to information systems, do not speak to each other and especially in the IS field the treatment of affordance is ad-hoc. This paper discusses how Dooyeweerd’s philosophy can very readily address the philosophical challenges, and provide validation and guidance for the methodological challenges. Dooyeweerd would base affordance in his ‘oceanic’ idea of meaningfulness, and provide a workable definition of affordance as the relationship between two ways of being meaningful (two aspects). The usefulness of this is explored. The paper also discusses some practical applications of a Dooyeweerdian understanding of affordance.

1. Introduction
The idea of affordance has aroused interest in several fields of study of information and communication technology (ICT). Especially in the fields of human-computer interaction (HCI), which focuses on how individuals use ICT, and information systems (IS), which focuses on the benefits of using ICT, affordance was called upon to address issues that had long been found challenging.
In the field of HCI, it was noticed that some designs of the user interface (the screen etc. with which the user interacts in HCI) were easier to use than others – that is, they afforded greater or lesser ease of use. Though ergonomics, psychology, and the amount of skill the user has, affect ease of use, there also seemed to be something about the design and shape of the user interface objects themselves that affected ease (of difficulty) of use. The notion of affordance was harnessed by Norman (1988) and others (e.g. Hartson 2003) to explain this.
More recently, in the field of IS, affordance has been harnessed by several scholars to explain why ICT facilities make specific human activities easier or more difficult, and tend to bring certain benefits rather than others. For example, triggered attending to online conversations (Majckzrak et al. 2013) reduces need to keep watch on conversations, but it can also reduce the depth of engagement. Networked ICT can assist speedy change to documents (Conole & Dyke 2004) but can also bring confusion. Attempts to account for these solely in terms of power relations, attitude or capability of users proved insufficient, because the actual design of the facilities ‘affords’ these activities or benefits.
Originally proposed by J.J. Gibson (1979) in the field of ecological psychology, the idea of affordance shows considerable promise in these fields. It also presents new challenges. Some challenges arise from complexity, some arise from translating the idea from psychology, and some arise from fundamental philosophical issues like the subject-object relation and understanding what affordance is.
This paper discusses these challenges, and explores briefly whether the philosophy of Dooyeweerd can address them. The emphasis will be on affordance in the field of IS more than in HCI or psychology, because of its greater complexity. The idea of affordance and its roots in psychology are explained, with a discussion of how it has been translated across to HCI and IS. Four kinds of challenges are outlined. How these challenges may be addressed by Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is explored, and a few practical examples are given. Read more

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