Collaborative systems development in disaster relief: The impact of multi-level governance
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Disaster management information systems for international humanitarian relief are developed in contexts involving local, national and inter-governmental organizations together with local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). While the multi-organizational nature of disaster response is known to create challenges for information systems development, to date, less attention has been paid to their multi-level nature. This research sheds light on the implications of multi-level governance for disaster information systems development by integrating political science and information systems theories of multi-level governance. The integrated theoretical framework is then used to analyze a case study of a system development effort undertaken by a multi-organizational coordination body consisting of the headquarters of six large, international humanitarian relief agencies, together with their country offices in a Central American country. This research finds that multi-level governance can both negatively and positively influence information systems development. In a multi-level governance arrangement, authority for a systems development project may be diffuse and may change. The transfer of resources from higher to lower levels is key factor, as these resources help local organizations overcome resource constraints to collaboration. The initial outcome of coercion by higher levels of authority may be resistance, however over time the outcome can change to compliance.