Information Systems Development for Emerging Public Sector Cross-sector Collaborations : The Case of Swedish Emergency Response
Sammanfattning: Information systems (IS) seem prevalent in modern societies and have resulted in the rapid digitalisation of different societal sectors. One application domain of IS is emergency response, which is responsible for delivering essential services to save lives and minimise environmental damage in both small , frequent and large-scale emergencies. Specific IS applications are in turn used in emergency response to support such aspects as decision-making, communication, information sharing and the dispatching of resources. Public-sector cut-backs and a lack of professional resources have affected emergency response at the same time as natural disasters (e.g. forest fires, tsunamis, storms, terror attacks, and wars in the Middle East leading to mass migration) have intensified in recent decades. At the same time, frequent, small-scale accidents continue to occur on a regular basis, both in urban and sparsely populated areas. As a result, emergency response actors, first responders, are often placed under severe pressure. An emerging trend in response to these challenges, both in Sweden and internationally, is to create cross-sector forms of collaboration, by combining alternative resources from various sectors. Such collaborations are relatively new and involve heterogeneous stakeholders.Therefore, the thesis objective is to explore IS-related opportunities, challenges and needs aimed at supporting heterogeneous actors in emerging cross-sector collaborations in emergency response in order to enable and facilitate future related IS development. To achieve this, a user-centred approach was applied. A baseline study was performed followed by three case studies on ‘co-location of actors’, ‘co-operative use of resources’ and ‘semi-professionals as first responders’ by performing interviews, focus groups, participant observation, Future Workshops, an exercise and an after-action review. The thesis is based on case study research and qualitative research methods. Sociotechnical systems theory, the sociotechnical ensemble view, and network governance were used as the analytical framework. As part of achieving the thesis objectives, experiences from applying user participation in the context of cross-sector collaboration are also presented as part of the results. A context-specific framework developed to systematise and explore various important aspects of cross-sector collaboration in emergency response is also described.The results of this thesis indicate that the needs for IS in cross-sector collaborations vary from simple smartphone applications to manage alarms, positioning and the dispatching of new resources, to more sophisticated tools for sharing and viewing incident data. The results also indicate that these collaborations have the potential (e.g. resource redundancy, pooled competencies to increase total capacity) to improve Swedish emergency response if supported by adequate IS/IT support. The major challenges are organisational, economic and juridical and the most prominent are ambiguities in actors’ tasks and responsibilities, and how to prioritise between ordinary work and ‘new’ first-response tasks. They must be addressed to enable certain IS-functions, e.g. information sharing and positioning of resources The results also highlight several institutional factors (e.g. mutual interest between members, collective problem-solving, secrecy aspects) which are believed to play a key role in the success or failure of the collaborations and which must be adressed in the development of IS-support. The actors also have substantial basic needs for training (e.g. fire extinguishing, first aid) and emergency supplies (e.g. fire extinguishers, healthcare kits).Applying user participation also faced challenges, the major one being the development of a future cross-sector collaboration in a context that does not yet exist, and involving stakeholders from resource-strained organisations in doing so. The stakeholders, and sometimes also the primary end-users, are partly unknown and tasks are undefined. As a response to these challenges, a combination of activities based on multiple design groups, scenario-based Future Workshops, focus groups, the context-specific framework, a practical exercise and an after-action-review was provided. The framework, which was used to support data collection and user participation, includes 15 dimensions each intended to represent important aspects of cross-sector collaboration.The thesis major contributions are the identified opportunities, challenges and need as a ’sociotechnical ensemble’ and generated and from several studies, thus being comparable. The thesis more theoretical contributions is the combined application of the sociotechnical ensemble view and network governance where the studied collaboration forms are characterised as a hybrid form of networks and more traditional government mechanisms and where it is pointed out that network governance lacks explicit IS/IT aspects. In a wider perspective, the research fields of IS and political science may cross-fertilise each other when studying emerging cross-sector collaboration in the public sector. Identified user participation challenges relevant to the cross-sector collaboration context, suggestions on how they can be handled and the context-specific framework are contributions that can be used in practical user-centred IS development in similar contexts.
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