ASSESSMENT OF  ICT  USAGE  AND ITS IMPACT ON CONSULTANTS IN CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

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ASSESSMENT OF  ICT  USAGE  AND ITS IMPACT ON CONSULTANTS IN CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Construction industry has been used for measuring economic activity in any economy. According to Ozumba and Shakantu (2008), contribution of construction to Gross National Product (GNP), in different countries at various levels of development reflects appreciable growth, Ozumba and Shakantu (2008). This can be attributed to increasing world population and the need for more infrastructural facilities to meet the increasing demand. The construction industry is so hierarchical and fragmented in nature that some of the major participants do not consider themselves to be part of the same industry (Hindle, 2000). This requires close coordination among a large number of specialized but interdependent organizations and individuals to achieve the cost, time and quality goals of a construction project (Toole, 2003). Hence, according to Maqsood et al. (2004), a major construction process demands heavy exchange of data and information between project participants on a daily basis.

With technological advances, the construction industry in Nigeria has been accelerated; growing globally and locally. A recent survey of investment in information technology by large engineering contractors demonstrates an increasing trend in the construction industry’s use of data management, web application and virtual reality (Songer et al. 2001). In light of this growing interest in ICT up-take to prepare organisations for the future, Information and communication technology has continued to develop rapidly in many spheres of construction industry.

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In a recent research carried out by, Ozumba and Shakantu (2008) ICT has been applied extensively in pre-construction stage, in product design, production planning and scheduling. This further proves the indispensability of ICT in the construction industry.

Nigeria started implementing her ICT policy in April 2001 after the Federal Executive Council approved the policy by establishing the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the implementing body. (Agyeman, 2007) The policy empowers NITDA to enter into strategic alliances and joint ventures and to collaborate with the private sector to realise the country’s vision of making Nigeria an IT compatible country in Africa. This vision also extends to making Nigeria a key player in the information society by the year 2005 through the use of IT for sustainable development and global competitiveness. Other objectives of Nigeria’s ICT policy are:

  • To ensure that ICT resources are readily available to promote efficient national development
  • To guarantee that the country benefits maximally, and contributes meaningfully, by

providing the global solutions to the challenges of the Information Age

  • To empower Nigerians to participate in software and ICT development
  • To encourage local production and manufacture of ICT components in a competitive manner
  • To establish and develop ICT infrastructure and maximise its use nationwide
  • To empower the youth with ICT skills and prepare them for global competitiveness
  • To integrate ICT into the mainstream of education and training.

Rivard et al. (2004) have identified the two vital roles information plays in all construction projects as the specification of the resulting product (design information) and the initiation and control of the activities required for constructing the facility (management information). Design consultants (architects, engineers and quantity surveyors), acting as professional advisers to the client, are largely responsible for the production and dissemination of both the design and management information among the various project participants. According to Mohamed & Stewart (2003), the majority of construction process information is heavily based upon traditional means of communication such as face-to-face meetings and the exchange of paper documents in the form of technical drawings, specifications and site instructions. This is why the construction industry has for many years suffered from difficult-to-access, out-of-date and incomplete information (Shoesmith, 1995). As the management of construction, like most other industries, requires accurate information, the need to increase the efficiency of information management by exchanging massive volumes of information at high speed and at relatively low cost has been long recognised by the industry (Deng et al., 2001).

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Against the backdrop of the nations ICT policy, all sectors of the economy should effectively harness the ICT potentials to promote effective national development and global competitiveness. In view of the highlighted importance of ICT to the construction industry, it may be timely to conduct research as to evaluate the use of ICT by construction industry consultants in Lagos state.

1.2STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

Construction sector has not been making full use of the potentials of collaborative systems that information sharing and coordination has been offering to parties in projects, the industry has not taken full advantage of ICT solution for digital information exchange and sharing of documents as well as e-tendering which are benefits accruing from practice of ICT in the industry. According to Nkado (2000), the effectiveness of consultants in meeting the needs of clients in the built environment is influenced by their recognition and application of context-relevant competencies. Architectural, engineering and quantity surveying professionals are the consultants traditionally responsible for the production and management of most of the project information and documents required by such other project participants as contractors, subcontractors and suppliers for the execution of construction projects. The complex and uncertain nature of construction projects demands the appointment of capable consultants to realize the client’s interests in a project (Ng & Chow, 2004). A common competency required of these consultants is the ability to manage and communicate project information and documents. In fact, a core issue in the drive for increased productivity in the construction industry is the effective management of information, both in the form of information flows that permit rapid inter-organisational transactions between project participants, and in the form of information accumulated, coded and stored in firm database structures (Mohamed & Stewart, 2003). Thus from quantity surveyors, a basic competency in data, information and information technology is required (RICS, 1998), while from engineers, the availability of computer facilities is a measure of technical capability (Ng & Chow, 2004). In the case of architects, the effective communication of design information to contractors is a key performance criterion (Oyedele & Tham, 2005). It has become a tactical necessity for these consultants and other project participants to integrate their information systems with each other to improve the flow of information between them and enhance the effectiveness of decision-making (Li et al., 2000). The adoption and use of ICT facilitates this much-needed integration in the the construction industry.

In view of this non full utilisation of ICT concepts in the industry, it may be worthwhile effort to evaluate the use of ICT by construction industry consultants as to improve project communication and performance.

1.3       AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

The aim of this study is to evaluate assessment of  ict  usage  and its impact on construction consultants and the study set out to achieve the following objectives.

  1. To identify and assess the factors that determine the ICT tools used by construction industry consultants in Nigeria
  2. To evaluate the level of impact of  ICT on  consultants’ work
  • To assess the  benefit of ICT tools on operational efficiencies of construction industry consultants
  1. To identify the constraints to the usage of ICT tools by construction industry consultants

1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The research questions for this study are stated below:

  1. What are the ICT tools used by construction industry consultants in Nigeria?
  2. What is the level of usage of the ICT tools by construction industry consultants?
  • What impact does ICT tools have on operational efficiencies of construction industry consultants?
  1. What are the constraints to the usage of ICT tools by construction industry consultants?

1.5       SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

Although the first hype around the role of information and communication technologies (ICT) in improving the competitiveness and productivity of enterprises has given way to disillusionment, these technologies are still central to growth and competitiveness Zwick, (2003). The construction industry can benefit immensely from the use of ICT. ICT use also provides opportunities to solve coordination problems associated with construction fragmentation (Latham 1994). Construction projects demand the intensive generation and communication of information Brewer, Gajendran,  McCann and Chen (2003).

The architects, for instance, can start by creating an intelligent 3D CAD models that can be viewed and shared with the rest of the design team members. Working from the same base model, the engineers can rapidly develop their respective engineering and detail designs allowing the quantity surveyors to quickly quantify preliminary cost estimates of the project. This allows a higher productivity and enhanced performance among construction consultants. When these CAD capabilities are well exploited, owners will find that very significant savings in costs and time can be achieved associated with Construction fragmentation (Latham 1994).

  1. 6SCOPE OF THE STUDY
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The scope of this study borders on assessment of  ICT  usage  and its impact on construction consultants .The study however delimited to selected construction companies in Portharcourt River State   Nigeria.

1.7 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY

Like in every human endeavour, the researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. The significant constraint was the scanty literature on the subject owing that it is a new discourse thus the researcher incurred more financial expenses and much time was required in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection, which is why the researcher resorted to a limited choice of sample size covering  construction companies in Portharcourt River State Nigeria.Thus findings of this study cannot be used for generalization for women  in other  States within Nigeria. Additionally, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work will impede maximum devotion to the research. Howbeit, despite the constraint  encountered during the  research,  all factors were downplayed in other to give the best and make the research successful.

1.8  DEFINITION OF TERMS

ICT:    Information and communication technology

CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY: The construction industry includes all stakeholders including clients involved in the construction of buildings and civil/heavy engineering works.

THE DESIGN CONSULTANTS: Professionals who are registered and authorised by professional bodies to render services to clients in the area of construction such as designing the architectural, mechanical and electrical plans sections and elevations of a building including costing for same. These professionals include the quantity surveyor, the civil/structural engineer, the mechanical and electrical engineer and the architect

INTRANET: is defined as an internet network utilizing internet and web protocols located within an organization’s information technology (IT) security domain and intended primarily for use by organization’s members (Slyke and Belanger, 2003); in particular for organization applications such as: electronic mail ( e-mail) , file transfer protocol ( FTP), telnet and the World Wide .

EXTRANET: an extranet is a network that uses internet protocols and the public telecommunication system for communicating both privately and selectively with the contractor’s clients and business partners. Extranets can be used to exchange large volumes of data, including the sharing of the product catalogues, providing design specifications and details.

ELECTRONIC COMMERCE: electronic commerce is employing information technology to improve transactions between companies. It involves the integration of e-mail, and similar technologies into a comprehensive electronic- based system of business functions. It is based on the electronic processing and transmission of data, including text, sound and video.

INFOBASES:  infobases are commercial databases that cater for the information resource needs of specific interest groups. The main benefit is the ready accessibility of information that is current.