The Assessment Of The Impact And Usage Of ICT By Construction Consultants

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The Assessment Of The Impact And Usage Of ICT By Construction Consultants


Abstract


Information communication technology has brought numerous innovative success in the construction industry and this has lead to increase in productivity in construction industry. The study presented in his context is about adoption of information telecommunication technology by construction consultants using Nigeria as point of focus with a view to enhancing ICT application for better productivity. Sample size of 52 was used for the study. Finally, it is notable from the survey that the most prominent factors affecting the use of ICT in the Nigerian construction industry are as follow: budget limit for investment, inadequate knowledge about the profit of ICT investment, high cost of employing professionals, lack of staff with appropriate skill and knowledge in ICT and cost of training professionals. These factors explain that the current level of ICT usage in Nigerian construction industry. Uptake of various applicationsin construction operations would undoubtedly promote productivity.


Chapter One


1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

With technological advances, the construction industry in Nigeria has been accelerated; growing globally and locally. 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. 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

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:

  1. To ensure that ICT resources are readily available to promote efficient national development
  2. To guarantee that the country benefits maximally, and contributes meaningfully, by providing the global solutions to the challenges of the Information Age
  3. To empower Nigerians to participate in software and ICT development
  4. To encourage local production and manufacture of ICT components in a competitive manner
  5. To establish and develop ICT infrastructure and maximise its use nationwide
  6. To empower the youth with ICT skills and prepare them for global competitiveness
  7. To integrate ICT into the mainstream of education and training.

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.


1.2 Statement 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. 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.

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?
  3. What impact does ICT tools have on operational efficiencies of construction industry consultants?
  4. What are the constraints to the usage of ICT tools by construction industry consultants?

1.3 Aims and Objectives

The aim of this study is to evaluate the use of ICT by construction industry consultants in Nigeria 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
  3. To assess the benefit of ICT tools on operational efficiencies of construction industry consultants
  4. To identify the constraints to the usage of ICT tools by construction industry consultants

1.4 Study Hypotheses

The following hypotheses are postulated for the study

  1. Most professionals in the construction industry are not familiar and have not used GSM/cell phones, fax mille, voicemail, electronic datammanagemment, video conferencing,, intercom, internet, project management soft wares, auto cad, word processing, spread sheet, master bill and snap vector in construction projects.
  2. The use of GSM/cell phones, fax mille, voicemail, electronic datammanagemment, video conferencing,, intercom, internet, project management soft wares, auto cad, word processing, spread sheet, master bill and snape vector by most professionals do not impact on ICT in the Nigerian construction industry.
  3. Benefits of the use of ICT in construction are not the issues of making professional jobs easier, facilitating decision making, saving operational cost, improving public image of users, giving competitive advantage, enhancing productivity, saving time, and improving project presentation
  4. Constraints to the usage of ICT in construction do not include insufficient power supply, job size and fees not enough for ICT, High cost of hardware and software, fear of virus attack, high rate of obsolesce of hardware and software, inadequate ICT content in construction education, scarcity of professional software, high cost of engaging computer staff, lack of management desire and appreciation of ICT, low return on ICT investments and fear of ICT making consultants redundant.

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).


1.6 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.


Chapter Five


Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Conclusions

The following conclusions have been drawn from this study: The study has indeed revealed that there a lot of factors militating against the use of ICT by the construction consultants but the most important factors are budget limit for investment, inadequate knowledge about the profitability nature of ICT investment, high cost of employing professionals and lack of staff with appropriate skill and knowledge in ICT and cost of training professionals. This simple means that the usage of ICT is financially expensive, also there is limited knowledge about awareness of ICT in the Nigerian construction industry and due to this facts the Nigerian construction industry is suffering a very slow growth in the use of ICT. Also the study revealed that there is a significant level of campaign in the use of ICT in the Nigerian construction industry but the use of some selected ICT applications, tools and equipment like email and short messages services (SMS), mobile internet, modelling and visualization (3D- CAD, 4D-CAD), electronic document management system (EDMS) is in order. Therefore, more advanced ICT appliances like site surveillance technologies (CCTV), video conferencing, project specific websites (extranets), electronic tendering, electronic purchasing, tele conferencing and radio frequency identification (PFID) and barcodes are averagely used or rarely used. However current level of ICT usage in general appears to be slightly above average. However the effect of ICT in virtually all activities in the Nigerian construction industry is undeniably significant hence the more reason why ICT needs to be facilitated in the Nigerian construction industry.

Finally, it is notable from the survey that the most prominent factors affecting the use of ICT in the Nigerian construction industry are as follow: budget limit for investment, inadequate knowledge about the profit of ICT investment, high cost of employing professionals, lack of staff with appropriate skill and knowledge in ICT and cost of training professionals. These factors explain that the current level of ICT usage in Nigerian construction industry. It is therefore reasonable to acknowledge that whilst the effects and advantages of ICT in construction are much these factors continue to be a major issue that stakeholders and individual organizations need to address in order to increase usage and derive the full of ICT.


5.2 Recommendations

On the basis of findings and conclusions drawn from the study, the following recommendations areproposed.

5.2.1 Financial support for ICT investment in building firms.

Investing in ICT is no longer primarily buying a piece of hardware or software. It is now more of a potential long term investment in the process of change itself (Cleveland 1999). Due to obvious tight margins for funding ICT within most construction the firms as revealed in this study, there is the need for some internal policies towards ICT investments in building construction firms. It is therefore recommended that,construction firms should be motivated by the directbenefits ofICT and draw deliberate policies that provide some proportion of their internal budget for ICTinvestments. This will aim to improve both productivity and profitability for theirbenefit. Again, based on the understanding on the returns on ICT investment, financial institutions can assist building contractors in Ghana to finance their ICT investment by offering flexible credit facilities to firms seeking to invest in ICT. This willsupporttheir operations to improve efficiency and payback the facility. Furthermore, construction client may support contractors upon request, to procure ICT equipments for their contracts as a means to support efficiency and collaboration on their projects. This will be deducted on installments from their progress payments.

5.2.2 Training and management support for ICT in building construction firms.

As observed from the study, the management of construction activities is gradually moving from the traditional paper based format to more digital processes. It is therefore recommended that adequate ICT training and technical support for professionals in building construction firms should be vigorously promoted by employers and other stakeholders such as various professional bodies and associations of the industry in Ghana. This should aim at providing the necessary awareness and build capacity to meet future challenges in this marketplace. Again, there should be a closer cooperation between Ghanaian ICT technology developers and contractors to train professional and also develop ICT systems that will address the specific operational needs of Ghanaian contractors.

5.2.3 Client interest in contractors ICT capacity

The need to promote the use of ICT through increased external requirement is very much recommended. This will require construction customers/clients take into account the contractors ICT technological capabilities as a criterion for selection. Furthermore, clients could often mandate the use of specific ICT technologies on their project, for instance, tendering on-line, specifying project control technologies such as scheduling tools, cost control systems, and communication systems such as email and project webs. This could boost the potential for competitive advantage through the use of ICT technology in the building firms.

5.2.4 Increase ICT content in construction education at all level

As explained by Foresight 2000, the advent of computer and ICT integration in the construction processes creates the need for „cross disciplinary education‟. By recognizing the importance of ICT education in construction, it is recommended that a robust content of ICT education which will generate adequate construction ICT skill acquisition should be incorporated in construction courses as a supplement to technical knowledge and expertise in various fields of construction study. A re-think‟ in this respect will help to deliver the require ICT skills for the Ghanaian construction industry. This will also be significant to develop and support the understanding of how ICT could be use to support construction process at all levels to facilitate the necessary change and innovation.


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