THE ASSESSMENT OF THE IMPACT AND USAGE OF ICT BY CONSTRUCTION CONSULTANTS
1.1BACKGROUND 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:
• 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.
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. 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.