Atta Addo

Dr Atta Addo


Lecturer in Digital Innovation and Enterpreneurship
AB (Harvard), MSc, PhD, PGCertHE (LSE), FHEA
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Biography

Research

Research interests

My teaching

My publications

Publications

Despite myriad anti-corruption interventions, including digitalization-based efforts, petty corruption in public administrations of developing countries persists, undermining socioeconomic development. Extant research that links corruption to social and economic conditions has yielded inconclusive findings on whether digitalization can reduce corruption. Informed by opportunity theory from the field of criminology, which suggests that opportunities – rather than motives or systemic factors – beget crimes, we explore an alternative approach in this study: how digitalization could reduce the opportunities for petty corruption. We draw on a case study of the 30-year digitalization effort at Ghana’s customs administration based on fieldwork, including 91 in-depth interviews with current and former customs officials, importers, clearing agents, banks, regulators, and other stakeholders. Our findings suggest that information technology (IT) enables corruption control over time by reducing corruption opportunities through sociotechnical reconfiguration of work practices and organizational arrangements.
The literature on information technology (IT) and government corruption in developing countries indicates contradictory evidence about the realization of anti-corruption effect. So far, there is no theoretical explanation of why the anti-corruption potential of IT that is demonstrated in some countries is not realized in many other countries. Drawing evidence from a case study of information systems interventions at Ghana customs over 35 years, we investigate how and why IT’s anti-corruption potential may be curtailed in the context of developing countries’ government and society. We focus on IT-mediated petty corruption practices of street-level officers, which we consider to be socially embedded and institutionally conditioned phenomena. We find that conditions of possibility for the IT-mediated petty corruption practices are created during the implementation of information systems. The configuration of IT and organizational processes of a government agency are constrained by the broader government administration system and influenced by vested interests of government officers, politicians and businesses. Subsequently, the co-optation of IT for petty corruption practices is enabled by networks of relationships and institutions of patronage that extend across government, business and society. We thus explain the often-limited effects of IT on petty corruption as the inability of localized information systems implementations to change modes of government administration that are embedded in the enduring neopatrimonial institutions and politics of many developing countries.
Addo Atta, Senyo PK (2020)Beyond Access: Reconceptualizing Digital Identification and Inclusion through the Case of Aadhaar, In: Academy of Management Proceedings Academy of Management
India’s Aadhaar biometric identification system—the world’s largest digital identification scheme which provides unique identification to over 1.2 billion people—has become a vibrant archetype of the pursuit of inclusion through technology. However, the notion of inclusion appears to be taken for granted in various studies of Aadhaar, with little problematization of technology’s role in realizing its multiple facets. Against this backdrop, we survey conceptualizations of inclusion in the discourses on Aadhaar to understand its facets and underlying assumptions. Drawing on a literature review of studies that link the Aadhaar to inclusion, we show that the dominant discourse equates inclusion to the potential for accessing welfare provisioning, services, or other socioeconomic benefits through the instrumentality of technology. We critique this dominant position of inclusion as narrow, by drawing upon the body of work on social inclusion and human development. We suggest a reconceptualization of digitally enabled social inclusion that attends to higher-level processes and outcomes beyond access—such as participation, transformation, empowerment, and emancipation—and articulates technology implications beyond technical-rational instrumentality. We contribute a conceptual framework of digital inclusion that has relevance for other developing countries undergoing digital identification initiatives for inclusion.
Addo Atta, Senyo PK (2020)Does process reengineering and digitalization eliminate corruption? Examining 'paperless' vehicle clearance at Ghana's port, In: Proceedings of the 28th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS) European Conference on Information Systems
Corruption occurs globally but is noted as a bottleneck to socioeconomic development in many developing countries. Reengineering of business processes, alongside digitalization, occurs in various developing countries as part of efforts to improve organizational processes and to help in the fight against corruption. But while such initiatives have been associated with some improvements, they have questionable results in the overall control of corruption. Nonetheless, it remains unclear how and why in developing countries corruption persists in spite of reengineered business processes and digitalization. Through an exploratory case of a reengineered digitalized vehicle import clearance process at Ghana’s ports (dubbed by the government as ‘paperless’), we inductively trace complex interdependencies in the situated sociotechnical work system involving information systems, processes, individuals and organizations as well as associated corrupt practices. Our analysis reveals a complex network of cross-cutting interactions, actors and interests underpinning corruption, as well as the creation of new corruption opportunities where digitalization had disrupted old ones. We discuss the implications of our findings and derive explanatory propositions to guide further research.
Addo Atta, Senyo PK (2020)Digitalization and Government Corruption in Developing Countries: Towards a Framework and Research Agenda, In: Academy of Management Proceedings Academy of Management
Research focusing on the nexus between digital technologies and government corruption in developing countries has reported mixed findings and painted an incoherent picture. Through a review of 90 relevant studies published over the last two decades we develop an inductive framework that connects 7 defining themes: (1) the broader socioeconomic context of developing countries (2) anti-corruption strategies and strategizing in developing countries (3) digitalization processes (4) strategic role of digital technologies and modalities of anti-corruption change (5) formative structures of government organizations (6) barriers within government organizations and (7) positive and negative effects of digitalization on corruption. Deriving from this framework, we highlight under-researched concerns and outline a research agenda to (1) clarify the links between anti-corruption strategizing and digitalization interventions (2) explicate the materialization of corruption in specific organizational domains, work systems, and processes in developing countries, their embedded nature in the organizational and broader context, and the modalities by which digitalization comes to affect or be affected by it (3) uncover digitalization enabled capabilities and dynamic capabilities in the fight against corruption and (4) embrace methodological diversity such as more processual and long-term studies; ethnographic studies, and methods that bridge quantitative and qualitative insights by exploring novel measures and evidence sources.
(2018)IT-Enabled Corruption Control in Developing Countries: An Opportunity Theory Perspective., In: Addo Atta (eds.), ICIS 2018 Proceedings Association for Information Systems
Addo Atta, Masiero Silvia Platform Ecosystems as Complex Adaptive Systems: Exploring Emergence in India’s Aadhaar Project, In: Academy of Management Proceedings2019(1) Academy of Management
We advance a view of digital platforms as generative of innovation phenomena that emerge from causal mechanisms and complex reinforcing interactions that are adaptive. Drawing from literature on complex adaptive systems (CAS), we develop our arguments with an exploratory case study of the Aadhaar platform ecosystem – the world’s largest biometric identification system that has emerged in less than a decade to transform service provision to over 1.2 billion Indian residents. We trace mechanisms endogenous to the platform artefacts – a control mechanism, a generativity mechanism, and an innovation mechanism – that interact with each other and with political and economic forces to underpin a range of emergent phenomena associated with the platform such as its scale, scope and hard-to-imitate integration into the Indian context. We show that platform ecosystems are complex adaptive systems whose emergent outcomes are better explained by overall dynamics across the platform and its embedded context rather than by standalone mechanisms. We contribute to the digital innovation literature by illuminating emergence across socially embedded digital ecosystems.
Addo Atta (2018)Controlling government corruption through IT: An opportunity theory perspective, In: ICIS 2018 Proceedings Association for Information Systems
Information Systems studies of IT-enabled corruption control under-theorize corruption as an individual or social phenomenon, without considering the salience of corruption opportunity in the work environment. Drawing insights from Criminology (opportunity theory of crime), Information Systems (sociotechnical systems theory) and Public Administration (government reform in developing countries), we explain IT-enabled control of government corruption as occurring by reductions of corruption opportunity through sociotechnical reconfiguration. A case study of IT-enabled reforms at Ghana customs over a thirty-year period (1986-2015) is used to instantiate how IT enables corruption control over time by reducing corruption opportunity through reconfiguring work practices and organizational arrangements. We contribute an explanation of IT-enabled corruption control that emphasizes changing work arrangements and processes through IT, rather than changing offenders or the organizational and broader social and economic conditions-approaches that often prove unyielding. © International Conference on Information Systems 2018, ICIS 2018.All rights reserved.
Addo A. (2019)IT and government corruption in developing countries: A literature review and reframing, In: Nielsen P., Kimaro H., (eds.), nformation and Communication Technologies for Development. Strengthening Southern-Driven Cooperation as a Catalyst for ICT4D551pp. 402-413 Springer New York LLC
Corruption is a significant challenge confronting government administration in developing countries with adverse implications for information technologies implemented to stamp it out. ICT4D, information systems and related studies of government corruption continue to shed light on the phenomena but have an undertheorized view of corruption, its relationship with IT, as well as the role of IT in curbing corruption. Research underemphasizes the socially embedded nature of corruption by treating corruption as a problem of individuals who act corruptly out of rational self-interest or internalized social structures. Drawing on a review of relevant literature, this article suggests a reframing to better align research on IT and government corruption with a socially embedded perspective that considers the formative organizational and broader contexts of developing countries to improve explanations of the complex and seemingly intractable phenomena. © IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2019.
Addo Atta (2016)Explaining 'irrationalities' of it-enabled change in a developing country bureaucracy: Case of Ghana's tradenet, In: ECIS 2016 Proceedings Association for Information Systems
Through a case study of Ghana's TradeNet, a business-to-government (B2G) Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) implemented to automate and integrate customs clearance, this article investigates 'irrationalities' of IT-enabled change in the context of a developing country bureaucracy. Our data revealed that despite TradeNet's potential for full automation and integration, bureaucrats sometimes preferred manual, face-to-face, paper-based practices. We explain such outcome-often depicted in the literature as a kind of 'irrationality'-by drawing upon the theoretical notion of institutional logics to trace underlying logics of TradeNet-enabled change. We investigate two specific TradeNet-enabled practices-Import Declaration Form (IDF) processing and risk controls-and show that where 'irrationality' was present (IDF processing), the managerial logic of TradeNet contradicted existing bureaucratic logics. We therefore interpret 'irrationality' as 'good enough' or satisficing when new logics of IT and old bureaucratic logics contradicted. Our findings move beyond success or failure interpretations typical in Information Systems in developing countries (ISDC) and ICT for development (ICT4D) research. We also enhance knowledge of IT-enabled change in developing country bureaucracies by moving beyond the organizational milieu to emphasize broader institutional forces in developing countries such as neopatrimonialism. Such theorization advances ISDC/ICT4D research where reconciling micro with macro accounts remains daunting.
Avgerou C., Addo Atta The developmental effects of the digital revolution, In: Galliers Robert D., Stein Mari-Klara (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Management Information Systemspp. 444-465 Taylor and Francis
So far, the achievement of socio-economic benefits in developing countries from ongoing ICT innovation has been slow and precarious. In this chapter we caution against the technology deterministic tendency to derive expectations of transformative developmental effects of the 'digital revolution' on the basis of technological potential alone. We propose a theoretical approach that combines an understanding of three levels of change: the relationship of ICT artefacts or systems with the social actors that shape their functionality and their use, and have their capabilities shaped by them; the relationship of socio-technical units of innovation with the broader socio-technical structures within which they are embedded; and the relationship of ICT innovation with goals and processes of socio-economic development. We illustrate such theoretical framing with an analysis of the Unique Identification (Aadhaar) Project in India.
Addo Atta (2017)Subalternity in information systems in developing countries a critical analysis of Ghana's TRADENET, In: Choudrie J., Islam M., Wahid F., Bass J., Priyatma J., (eds.), Information and Communication Technologies for Development. ICT4D 2017. IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology504pp. 573-592 Springer New York LLC
In the search for explanations of contradictory effects and its disappointing outcomes in developing countries, Information Systems (IS) have been critiqued as pursuing techno-economic rationalities of western modernity with no recognition of alternatives. Development has also been critiqued as a western program promoted through discourses that do not admit local conditions and histories. Through critical discourse analysis (CDA) and a case study of Ghana's trade clearance system (TRADENET), we analyse how problematizations of IS in developing countries relate with local positions and contexts. We draw on the concepts of subalternity and hegemony to evaluate TRADENET's effects vis-à-vis its problematization by powerful actors. We find that TRADENET is contradicted by historically formed behaviors, culture and traditions that were unrecognized in technical problematizations of trade, development and IS. Despite importance of unrecognized, alternative or 'subaltern' positions in shaping IS in developing countries, they remain unrecognized in dominant or 'hegemonic' problematizations. Findings suggest that uncovering subaltern positions might illuminate 'blind spots' of IS in developing countries such as peculiar contradictory effects; and hence, inform better theory and practice.
Addo Atta Explaining 'irrationalities' of it-enabled change in a developing country bureaucracy: The case of Ghana's tradenet, In: Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries77(1)pp. 1-22 John Wiley & Sons
Through a case study of Ghana's TradeNet, a business-to-government (B2G) Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) implemented to automate and integrate customs clearance, this article inves-tigates 'irrationalities' of IT-enabled change in the context of a developing country bureaucracy. Our data revealed that despite TradeNet's potential for full automation and integration, bureau-crats sometimes preferred manual, face-to-face, paper-based practices. We explain such out-come-often depicted in the literature as a kind of 'irrationality'-by drawing upon the theo-retical notion of institutional logics to trace underlying logics of TradeNet-enabled change. We investigate two specific TradeNet-enabled practices-Import Declaration Form (IDF) pro-cessing and risk controls-and show that where 'irrationality' was present (IDF processing), the managerial logic of TradeNet contradicted existing bureaucratic logics. We therefore inter-pret 'irrationality' as 'good enough' or satisficing when new logics of IT and old bureaucratic logics contradicted. Our findings move beyond success or failure interpretations typical in In-formation Systems in developing countries (ISDC) and ICT for development (ICT4D) research. We also enhance knowledge of IT-enabled change in developing country bureaucracies by moving beyond the organizational milieu to emphasize broader institutional forces in develop-ing countries such as neopatrimonialism. Such theorization advances ISDC/ICT4D research where reconciling micro with macro accounts remains daunting.