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Using I.T. to improve the efficiency and accuracy of network data collection

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2 Author(s)
Van Olst, R. ; Dept. of Electr. & Inf. Eng., Univ. of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa ; Dwolatzky, B.

Over a decade ago, Robert Solow, the Nobel Prize winning economist, famously remarked, "You can see the computer age everywhere except in the productivity statistics" (Kenneth Kraemer, 2001). This offhand remark has stimulated many other economists to conduct more rigorous analyses on the impact of information technology on productivity. The results of this research into the "Productivity Paradox" had a positive outcome. It was established that on average IT investments did pay-off. The current research has been conducted for a large telecommunications utility. An important business process of the utility, that of collecting information on its geographically dispersed network assets, was automated using mobile computing and wireless technologies. The results of the pilot for this automated business process are very encouraging and vastly improve the productivity of the data collection process, and its integrity. The research compares this automated process with the current, manual, process of sourcing the field network asset data using paper-based templates. This process is followed by a lengthy data capture process to input the data from (he paper template into the utility's central GIS. The new automated process is also a two-step process, but the second step is a quality assurance process prior to submitting the sourced data directly into the GIS database, as the field data is already captured electronically by the PDA. The research clearly highlights the pay-off of a well-considered IT investment. It points the way for the deployment of this technology solution in other utilities, e.g. electricity distribution, water reticulation, and municipalities. It also demonstrates that the automated business process can be programmed for use by low-skilled field workers, so important to improve productivity in third world economies such as those in Africa.

Published in:

AFRICON, 2004. 7th AFRICON Conference in Africa  (Volume:2 )

Date of Conference:

15-17 Sept. 2004