Information systems research group

Critically assessing the transformative potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in society and organisations.

Information Systems

Our research themes

Socio-political, socio-cultural or socio-economic change today is likely to be driven largely by information-, and data-intensive industries, processes and structures. Increasingly, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are influencing people's lives both at work and in personal/social settings.

Industry seems to benefit from being increasingly knowledge-based and reliant on information systems and infrastructures, which are pervasive in all sectors of activity, from private for-profit organisations to governments, educational institutions and civil society organisations. However, the increased use of the digital is introducing new challenges in organisations and society, amplifying existing social inequalities, thereby potentially exacerbating exclusions and oppressions. Take for example, the questionable promise of development and innovation as unproblematic linear outcomes of ICT intervention.

Our research group looks critically at the transformative potential of ICTs within society and organisations, focusing on the adoption, exploitation, management and creative use of information systems in a variety of contexts. 

We apply our research to specific goals, e.g. how ICTs support or hinder access to user communities, improve or inhibit decision making, challenge, replicate, amplify inequalities in the workplace/society

Key research areas

Critical Studies in ICTs, Society and Organisation

  • ICTs, development, and social change
  • ICTs, sustainability, and decolonization
  • ICTs, openness and social inclusion
  • ICTs, knowledge production and reflexivity
  • Digital inclusion, digital poverty and digital data risks

Future Perspectives on Work and Technology

  • Digital collaboration, emerging technologies and hybrid work
  • Adoption of, appropriation of, and trust in information systems
  • Organisational transformation and information systems
  • Barriers and Enablers to the use of Information Systems
  • Gender, ICTs and digital platforms

Innovating Research Practice to Study ICTs

  • Reflexivity in ICT4D research
  • Participatory methodologies and action research
  • Rich pictures, drawing, photo-elicitation and participatory photography

Projects and research areas

Adopting epistemologies of the Global South to reimagine innovation for social inclusion and environmental sustainability

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Focusing on Peru (ODA country), this project gathered leading experts interested in exploring the extent to which innovation (policy & implementation) can be guided and informed by indigenous knowledges. It adopted the concept of Buen Vivir (sumac kawsay), which stems from Andean indigenous bodies of knowledge and represents an ontological and epistemological alternative to Western thought.

Funded by University of Sheffield GCRF QR small research grants

Metropolitan water observatory

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This research will take place in Lima, Peru, in collaboration with KNOW City Partner, Foro Ciudades Para La Vida. Their project, ‘Metropolitan water observatory’, will explore the potential of co-developing a virtual platform for citizens of Lima and Callao to input information, concerns and issues regarding water, in order to produce evidence that can influence decision-making towards more equal water distribution.

Funded by KNOW: Knowledge in action for urban equality 

Understanding the role of mobile phones in promotion the social inclusion of internally displaced people: A Nigerian Perspective

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This project aims to examine how conflict- induced IDP affected by the "Boko-Haram Insurgency" in Nigeria are using their mobile phones to contribute to the social inclusion during camp settlement.

The Internet of Everything

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Project Leader: Dr. Angela Lin

2015, University of Sheffield, Social Science Faculty

The aim of this project was to investigate the emerging research and business phenomenon of the Internet of Things in particular to explore its applications in ecommerce. Business ecosystem and platform business model were the underpinning concepts applied in the project.

From Marketplace to Marketspace

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Project leaders: Dr Angela Lin and Dr. Jonathan Foster

2015, University of Sheffield Knowledge Transfer

The aims of the project were (a) To raise awareness among market traders of the business opportunities offered by ecommerce, and (b) To enable market traders to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to trade online.

In order to demonstrate the business potential of ecommerce, UG students studying on the department’s Information Management in the Digital Economy module worked alongside market traders; interviewing traders, understanding their business context, defining a marketspace opportunity, trialling the use of various Internet business tools and developing an online presence that would help traders to market their business online and to enlarge their current customer base.

The main benefit of the project to market traders was to raise their awareness of the business potential of the Internet. The main benefit accruing to the university is the project’s contribution to undergraduate learning in the areas of information management and e-business.

The project also enabled students to see the relevance and timeliness of one of the department’s undergraduate modules and the content of its curriculum to current trends in the marketplace. The project has highlighted a continuing divide in the digital economy between those businesses that have the capability and know-how to exploit the Internet for enterprise and those who do not.

Evaluation of Practice-Based Models of Co-production and Collaboration in the Creative Industries

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Project leader: Dr. Angela Lin

2008-2009 EPSRC Digital Economy fund from University of Nottingham

This project investigated co-production and collaboration in creating value in the gaming industry in the UK.

Innovation in M-Commerce: Go China!

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Dr Angela Lin and Dr. Jonathan Foster

2004. HEIF Knowledge Exchange

This project investigated and developed new business models and applications for M-commerce. The outputs of the projects included evaluations of current applications and business models for M-commerce; and a business proposal for an M-commerce application in tourism.

Managing Innovation in the Digital Economy

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Dr Angela Lin and Dr. Jonathan Foster

2002-2003, White Rose Centre for Enterprise

This project developed materials which highlighted the organisational and managerial challenged faced by businesses in the digital economy with an aim to develop students’ enterprise skills for the digital economy.

Southern Theories for ICT4D Studies: A Systematic Literature Review

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Principal Investigator: Dr Efpraxia Zamani
Co-Investigator: Dr Andrea Jimenez
Research Assistant: Dr Sukaina Ehdeed
April-September 2019

ICT4D has become an increasing relevant field of research and practice, with a diverse set of theories, concepts and empirical foci. Whilst most of the empirical research has been taking place in the global South, the vast majority of theories used have been developed in the global North.

The aim of this pilot study is to identify Southern theories that have been used within the discipline of Information Systems, in order to identify viewpoints about development and the role ICTs can play towards development, within the Global South. The outcome of the study will help mobilise the discussion on Southern development discourse in relation to the Information Systems literature.

Support network for informal caregivers of people living with HIV in Malawi

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Principal Investigator: Dr Efpraxia Zamani
Co-Investigator: Dr Laura Sbaffi
Partners: Dr. Tiwonge Manda - Chancellor College, University of Malawi, Dr. Khumbo Kalua - Blantyre Institute for Community Outreach, Malawi Health Equity Network, Kossam Jomo Munthali - Foundation for Community Support Services, Dr. Reuben Ndinci - Baobab Health Trust
May 2019-April 2020

Informal caregivers are people without training or education in healthcare who have taken up caring responsibilities for a family member, and whose role, still too often in less developed countries, is not supported nor recognised by society, government initiatives and the healthcare system.

The aim of this project is to bring together caregivers, NGOs, local authorities and academics to explore opportunities for future collaborations on the use of ICTs for creating and maintaining a support community for informal caregivers of people living with HIV in Malawi.

Network building proposal: Critical views on open scholarship - an African perspective

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PI: Pamela Abbott/ CO-I: Andrew Cox

Feb 2019-Jul 2019

Funding source: Information School Seed Corn Funding

The aim of the project was to explore research agendas around decolonising open scholarship in Africa, together with potential project partners identified as key scholarly thinkers, researchers and practitioners engaging in this topic.  It was accomplished through the organisation and hosting of a full day scholarly workshop in the Information School with invited keynote speakers in three critical areas: scholarly communications and open access in global contexts including the global South; alternative views on the practice of open science in Africa; research data management practices in Africa.  The event was further strengthened by the involvement of a panel of library and information specialists with experience with the Rwanda research context.

Ongoing outputs from this project include the blog of the event, further networking contacts with attendees (e.g. African Hospital Libraries) and inputs into publications related to the Rwandan research context.

Developing human capacity through Open Scholarship in Rwanda

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PI: Pamela Abbott/ CO-I: Andrew Cox

Feb 2019-Aug 2019

Funding source: UKRI - GCRF (UoS QR funding)

The aim of this project was to explore the potential for Open Scholarship to strengthen human capacity for development in Rwanda, given the country's aspiration to move to a knowledge-based economy. 

Participatory methods of investigation were used within a week-long co-development workshop bringing together the information sciences expertise of the Information school, together with South African partner ITOCA, an NGO working in the information specialist area in Africa and senior librarians within higher education in Rwanda.

The main outputs of the project were the development of a collaborative research network between the Information School, ITOCA and the Rwandan librarian community with which we have already engaged in competitive project proposals and related practitioner and research papers.

Launch of Pilot Survey on Evolving Librarian Roles in West & Central African HEI Librarian Community

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PI: Pamela Abbott

May 2017-Jul 2017

Funding source: Information School Seed Corn Funding

The aim of this project was to launch a pilot survey to identify key institutional weaknesses in the support for the evolving role of HE librarians in the West and Central African University community.  The survey output was used as input into an AHRC grant proposal which subsequently became the basis for AfricaConnect 2 funding to launch with partner WACREN (West and Central African Research and Education Networks), a pan-African 3-region survey of similar issues related to open access repository development and management.  The objectives of the pilot survey were to:

Understand the evolving role of the librarian in contemporary African higher education settings vis-à-vis digital resources. Understand how institutions within the African higher education sector support or constrain the roles of librarians, especially regarding management of digital resources. Elicit the NREN service requirements that librarians need to support their roles Gather demographic information that would be useful in categorizing the librarian communities of practice so as to understand the evolving field better.

Group members

Click on any of the names to see more information and contact details.

Academic staff

Dr Sara Vannini (Head of Group)

Dr Pamela Abbott

Prof Laurence Brooks

Dr Andrea Jimenez

Dr Angela Lin

Dr Itzelle Medina Perea

Dr Sharon Wagg

Dr Jun Zhang

PhD researchers

Michael O Adetu

Safiah B Alharbi

Norah Alotaibi

Ivan Atmanagara

Bayan A Alasmari

Hui Bao

Omar Diaz Fragoso

Anajoyce Katabalwa

Jing Wang

Canyu Zhang

Zulfadli Zulfadli

Engagement and Impact

The research group has a strong ethos of co-producing solutions and actionable outcomes through involving researchers and beneficiaries throughout the research process including individuals, industry, not-for-profit organisations, experts and non-experts.  Additionally, given our emphasis on critically engaged research, we have identified several areas in which we can create impact.

Here are a selection of impact-based research projects in which our members are currently engaged:

The role of Information Technology on the Affective Temporal Experiences of Remote Workers

Principal Investigator: Dr. Efpraxia D. Zamani (University of Sheffield)

2021 - 2022, UK Academy of Information Systems (UKAIS)

This project focuses on remote workers with a view to challenging current understandings of temporal experiences, adopting the lens of chronopathic experience (Greek words for time (chronos) and suffering/feeling (pathos)). Through this temporal lens, the technology will be examined, not merely for addressing the challenges of remote work, but rather how technology contributes towards and shapes depersonalisation and experiences of malaise, ennui and even boredom, which can be destructive for the organisation and the knowledge worker.

Intersectional Approaches to Design and Deployment of Trustworthy Autonomous Systems

Principal Investigator: Dr. Caitlin Bentley (University of Sheffield)

Co-Investigators: Dr. Mohammad Naiseh (University of Southampton), Dr. Laura Sbaffi (University of Sheffield), Dr. Efpraxia D. Zamani (University of Sheffield)

2022 - 2023, UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Hub

For trustworthy autonomous systems (TAS) to contribute to the creation of an inclusive, fair and just world, researchers and practitioners need to address intersectional inequalities. Intersectionality is a theory and a praxis that uncovers the ways in which institutional inequalities shape experiences of discrimination or disadvantage based on how multiple aspects of a person or group’s identity (gender, ethnicity, disability, and so on) come together at one time and place. Our project researches how to translate and operationalise intersectionality into the design and deployment of TAS. We focus specifically on the healthcare and maritime sectors, where TAS are actively used and considered, but intersectional inequalities are not always meaningfully addressed

Embedding equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in usability testing

Principal Investigator: Dr. Sophie Rutter (University of Sheffield)

Co-Investigators: Dr. Efpraxia D. Zamani (University of Sheffield), Jo McKenna-Aspell (University of Sheffield), Dr Yuhua Wang (University of Sheffield)

2022 - 2022, Research England QR-Policy Support Funding

The ‘Embedding EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) in usability testing’ project is funded through the Research England QR-Policy Support Funding. Usability is the evaluation of products and services with a user. Usability testing should be conducted with people who use products and services; however, in practice, many people are excluded from usability testing resulting in inequalities. The aim of the project is to create an agenda for embedding EDI in usability testing.

Project website

Understanding Digital Poverty in South Yorkshire

Principal Investigator: Dr. Efpraxia D. Zamani (University of Sheffield)

Co-Investigator: Dr. Sara Vannini (University of Sheffield)

2022 - 2022, HEIF Response Mode, Research England

As part of the Inclusion Plan for South Yorkshire towards their post Covid-19 recovery plan, the Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) of South Yorkshire (combining the four Councils of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, and Sheffield) is interested in better understanding how digital poverty and digital exclusion play a role in the region, as well as in building digital capability for social groups identified as at risk and for all in the region.

The project will involve mapping the region with the view to assess the areas at greater risk of digital poverty, by highlighting the intersections of different inequalities and barriers (for example, areas where broadband access, average income, and upper level of education are all low). This will provide a nuanced understanding of which populations and areas are more affected and thus potentially excluded from the labour market and education due to being digitally excluded

The Elicitation of Cybersecurity Narratives: Bricoleur Story Completion, Decision Making and Security Design

Principal Investigator: Professor Julie Gore (Birkbeck) 

Co-Investigators: Dr. David Gamblin (Birkbeck), Dr. Jonathan Foster (University of Sheffield), Dr. Efpraxia D. Zamani (University of Sheffield)

2022 - 2023, ESRC Security By Design Social Science Hub+ (Discribe)

The DSbD programme has been established in response to a significant market need for increased cybersecurity. This need has arisen because of the increased risk posed by digital vulnerabilities within a connected digital ecosystem. The challenge of the DSbD programme is to design, implement and evaluate new secure technologies that mitigate these risks. The overall aim of the research study will be to understand the process of security technology adoption

Transitioning to hybrid working: future scoping digital competencies for the 'new normal'

Principal Investigator: Dr. Pamela Abbott (University of Sheffield)

Co-Investigators: Dr. Angela Lin (University of Sheffield), Dr. Efpraxia D. Zamani (University of Sheffield)

2022 - 2022, Research England QR-Policy Support Funding

The latest analysis of the effect of COVID-19 on office-based work indicate that both organisations and individuals prefer a hybrid working approach in future.  To take advantage of hybrid work, organisations would have to develop HR and IT policies to facilitate and/or regulate hybrid work including investing in IT infrastructure to connect people on- and off-site to coordinate their activities, providing IT support and training to ensure individuals have sufficient digital skills and competences for facilitating and shaping positive hybrid working experiences; and reframing people’s understanding with regards to performance management, engagement and team building. Organisations as a whole will need to consider that hybrid work policies are informed by equality, diversity and inclusion principles

Results from the project are available here.

A Baseline Study of Systems Supporting Postharvest Food Preservation Amongst Smallholder Farmers in Morogoro, Tanzania

Principal Investigator: Dr. Pamela Abbott (University of Sheffield)

Co-Investigators: Professor Duncan Cameron (University of Sheffield),  Dr Alessandro Checco (Sapienza Università di Roma), Dr Andrew Cox  (University of Sheffield), Dr Kalista Higini Peter (University of Dodoma, Tanzania), 

2021 - 2021, Pump Priming funds, Institute for Sustainable Food, University of Sheffield, project number RES/5249

The aim of the baseline study was to assess post-harvest loss (PHL) at various stages of the food production cycle (harvesting, transportation, storage, processing and handling), its causes, the available technology, information and knowledge sources applied, and to envisage solutions to mitigate these losses. The study was conducted in three villages, Malolo and Dumila in Kilosa district, and Ihenje in Gairo district, all located in Morogoro, Tanzania. The study used both qualitative and quantitative approaches to collect data.  Data were collected in September - October 2021 by using a combination of different methods, concurrently: a structured questionnaire, observations and interviews.  The project's outcomes were published in this report available here.  Technological and process-based solutions were proposed and evaluated and a set of recommendations provided.

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