Centralised vs. Decentralised Management of Public Information Systems: A Core-Periphery Solution

Richard Heeks


In dealing with information systems, public sector organisations have to cover eight main areas of responsibility: information systems planning, organisational structures and staffing, data management, computing and data management architecture, information systems development, information technology acquisition, training, and technical support. Adopting a centralised approach to these responsibilities can bring efficiency benefits, but requires some severe constraints to be overcome. Adopting a decentralised approach can help spread computing in the organisation, but is often wasteful. A 'core-periphery' approach to public information systems, combining both central and local action, is therefore recommended as being most effective. Details of such an approach are described within the paper.

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Educator's guide

Synopsis questions

  1. What responsibilities face a typical public sector information systems manager? [part A]
  2. What are the benefits, constraints and disadvantages of a centralised approach to IS management? [part B]
  3. What are the benefits, constraints and disadvantages of a decentralised approach to IS management? [part B]
  4. What is the core-periphery approach to IS management? [part C]
  5. Does the core-periphery idea provide public managers with a new approach or just a new name for old problems?
  6. What would be the likely benefits, constraints and disadvantages of a core-periphery approach to IS management?
  7. Are current trends moving more in favour of centralised, decentralised or core-periphery approaches in most public sector organisations?
  8. What, in practice, determines the type of IS management approach adopted by a public sector organisation?
  9. If you are familiar with a particular public sector organisation, make recommendations about which approach it should take to IS management. Justify your recommendations.