Understanding the Dynamics of Learning across social worlds: A case study from introducing IS in the Ethiopian public health care system

Shegaw Anagaw Mengiste, Margunn Aanestad

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This paper adopts a novel learning perspective on information systems
development. Building on the works of Anselm Strauss we conceptualize
development processes as “negotiated orders” where members
from different “social worlds” encounter and negotiate differences and
tensions.We argue that processes of inquiry and action are interwoven,
and this iswhat facilitates and stimulates learning. Based on a case study
where different versions of open source software were customized,
further developed and implemented in the Ethiopian public health care
system, this paper explores the interplay between participation, politics
and learning in IS implementation and use. We consider learning to be
an integral part of the social practice, and it occurs mainly through
encounters and negotiations between actors from different social
worlds who might have competing interests and values. The paper
also analyzed how the software in question functioned as a boundary
object, not just in the traditional sense by facilitating cooperation
among these actors. An even more significant role of the boundary
object was in bringing the existing differences to the foreground and
thus stimulating negotiations and learning. As such, this paper
contributes to three discourses: organizational learning, boundary
objects and health information systems in developing countries in
particular and more specifically to IS implementation in settings with
scarce resources, heterogeneous stakeholders, and diverse interests.
Original languageEnglish
Article number23
JournalInformation and Organization
Pages (from-to)233-257
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • IS development Learning Participation Power relations Social worlds Public health system Developing countries Ethiopia


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