Knowledge management practices and systems in county governments in developing countries. Perspectives from selected counties in Kenya

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/VJIKMS-01-2019-0014
Pages420-439
Publication Date12 August 2019
Date12 August 2019
AuthorJoshua Rumo Arongo Ndiege,Patrick Kanyi Wamuyu
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Knowledge management,Knowledge management systems
Knowledge management practices
and systems in county governments
in developing countries
Perspectives from selected counties in Kenya
Joshua Rumo Arongo Ndiege and Patrick Kanyi Wamuyu
Computing Department, United States International University, Nairobi, Kenya
Abstract
Purpose While several studies have indicated the critical role played by the ability of countries to
exploit knowledge as an economic resource, itwouldappearthattherehavebeenveryfew
studies conducted on understanding the practices adopted by governments in relation to exploring
knowledge, particularly in Africa. The purpose of this study is to investigate the prevailing knowledge
management practices and technological solutions used by governments to support knowledge
management.
Design/methodology/approach To address the research objective of this study, semi-structured
interviews and document analysis were used. The interviews were conducted with both senior and
junior county ofcials from ve counties in Kenya, with a total of 31 county ofcials participating.
Further, various county documents were analysed both to seek convergence and corroborate the
interview ndings.
Findings The study ndings revealed that no systematic knowledge management practices existed
in the county governments in Kenya, which were investigated. On the few occasions that the study did
nd evidence of knowledge management practices, these practices were isolated, informal,
uncoordinated and rarely documented and/or communicated. Furthermore, the study found that there
were inadequate policy frameworks in place to support knowledge management practices. The study
also revealed a scarcity of relevant technological solutions tailored to support knowledge management
practices.
Research limitations/implications It was, thus, hoped that this research would promote an
understanding of the prevailing local circumstances that hinder the effective utilisation of knowledge
management practices and systems. The study recommends that county governments develop the
capabilities required for creating and sustaining an enabling knowledge management environment
through frameworks and policies that foster knowledge management practices and systems. The
ndings have practical implications for the way in which county governments in Kenya and other
developing countries may improve their knowledge management practices and adopt appropriate
technological solutions to support such practices.
Originality/value Much of the existing literature on knowledge management is focussed on
exploring such practices in large businesses. Studies centred specically on the analysis of knowledge
management practices in county governments in Africa, and how technological solutions may be used
to build such practices are conspicuously lacking in the relevant literature.
Keywords Knowledge management, County governments, Developing countries, Kenya
Paper type Research paper
We wish to express our gratitude to the staof the Maarifa centre at the Council of Governors in
Kenya for their support during the data collection period for this study. We also thank United States
International University Africa for providing grant to support this study.
VJIKMS
49,3
420
Received30 January 2019
Revised13 June 2019
Accepted16 June 2019
VINEJournal of Information and
KnowledgeManagement Systems
Vol.49 No. 3, 2019
pp. 420-439
© Emerald Publishing Limited
2059-5891
DOI 10.1108/VJIKMS-01-2019-0014
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/2059-5891.htm
1. Introduction
Much of the existing literature on knowledge management is focussed on exploring knowledge
management practices in large businesses (Bolisani et al.,2018;Darroch, 2005;García-Álvarez,
2015;Hislop et al.,2018;Mariano and Awazu, 2016;Sharma et al., 2013). While this literature
has formed the basis of our understanding of successful knowledge management practices
within business environments, studies centred specically on the analysis of knowledge
management practices in county governments in Africa, and how technological solutions may
be used to build such practices are conspicuously lacking in the relevant literature. The irony of
the situation, however, is that governments throughout the world are not only major
consumers of knowledge but also produce a signicant portion of such knowledge in addition
to creating value through their knowledge management practices and systems (Lynden and
Wu, 2008;Malik and Al-Toubi, 2018;Nath and Kanjilal, 2018;Shilohu et al., 2018).
It is worth noting that the Africa Agenda 2063 appreciates the changing global context that is
characterised by, among other things, changesinbothtechnologyandtheknowledgemarket
(African Union, 2015). To this end, this Agenda calls for countries in Africa to build and expand
an African knowledge society. Many institutions in the developing countries striving to embrace
knowledge management have been forced to rely on lessons and best practices gleaned from their
counterparts in the developed economies. It is important to note, however, that many of the
studies on knowledge management frameworks, for example, those by Pawlowski and Bick
(2012),Andrew (2005) and Martin and Remo (2007), etc., were designed based on the specic
country contexts in which these individual studies were conducted. However, the ndings from
such studies on developed countries are not always practically applicable to the developing
countries. The main reason for this is that the latter operate within different policy, regulatory,
industry and organisational contexts to those of developed countries.
County governments in Kenya are increasingly coming to appreciate the value of knowledge
through the adoption of lessons, new ideas, concepts and innovations from other counties.
However, a look at the strategic plans of the 47 Kenyan county governments (Council of
Governors, 2018) would seem to indicate that the majority do not have a strategic focus on
knowledge management. At the time of this study, Kenyas vision of a knowledge-based
economy was directed at shifting the current industrial development path towards innovation,
with the creation, adoption, adaptation and exploitation of knowledge remaining pivotal to the
countrys economic growth (KIPPRA, 2018). Nevertheless, poor governance has led to the
ongoing marginalisation of many counties in Kenya, with a number of county governments
struggling to fulll their mandate (KIPPRA, 2018). Furthermore, while there is evidence of the
governments appreciation of the role played by knowledge in running Kenyasaffairs,itwould
appear the country is still struggling in its efforts to build a better knowledge management
culture (The Council of Governors, 2017;Kamar, 2008;Kwanya et al.,2015;Ondari-Okemwa and
Smith, 2009). Consequently, better knowledge management practices and systems should be used
to improve governance at the county level (Giudice and Peruta, 2016;Laihonen and Mäntylä,
2018;Lynden and Wu, 2008). This should be based on the understanding that knowledge
management theory is relatively new and as it is the case with any evolving discipline, there are
several unresolved issues that need to be addressed, for example, contextualising the application
of knowledge management practices and systems.
This study was premised on the view that knowledge management practices and systems
remain pivotal to the success of the initiatives of various governments in fullling their
constitutional mandates effectively. In addition, there is a need for a contextual understanding
of knowledge management practices and systems to appreciate more fully what may be the
best for a developing country such as Kenya. This may be seen against the backdrop of the
2014-2017 Kenyas Council of Governorsstrategic plan, which proposed the enactment of
Knowledge
management
practices and
systems
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