Culturally tailored ICT4D : designing with communities, culture and context

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This thesis describes my research journey as it evolved from designing a mobile health application, to the production of Interplay, an educational play about the internet. The research was part of an Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) project based in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. A key aim of my research was to make a positive contribution to the Siyakhula Living Lab, a large collaborative ICT4D venture between Rhodes University, the University of Fort Hare, industry partners, government and community members. Participatory action research and participatory design provided the methodological foundations for the three cycles of research that took place over three years between 2009 and 2012. The research involved a series of stakeholder interviews, fieldwork, introductory workshops and the design and development of an educational play. Methods used and findings throughout the research journey are detailed, from the first cycle trying to understand the local and project context with the hope of making a positive contribution, through to the final cycle involving the premiere performances of the educational play, Interplay. This thesis advocates the greater use of culturally tailored methods in ICT4D. Research findings support using participatory methodologies and culturally tailored methods to increase the chances of making a positive impact in ICT4D projects and to reduce the risk of harm to participants and their communities. The major contributions of this thesis are methodological. In particular it: 1. Demonstrates the value of conducting stakeholder interviews in an ICT4D project, 2. Demonstrates the role of social relationships in enabling active participation in an ICT4D project, 3. Demonstrates how cultural factors influenced the choice and use of methods in an ICT4D project, and 4. Provides a case study of the creation of a culturally tailored method to support mutual learning in ICT4D. Finally, Interplay itself exists as a tangible outcome and contribution of this research. It continues to be used to enable learning about the opportunities offered by the internet within communities in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.
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