n South African Computer Journal - The level of participation during the development of a mobile application for home-based healthcare data in a developing context : an actor-network theory perspective : research article

Special issue 2
  • ISSN : 1015-7999
  • E-ISSN: 2313-7835



The context of this study is home-based healthcare in a South African resource-restricted community. The research case involved the design and development of a mobile care data application, created to assist community caregivers in their professional activities. However, the development principles of a suitable mobile application for feature phones (limited functionality) in this context are not fully established. A participatory design approach was employed using a design science research in information systems strategy. Data was collected during the co-design sessions with the active participation of the caregivers to design and develop a suitable mobile application to capture process and report care data. The activities of the caregivers in practice and the design and development activities were observed. It was observed, conversely, that the level of participation of all stakeholders differed significantly during the process. It was especially observed that the designer and end-users were less involved in the actual development of the prototype. These differences may have an influence on the end product/result. Actor-network theory (ANT) was used to offer a new perspective on the development processes, concepts and structures. ANT has not been used extensively in development studies and may provide a mechanism to describe how the human and non-human actors formed relations as they participate in these processes through translation moments. ANT also considers the 'black-boxed' aspect of IT artefacts during development as a single node of the network that may need to be opened up. Considering the alignment of such networks, the coordination, devices and passages during the four translation moments provide valuable insights in the design and development of technology products. This paper will consider these elements in more depth. The socio-economic factors of the developing context influenced the complex socio-technical development of the mobile application. The role of technology artefacts to assist with the development of new IT artefacts is more complex in a developing context since there are not enough mobile artefacts that could be used as examples to guide the developers. This aspect, as well as the lower digital literacy of the end-users, influences their level of participation during the design and development phases. There seems to be a large gap between mobile development in the global North versus that in the global South.

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