This dissertation focuses on understanding how families communicate over distance when using technology in Kenya, and how we should think about designing technology to support family communication over distance between rural and urban settings of the country. It is divided in two parts with first part exploring family communication practices in rural and urban Kenya, while the second uses the results from the first part to inform the design of communication technology for these families.
Results from the first part of this dissertation reveal that family communication focuses on economic support, well-being, life advice, and everyday coordination of activities. However, infrastructure challenges and social factors such gender and reduced access to technology complicates family connection efforts using technology. As a result, families living in rural and low income urban regions of Kenya are not able to share experiences beyond phone and textual exchanges. I help address this problem in the second part of the dissertation by using findings from the first part of this dissertation to inform the design of a photo-sharing application and service called TumaPicha. TumaPicha supports rural and low income urban families to share common experiences and feel connected with each other using intermediaries to overcome connectivity and literacy issues. TumaPicha also supports rural families in using technology to capture activities in the village and share these experiences with relatives who live in urban areas.
The results, together with the five design recommendations presented here, articulate the opportunities that designers will face while exploring family communication technologies in rural and low income urban areas of Kenya. This work shows promise for simple media sharing applications in Kenya that rely on a mixture of technology opportunities and existing social processes.