Posted to the Ethnos Project by on December 31st, 2014

When explaining the failure of information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) projects, researchers often turn to differences between how designers perceive and users experience the context of technology use. According to these explanations, ICT4D projects fail because designers take an uninformed stance toward context. The ICT4D literature offers four approaches for how designers might better design technology for the context of use. In all four approaches, the target of action is typically the technology itself, not the context. Despite increasing use of these four approaches, projects still fail because of persistent differences between designers’ perceptions and users’ experience. These differences appear inevitable because ICT4D projects address problems nested in complex systems whose interaction is difficult for designers to understand and predict. Yet, some projects do succeed. We show that success occurred in a Brazilian banking project because users took context-oriented, not technology-oriented, actions to better fit the technology with the context. Based on our case study, we develop propositions that integrate and expand existing theories of ICT4D project success.

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