Design Science Research and Activity Theory in ICT4D: Developing a Socially Relevant ICT Platform for Elderly Women in Remote Rural South Africa

Conference paper
Part of the IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology book series (IFIPAICT, volume 504)


ICT4D projects in rural communities face many challenges to successful execution. These include the development of an ICT artifact which is suited to the needs of a specific community, as well as a complex socio-cultural context which can have unexpected impacts on an ICT4D project. In Mafarafara, a remote rural community in South Africa’s Limpopo province, researchers who were using a Design Science Research framework to guide the development of an ICT platform recognized the importance and potential impact of unvoiced social and political issues. Managing these dynamics are important for not only a better understanding of the community, but also for the success and sustainability of the project. Activity theory is used to complement the DSRM to make these social aspects visible, thus contributing to the success of the project. Two examples of the socio-political dynamics are described using the activity theory concepts of tension and hierarchical activity.


Design science research Activity theory ICT4D South africa Rural women Empowerment 


  1. 1.
    Zheng, Y.: ICT4D, overview of theories. In: Manswell, R., Ang, P.H. (eds.) The International Encyclopedia of Digital Communication and Society, pp. 1–10. Wiley, New Jersey (2015)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Andersson, A., Hatakka, M.: What are we doing? - Theories used in ICT4D research. In: IFIP Working Group 9.4 12th International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries, pp. 282–300, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, May 2013Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Karanasios, S.: Framing ICT4D research using activity theory: a match between the ICT4D field and theory? [IFIP Special Issue] Inf. Technol. Int. Dev. 10(2), 1–17 (2014)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Peffers, K., Tuunanen, T., Rothenberger, M.A., Chatterjee, S.: A design science research methodology for information systems research. J. Manag. Inf. Syst. 24(3), 45–77 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Simon, H.A.: The Sciences of the Artificial. MIT press, Cambridge (1996)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Venable, J.R.: A framework for design science research activities. In: Khosrow-Pour, M. (ed.) Emerging Trends and Challenges in Information Technology Management, pp. 21–24. IDEA Group Publishing, Hersey PA (2006)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Herselman, M., Botha, A.: Designing and Implementing an Information Technology for Rural Education Development (ICT4RED) Initiative in a Resource Constrained Environment: Cofimvaba School District, Eastern Cape. South Africa. CSIR Meraka, Pretoria (2014)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    March, S.T., Smith, G.F.: Design and natural science research on information technology. Decis. Support Syst. 15(4), 251–266 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Vaishnavi, V.K., Kuechler, B.: Design Science Research in Information Systems (2015). Accessed 30 April 2016
  10. 10.
    van Aken, J., Chandrasekaran, A., Halman, J.: Conducting and publishing design science research. J. Oper. Manag. 47, 1–8 (2016) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Drechsler, A., Hevner, A.: A four-cycle model of is design science research: capturing the dynamic nature of IS artifact design. In: Parsons, J., Tuunanen, T., Venable, J.R., Helfert, M., Donnellan, B., Kenneally, J. (eds.) 11th International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology (DESRIST) 2016, St. John, Canada, 23–25 May, pp. 1–8 (2016)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Goldkuhl, G., Lind, M.: A multi-grounded design research process. In: Winter, R., Zhao, J.L., Aier, S. (eds.) Global Perspectives on Design Science Research. 5th International Conference, DESRIST 2010, pp. 45–60. Springer, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 2010Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Iivari, J.: Twelve theses on design science research in information systems. In: Hevner, A., Chatterjee, S. (eds.) Design Research in Information Systems - Theory and Practice, vol. 22, pp. 43–62. Springer, New York (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Dodson, L., Sterling, S.R., Bennett, J.K.: Considering failure: eight years of ITID research. In: Tongia, R., Subrahmanian, E. (eds.) Fifth International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD 2012), pp. 56–64. ACM, Atlanta, USA (2012), Tongia, R., Subrahmanian, E.: ICT for Development - a Design Challenge? IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, ICTD 2006, 25–26 May 2006, Berkeley, USA (2006)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hevner, A., Chatterjee, S.: Design Research in Information Systems. Springer, New York (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Rittel, H., Webber, M.: Planning problems are wicked problems. In: Cross, N. (ed.) Developments in Design Methodology, pp. 135–144. Wiley, New York (1984)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Iivari, J.: A paradigmatic analysis of information systems as a design science. Scandinavian J. Inf. Syst. 19(2), 39–64 (2007)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Dearden, A., Light, A., Kanagwa, B., Rai, I.: Technical ICT research for development? Getting from Research to Practice. Mobile HCI 2010, 7–10 September 2010, Lisboa, Portugal (2010)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    ANC Women’s League: Women and Poverty - Discussion Document (2014). Accessed 23 Aug 2016
  20. 20.
    Statistics South Africa: Social Profile of Vulnerable Groups 2002–2012. Statistics South Africa, Pretoria (2013)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
  22. 22.
    ILO: Global Employment Trends 2012. International Labour Organisation, Geneva (2012)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    World Bank: World Development Report 2008 - Agriculture for Development. World Bank, Washington DC (2008)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Buskens, I.: Agency and reflexivity in ICT4D research: questioning women’s options, poverty, and human development. Inf. Technol. Int. Dev. 6(Special Edition), 19–24 (2010)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Mma C.: Personal discussion RE: Demographics of Mafarafara (2014)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Hashim, N., Jones, M.L.: Activity theory: a framework for qualitative analysis. In: 4th International Qualitative Research Convention (QRC), 3–5 September, Malaysia (2007)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Kaptelinin, V., Nardi, B.A.: Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design. MIT Press, Cambridge (2006)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Gregor, S.: The nature of theory in information systems. MIS Q. 30(3), 611–642 (2006)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Engeström, Y.: Innovative learning in work teams: analysing cycles of knowledge creation in practice. In: Engeström, Y., Miettinen, R., Punamäki, R.L. (eds.) Perspectives on Activity Theory, pp. 377–406. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Ditsa, G.E.M., Davis, J.: Activity theory as a theoretical foundation for information systems research. In: Khosrowpour, M. (ed.) Information Resources Management Association International Conference, pp. 240–244. Idea Group Inc., Anchorage May 2000Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Engeström, Y.: Activity theory as a framework for analyzing and redesigning work. Ergonomics 43(7), 960–974 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CSIR Meraka InstitutePretoriaSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of InformaticsUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations