Co-Design for Development: Lessons Learnt from an Information Systems Project in Underserved Communities

  • R. De la HarpeEmail author
  • M. Korpela
  • I. Van Zyl
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing book series (LNBIP, volume 223)


This paper is a reflection on the lessons learnt during an information systems development for development (ISD4D) project in underserved community contexts. The level of participation of health intermediaries and community members is considered for the design of an mHealth application to facilitate access to relevant health information. The paper highlights two key aspects to be incorporated in the co-design of IS interventions, namely the importance of contextual factors and the dynamic nature of intermediaries’ work and life practices. Lessons learnt are organised according to the following components of an IS for societal development: people, information, technology, practice and purpose, context, and ethics. The key lesson derived is that IS design and development has to consider practices for a purpose. These are influenced by the context of development, the manner in which a community functions, the capabilities of community members, their literacy levels and cultural practices.


Co-design User participation IS for development Design for development Underserved communities Participatory action research 


  1. 1.
    Hussain, S., Sanders, E.B., Steinert, M.: Participatory design with marginalized people in developing countries: challenges and opportunities experienced in a field study in Cambodia. Int. J. Des. 6(2), 91–109 (2012)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Van Zyl, I., De la Harpe, R.: AT-HOME 2.0 – an educational framework for home-based healthcare. J. Univ. Comput. Sci. 18(3), 429–453 (2012)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    De la Harpe, R., Van Zyl, I.: Mobile application design for health intermediaries: considerations for information access and use. In: Proceedings of the 7th International Conference of Health Informatics: HealthInf2014, Angers, France, 3–6 Mar 2014Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    De la Harpe, R.: 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. S. Afr. Comput. J. 54, 20–33 (2014)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    De la Harpe, R.: Interactions of participants during mobile development of a healthcare application. In: 8th Multi Conference on Computer Science and Information Systems 2014: Interfaces and Human Computer Interaction IHCI2014, Lisbon, Portugal, 15–17 Jul 2014Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Van Zyl, I.: Mutual isolation and the fight for care: an ethnography of South African homebased healthcare contexts. J. Health Inf. Dev. Ctries. 5(1), 15–37 (2011)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Luukkonen, I., Toivanen, M., Mursu, A., Saranto, K., Korpela, M.: Researching an activity-driven approach to information systems development. In: Cruz-Cunha, M.M., Miranda, I.M., Gonçalves, P. (eds.) Handbook of Research on ICTs and Management Systems for Improving Efficiency in Healthcare and Social Care, vol. 1, pp. 431–450. IGI Global, Hershey (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Alter, S.: The concept of ‘IT artifact’ has outlived its usefulness and should be retired now. Inf. Syst. J. 25, 47–60 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lee, A.S., Thomas, M., Baskerville, R.L.: Going back to basics in design science: from the information technology artifact to the information systems artifact. Inf. Syst. J. 25, 5–21 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Orlikowski, W.J., Iacono, C.S.: Research commentary: desperately seeking the “IT” in IT research—a call to theorizing the IT artifact. Inf. Syst. Res. 12(2), 121–134 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hevner, A., March, S., Park, J., Ram, S.: Design science in information systems research. MIS Q. 28(1), 75–105 (2004)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    March, S., Smith, G.: Design and natural science research on information technology. Decis. Support Syst. 15, 251–266 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Gregor, S., Müller, O., Seidel, S.: Reflection, abstraction and theorizing in design and development research. In: ECIS 2013 Completed Research, Paper 74 (2013)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Simon, H.: The Sciences of Artificial, 3rd edn. MIT Press, Cambridge (1996)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Gregor, S., Hevner, A.R.: Positioning and presenting design science research for maximum impact. MIS Q. 37(2), 337–355 (2013)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Hevner, A.R., Chatterjee, S.: Design Research in Information Systems, Integrated Series 9 in Information Systems, vol. 22. Springer, New York (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Heeks, R.B.: Actor-network theory for development. Actor-network theory for development working. Paper no. 1, Centre for Development Informatics, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK. (2013). Accessed 30 May 2014
  18. 18.
    Avgerou, C.: Discourses on ICT and development. Inf. Technol. Int. Dev. 6(3), 1–18 (2010)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Walsham, G.: Development informatics in a changing world: reflections from ICTD2010/2012. J. Inf. Technol. Int. Dev. 9(1), 49–54 (2013)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Lorini, M.R., Van Zyl, I.J., Chigona, W.: ICTs for inclusive communities: a critical discourse analysis. In: International Development Informatics Association (IDIA) Conference 2014, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, 3–4 Nov 2014Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Diaz Andrade, A.D., Urquhart, C.: The affordances of actor network theory in ICT for development research. Inf. Technol. People 23(4), 352–374 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    De Silva, A., Fernandez, F.: Beyond free lunch: building sustainable ICT4D. In: Proceedings of the 21st European Conference on Information Systems (2013)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Puri, S.K., Byrne, E., Nhampossa, J.L., Quraishi, Z.B.: Contextuality of participation in IS design: a developing country perspective. In: Proceedings of the 18th Conference on Participatory Design, pp. 42–52 (2004)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Korpela, M., Mursu, A., Soriyan, H.A., De la Harpe, R., Macome, E.: Information systems practice for development in Africa: results from INDEHELA. In: Trauth, E.M., Howcroft, D., Butler, T., Fitzgerald, B., DeGross, J.I. (eds.) Social Inclusion: Societal and Organizational Implications for Information Systems. IFIP TC8 WG8.2 International Working Conference, pp. 15–36. Springer, New York (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Tiihonen, T.: Information Systems in Context: Building a Tool for Analysing the Sociotechnical Context of Organisational Information Systems. University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio (2011)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kickbusch, I., Pelikan, J.M., Apfel, F., Tsouros, A.D. (eds.): WHO: Health Literacy The Solid Facts. The World Health Organisation, Copenhagen (2013)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Norman, C.D., Skinner, H.A.: eHealth literacy: essential skills for consumer health in a networked world. J. Med. Int. Res. 8(2), e9 (2006)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Mirza, F., Norris, T., Stockdale, R.S.: Mobile technologies and the holistic management of chronic diseases. Health Inf. J. 14, 309–321 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Norris, A.C., Stockdale, R.S., Sharma, S.: A strategic approach to m-health. Health Inf. J. 15(3), 244–253 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Mechael, P., Searle, S.: Barriers and gaps affecting mHealth in low and middle income countries : policy. White Paper, pp. 1–79 (2010)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Winters, N., Toyama, K.: Human-computer interaction for development: mapping the terrain. Inf. Technol. Int. Dev. 5(4), iii–viii (2009)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Orlikowski, W.J.: Material works: exploring the situated entanglement of technological performativity and human agency. Scand. J. Inf. Syst. 17(1), 183–186 (2005)Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Díaz Andrade, A., Urquhart, C.: Mavericks, mavens and social connectors: computer mediated information seeking behaviour in rural societies. In: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries, Dubai (2009)Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Dervin, B.: Users as research inventions: how research categories perpetuate inequities. J. Commun. 39(3), 216–232 (1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Robson, A., Robinson, L.: Building on models of information behaviour: linking information seeking and communication. J. Doc. 69(2), 169–193 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Dearden, A.: See no evil? ethics in an interventionist ICTD. Inf. Technol. Int. Dev. 9(2), 1–17 (2012)Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Sabiescu, A., David, S., Van Zyl, I.J., Cantoni, L.: Emerging spaces in community-based participatory design: reflections from two case studies. In: Participatory Design Conference 2014, Windhoek, Namibia, 6–10 Oct 2014Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Yancey, A.K., Ortega, A.N., Kumanyika, S.K.: Effective recruitment and retention of minority research participants. Annu. Rev. Public Health 27, 1–28 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Woodsong, C., Karim, Q.A.: A model designed to enhance informed consent: experiences from the HIV prevention trials network. Am. J. Public Health 95(3), 412–419 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty Informatics and DesignCape Peninsula University of TechnologyCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.ComputingUniversity of Eastern FinlandKuopioFinland

Personalised recommendations