As of 2014, over half of the human beings living on this planet are deprived of Internet access. Most of these people live in developing or poor countries. This reflects a deep gap between technology creators/designers and their understanding/involvement of the end users. The problems lie beyond our conventional understanding like hardware availability and network coverage.
The traditional methods of design and research are just not working in understanding the real problems that lies deeply embedded within socio-technical design of small communities in these countries. The numerous problems associated with enabling internet access include social & cultural perception of technology; outdated/unfair public policies shaped by corporate oligopoly and political bureaucracy that affects affordability; learn-ability and usability from an HCI perspective; and contextualization of applications, services and content. It’s impossible for an individual, a company, or an organization to foresee and solve all these intertwined problems that hinder enabling internet access.
The first part of the purpose of this research is to gain a deep understanding in the current socio-technical issues involved in enabling Internet access in developing countries using a (distributed) Participatory Design approach. By understanding and compiling a list of all the major problems involved, I would like to create a design solution with the help of the local community (and other stakeholders) to enable internet access in one small local community in a developing country.