Although elderly women living in rural areas of South Africa and other developing nations is the most disadvantaged segment of the population, very little funding is allocated to their development, and social, economic and political empowerment. Despite their meagre resources, these women are very often responsible for looking after their families while the working age men and women migrate to cities in search of employment. The entire community can benefit when women are uplifted and empowered. There is a worldwide belief that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) can be of benefit if access is provided. However, researchers do not always agree on how ICTs should be introduced. In addition, Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) initiatives are known to have a notoriously high failure rate.
The aim of this research project is to develop a co-creation design framework for Elderly Rural Women (ERW) in Mafarafara (area in Limpopo province of South Africa) that incorporates the implications of the social interplay within the community. The framework will contribute to an understanding of how ERWcan be co-creators of an ICT platform deployed as part of an ICT4D initiative (known as the Digital Doorway project of the CSIR, Meraka). It will also be investigated to what extent co-creation is possible in a remote rural community, when the participants are ERW with limited technical knowledge, in a social structure that may limit free participation. During seven site visits to the community, the research team determined the elderly women’s needs with respect to various aspects of their lives and their exposure to ICTs. An ICT platform was refined in collaboration with the ERW to better address their needs. The initial design approach (combining participatory design, design thinking and co-creation design frameworks, models and steps) was developed by investigating the extant literature. Results of the data collected during site visits were used to develop the interim framework, which was finalised with inputs from experts in the ICT4D and co-creation disciplines.
The Design Science Research Methodology (DSRM) formulated by Peffers, Tuunanen, Rothenberger and Chatterjee (2007) informed the development of the framework. Structuration theory was used to explicitly outline the social structuration processes that implicitly occurred during the co-creation and refinement of the ICT platform. It was shown how the social processes of signification, domination and legitimation played out during co-creation, and how the co-creation of the artefact simultaneously affected the social structure. In the ICT4D context, the surfacing of the social dynamics is especially important, since cultural differences are at play, and ICT4D projects often fail for social reasons. The use of the DSRM supported by structuration theory contributed to developing an appropriate ICT co-creation design framework for co-creating and refining an ICT platform with ERW in South Africa.