Substantial public and academic interest is focused on efforts to use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to address longstanding socioeconomic goals such as reducing poverty, improving education, and disseminating health and agricultural information to marginalized populations in the “developing world.” However, an incomplete—and sometimes inaccurate—understanding of the realities underlying these populations' interactions with technology may undermine the hopes for mobile phone applications and online services to succeed. My current research goals are to improve design, to motivate other non-technical interventions, to question whether ICTs can actually support socioeconomic development, and ultimately to provide technologists in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD) with an understanding of ICT use in sub-Saharan Africa that is grounded in people’s experiences.
To achieve these goals, I conduct fieldwork in sub-Saharan Africa, primarily in Kenya (in sites I have been traveling to since 2010). There, I spend time with rural farmers, with residents of Nairobi’s informal settlements, with social media non-users, and with mobile phone repairers, in order to qualitatively collect in-depth information which provides some understanding of the complexities surrounding those people's interactions with ICTs. My thinking about these topics is increasingly guided by ideas from postcolonial computing, from feminist theory, and from amplification theory.
Recent and Forthcoming Publications
Wyche, S., Simiyu, N. and Othieno, M.E. (2016) “Mobile Phones as Amplifiers of Social Inequality among Rural Kenyan Women,” ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI). [PDF]
Wyche, S., Steinfield,C., Cai, T., Simiyu, N., and Othieno, M.E. (2016). "Reflecting on Video: Exploring the Efficacy of Video for Teaching Device Literacy in Rural Kenya," Proceedings of the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD2016), Ann Arbor, MI. [PDF]
Wyche, S. and Baumer, E.P.S. (2016). “Imagined Facebook: An Exploratory Study of Non-Users’ Perceptions of Social Media in Rural Zambia," New Media & Society. (e-mail for copy or see pre-print version). [Pre-Publication PDF]
Wyche, S. and Steinfield, C. (2015). “Why Don't Farmers Use Cell Phones to Access Market Prices? Technology Affordances and Barriers to Market Information Services Adoption in Rural Kenya.” Information Technology for Development. [Pre-Publication PDF]
Wyche, S.P. Dillahunt, T.R., Simiyu, N. and Alaka, S. (2015). “’If God Gives Me the Chance I will Design My Own Phone’: Exploring Mobile Phone Repair and Postcolonial Approaches to Design in Rural Kenya,” Proc. of the 2015 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp’15), Osaka, Japan, Pgs. 463-473. (Awarded Best Paper Honorable Mention, Nomination Rate: 5%). [PDF]
Wyche, S.P., Densmore, M. and Geyer, B.S., (2015). “Real Mobiles: Kenyan and Zambian Smallholder Farmers' Contemporary Attitudes Towards Mobile Phones,” Proc. International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD ‘15), Singapore, Article No. 9. (Acceptance Rate: 21%). [PDF]