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. and Baumer, E.P.S. (forthcoming) “Imagined Facebook: An Exploratory Study of Non-Users’ Perceptions of Social Media in Rural Zambia," New Media & Society. (e-mail for pre-print).

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]

Wyche, S.P., (2015). "Exploring Mobile Phone and Social Media Use in a Nairobi Slum: A Case for Alternative Approaches to Design in ICTD", Proc. International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD'15), Singapore. Article No. 8.

Steinfield, C., Wyche, S.P., Cai, T. and Chiwasa, H.R., (2015). "The Mobile Divide Revisited: Mobile Phone Use by Smallholder Farmers in Malawi", Proc. International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD'15), .Singapore, Article No. 8. (Acceptance Rate: 21%). [PDF]

Wyche, S.P., Forte, A. and Schoenebeck, S.Y., (2013). "Hustling Online: Understanding Consolidated Facebook Use in an Informal Settlement in Nairobi," Proc. of ACM SIGCHI Conf. on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI'13), Paris, France. [PDF].
(Best Paper Honorable Mention Award).

Wyche, S.P. and Murphy, L.L., (2013). "Powering the Cellphone Revolution: Findings from Mobile Phone Charging Trials in Off-Grid Kenya," Proc. of ACM SIGCHI Conf. on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI'13), Paris, France. [PDF].

Talks and News

Please consider submitting a position paper to our CHI'16 Workshop: Development Consortium 2016: HCI Across Borders

January 2016: Fieldwork in Kenya

September 2015: UbiComp 2015, Osaka, Japan

June-July 2015: Fieldwork in Kenya

March 2015: Received an NSF CAREER Award


Susan Wyche is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University and has a courtesy appointment in MSU's African Studies Center. Her research focuses on human computer interaction (HCI) and information and communication technologies and development (ICTD). Her work has been supported by Google, USAID, and the National Science Foundation. Wyche is a 2015 recipient of an NSF CAREER Award and is the Papers Co-Chair for the ICTD 2016 Conference. Wyche received her Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing from Georgia Tech, an MS from Cornell University and an undergraduate degree in Industrial Design from Carnegie Mellon University.


Michigan State University
Department of Media and Information
Communication Arts & Sciences
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212