TABLET TECHNOLOGIES FOR DEVELOPMENT: A LONGITUDINAL CASE STUDY FROM A RURAL WEST AFRICAN TELECENTRE

J. Shubert

The University of Auckland (NEW ZEALAND)
Investigations into the sustainability of Telecentres in developing nations indicate that most fail within a short period of time because of financial difficulties and socio-cultural problems. The end result is that vast amounts of money and resources are expended on projects that do not generate the desired impact for the communities and individuals targeted. The results of a longitudinal case study of a rural Telecentre in West Africa are presented in this article. The goal of the research was to explore how the different computing technologies offered at this Telecentre are used with an emphasis on investigating tablets that were recently installed. The findings are based on observation and interviews with the Telecentre manager, workers, and patrons. Participants related their perceptions on the advantages and disadvantages of tablet technologies that utilize touchscreens as the input method versus traditional computer systems which rely on keyboards and mice. Building on Reijswoud’s Theory of Appropriate ICT (2009), this investigation reveals that tablet technologies are an appropriate form of technology in a development setting and superior to traditional computers in several ways. In addition, it was found that offering tablets allowed the Telecentre to become more successful in terms of patron outcomes and financial sustainability. The paper concludes with the identification of a number of areas for further research.