Towards a QoL Approach to ICT Integration in Rural Communities in Uganda

The role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in enabling various development goals and ultimately Quality of life (QoL) is now certain. However what remains a source of great concern is that the adoption of ICT is still low thus real benefits are unknown and yet to be realized by people in rural communities in developing countries. Subsequently, besides increasing access and availability of ICT, there is an increased need for approaches that will optimize ICT benefits in the lives of people more so in a developing country context where the risk of not participating in the predominant knowledge society is eminent.

As foundation for research aiming to optimize ICT benefits, this thesis explores how and whether a quality of life perspective provides insight in the nature of ICT adoption in rural communities in a developing country particularly Uganda. This is envisaged to provide an understanding of the aspects necessary in optimizing ICT benefits in the lives of people in this context. QoL is generally perceived from a human development perspective as a multidimensional, context-specific and people centered concept. The thesis specifically investigates the extent to which ICT for development (ICT4D) efforts targeting the rural poor integrate a QoL perspective; establishes how people in rural communities in Uganda define their QoL; investigates peoples’ perception of the potential ICT has towards people’s QoL; and establishes the factors that influence people’s perception and actual attainment of QoL through ICT.

Findings show that ICT4D initiatives particularly universal access with the largest national coverage targeting the rural poor had a limited, non-satisfactory consideration of QoL when deploying ICT. While policy explicitly considered such an approach as vital in the adoption of ICT, deployment of universal access efforts focused on a onedimensional perception of poverty i.e. economic poverty; and there was limited or no participation of target beneficiaries in the planning and implementation of the initiatives.

As anticipated QoL for the rural poor in Uganda was multidimensional, comprising of social, economic and political dimensions. It also comprised of both means such as education and a source of income; and ends to a good life such as self esteem and having a peace of mind. While people had a high perception of the role of ICT in their lives, exploitation of ICT towards the attainment of a good life was mostly limited to the social dimension. The full exploitation of ICT was limited by factors such as financial constraints, required knowledge and skills, limited awareness, technical hindrances, compatibility with lifestyle and lack of relevant content.

Evidently a QoL perspective challenges the existing practice of ICT deployment for the poor to ensure that beneficiaries are part of the development exercise. It therefore provides a better understanding of aspects that would optimize ICT benefits in people’s lives. More specifically, policy-makers and implementers of universal access efforts in developing countries are challenged to deliberately promote such an approach in service development and delivery. This will ensure that people’s needs and values are central to these development efforts; leading to an increased level of successful ICT initiatives in developing countries.

Keywords: ICT acceptance and use, ICT4D, Rural Communities, Quality of Life, developing countries, Uganda

Respondent: Florence Nameere Kivunike
Opponent: Docent Harko Verhagen, DSV
Examinator: Professor Harald Kjellin, DSV
Huvudhandledare: Professor Love Ekenberg, DSV

Tid: fredag 7 maj, kl 13:00
Plats: DSV, Forum, Sal 7501, Isafjordsgatan 39, Kista