UCT CS Research Document Archive

Telecommuting in the Developing World: A Case of the Day-Labour Market

Chepken, Christopher (2013) Telecommuting in the Developing World: A Case of the Day-Labour Market. PhD, Department of Computer Science, University of Cape Town.

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Abstract

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in general, and mobile phones in particular, have demonstrated positive outcomes in the various social transformation and human development dimensions. As a result, many researchers have focused on ICTs innovations targeting the poor. Among the poor are the low-skilled day-labourers who belong to the Day-labour Market (DLM), which is also made up of employers, job-brokers and intermediary organisations. The DLMs’ main activities involve a great deal of travelling in search of jobs by workers and a search for workers by employers. These travels place heavy economic pressure on the day-labourers, hence reducing their net earnings while they struggle with extreme poverty.
The first objective of our study was to find out how and which ICT interventions can be used to alleviate the challenges faced by the DLM stakeholders. The nature of our problem resembled studies that use ICTs to reduce travel distance. Such studies fall under subjects such as teleactivities and teleworking/telecommuting, and advocate for prospects of working anywhere anytime. These studies have not received much research attention in the developing world. They have mainly been done in the developed world, and mostly on white-collar workers and organisations. This brought about our second objective: to find out whether the ICT interventions for the DLM could be studied under teleworking/telecommuting and whether the telecommuting benefits can be realised for the blue-collar workers.
Our research methodology was Action Research applying three case studies. We used participant observation and both structured and unstructured interviews for qualitative data collection and questionnaires to collect quantitative data. Contextual inquiry, prototyping and technology probe was applied as our design technique. The prototypes were evaluated in-situ to assess usability and uncover user experience. We mainly employed qualitative data analysis, but where appropriate, triangulated with quantitative data analysis.
The research outcomes were divided into three categories: (1) the knowledge on the DLM characteristics which depicted different forms of the DLM and shaped our design process, (2) the DLM software designs tested as prototype applications and software artefacts deployed for use by the DLM and (3) the meaning and the state of telecommuting/teleworking before and after our experiments in the DLM. In the first category, appreciating the challenges faced by our primary target users, the day-labourers, helped shape our designs and our inquiry to include intermediation. With regard to the prototype applications, they included the remote mobile applications and the web-based server side software systems. Although most of these applications where meant for proof of concept, some of them ended up being implemented as fully functional systems. Finally, in the third finding, travel reduction using ICTs (mainly the mobile phones) had been practised by some of the DLM stakeholders even before the commencement of our study. After our intervention, we discovered that implementing telecommuting/teleworking within the DLM may be possible, but with a raft of redefinitions and changes in technology innovations. We therefore identified factors to consider when thinking of implementing telecommuting among blue-collar employees, organisations and employers.

EPrint Type:Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Keywords:day labour, telecommuting, action research, mobile phones
Subjects:H Information Systems: H.4 INFORMATION SYSTEMS APPLICATIONS
H Information Systems: H.5 INFORMATION INTERFACES AND PRESENTATION
J Computer Applications: J.8 MISCELLANEOUS
ID Code:868
Deposited By:Blake, Edwin H
Deposited On:13 June 2013