Please call ME.N.U.4EVER: Callback & Social Media Sharing in Rural Africa

Bidwell, Nicola J and Lamas, Mounia and Marsden, Gary and Dlutu, Bongiwe and Jones, Matt and Tucker, Bill and Vartiainen, Elina and Klampanos, Iraklis and Robinson, Simon (2011) Please call ME.N.U.4EVER: Callback & Social Media Sharing in Rural Africa, Proceedings of 10th International Workshop on Internalisation of Products and Systems, July 2011, Malaysia, 117-138.

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In this paper we report findings generated during the early phase of a research project that aims to design and develop social media sharing systems to benefit marginalized communities. Studies of cell-phone network users in the developing world have shown that the relatively high tariffs for network access have resulted in new and innovate uses of technology to circumvent these costs. In this paper we describe a completely new form of service appropriation and how it is being used to overcome tariff costs in a remote rural area of South Africa. In this country, cell-phone providers offer a highly constrained form of free messaging to their subscribers called “callback”. These requests contain the caller’s cell-phone number and the recipient’s very short personalized message. Up to five free callback requests can be sent per day to any South African cell-phone network. This service is provided for emergencies when as pay-as-you-go customers do not have any airtime left. However, callback is used in rural areas in ways that go far beyond emergencies. As with SMS, the constraints on the callback have been appropriated by people to shape both a new language and cultural interactions. This paper reports the context of our study in communication practices in a remote rural area of South Africa, our methodology which we position within Ethnographic Action Research, and our findings and their implications for the design, development and deployment of social media sharing systems for this area.

Item Type: Conference paper
Subjects: Human-centered computing
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2011
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2019 15:33

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