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2013 Publications

MEKE's 2013 Publications





Funmi Adebesin, Rosemary Foster, Paula Kotzé and Darelle van Greunen. 2013. A Review of Interoperability Standards in E-health and Imperatives for their Adoption in Africa. South African Computer Journal, Vol. 50, p. 55 - 72, July 2013.

The ability of healthcare information systems to share and exchange information (interoperate) is essential to facilitate the quality and effectiveness of healthcare services. Although standardization is considered key to addressing the fragmentation currently challenging the healthcare environment, e-health standardization can be difficult for many reasons, one of which is making sense of the e-health interoperability standards landscape. Specifically aimed at the African health informatics community, this paper aims to provide an overview of e-health interoperability and the significance of standardization in its achievement. We conducted a literature study of e-health standards, their development, and the degree of participation by African countries in the process. We also provide a review of a selection of prominent e-health interoperability standards that have been widely adopted especially by developed countries, look at some of the factors that affect their adoption in Africa, and provide an overview of ongoing global initiatives to address the identified barriers. Although the paper is specifically aimed at the African community, its findings would be equally applicable to many other developing countries.   

Another version of the paper is available here 



Heike Winschiers-Theophilus and Nicola J. Bidwell. 2013. Toward an Afro-Centric Indigenous HCI Paradigm. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, Volume 29, Issue 4, 2013 Special Issue: Reframing HCI Through Local and Indigenous Perspectives, 243-255.  DOI: 10.1080/10447318.2013.765763 -


Current human–computer interaction (HCI) paradigms are deeply rooted in a Western epistemology that attests its partiality and bias of its embedded assumptions, values, definitions, techniques, and derived frameworks and models. Thus tensions created between local cultures and HCI principles require researchers to pursue a more critical research agenda within an indigenous epistemology. In this article an Afro-centric paradigm is presented, as promoted by African scholars, as an alternative perspective to guide interaction design in a situated context in Africa and promote the reframing of HCI. A practical realization of this paradigm shift within our own community-driven design in Southern Africa is illustrated.



Bidwell, N. J., Siya, M., Marsden, G., Tucker, W. D., Tshemese, M., Gaven, N., Ntlangano, S., Robinson, S., and Eglinton, K. A. 2013. Walking and the social life of solar charging in rural Africa. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, Vol 20, No. 4, (September 2013), 33 pages. DOI:

We consider practices that sustain social and physical environments beyond those dominating sustainable HCI discourse. We describe links between walking, sociality, and using resources in a case study of community-based, solar, cellphone charging in villages in South Africa's Eastern Cape. Like 360 million rural Africans, inhabitants of these villages are poor and, like 25% and 92% of the world, respectively, do not have domestic electricity or own motor vehicles. We describe nine practices in using the charging stations we deployed. We recorded 700 people using the stations, over a year, some regularly. We suggest that the way we frame practices limits insights about them, and consider various routines in using and sharing local resources to discover relations that might also feature in charging. Specifically, walking interconnects routines in using, storing, sharing and sustaining resources, and contributes to knowing, feeling, wanting and avoiding as well as to different aspects of sociality, social order and perspectives on sustainability. Along the way, bodies acquire literacies that make certain relationalities legible. Our study shows we cannot assert what sustainable practice means a priori and, further, that detaching practices from bodies and their paths limits solutions, at least in rural Africa. Thus, we advocate a more “alongly” integrated approach to data about practices.


Conference Papers




Funmi Adebesin, Paula Kotzé, Darelle van Greunen, Rosemary Foster. 2013. Barriers and Challenges to the Adoption of E-Health Standards in Africa. In: Empowering patients and healthcare professionals with information and technologies – Proceedings of Health Informatics South Africa 2013 (HISA 2013) Conference. ISBN: 978-1-920508-30-2 (No page numbers -electronic proceedings).

Short URL:

Although standardization is seen as the key to ensuring interoperability of healthcare information systems, the large numbers of standards available can make the selection decision difficult especially for a developing nation. This paper reports on a study of ehealth standards development and the level of African countries’ participation in the development process. We explored the factors that restrict the adoption of e-health standards by African countries and provide ways of overcoming the barriers.  We conducted literature study of e-health standards, their development, and the degree of participation by African countries in the process. The study revealed that African countries’ active participation in e-health standards development is limited to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), with no evidence of active involvement in other international standards development initiatives. Several factors were found to contribute to limited participation in the development and adoption of e-health standards by African Countries.

This paper received the Sedick Isaacs Best Paper Award at HISA 2013.



Carlos Rey-Moreno, Zukile Roro, William D. Tucker, Masbulele Jay Siya, Nicola J. Bidwell, Javier Simo-Reigadas . 2013. Experiences, challenges and lessons from rolling out a rural WiFi mesh network, In: Proceedings of ACM DEV '13 Annual Symposium on Computing for Development, ACM: New York, ISBN:  978-1-4503-1856-3, Article 11.


The computing for development community knows that technology interventions involve consideration of social, technical and environmental factors. Research into WiFi solutions has fallen off as ubiquitous mobile solutions penetrate even the deepest rural communities worldwide. This paper argues that the latest wave of WiFi mesh networks offers benefits that traditional top-down WiFi and mobile networks do not. In addition, we propose ethnographic and participatory methods to aid the effective rollout of mesh inverse infrastructure with and for a given community. This paper describes and then analyzes a mesh for voice rollout within a situated context. We explain how to conduct informed community co-design and how to factor in local socio-political concerns that can impact on the design, rollout and subsequent maintenance of community-based wireless mesh networks. While we have not yet analyzed baseline and initial usage data, we do have new lessons to offer.


Nicola J Bidwell, Thomas Reitmaier, Carlos Rey-Moreno, Zukile Roro, Masbulele Jay Siya, Bongiwe Dlutu. 2013.  Timely relations in rural Africa. In: Conference Proceedings of the IFIP 9.4 12th International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries. 


Time is a key aspect of cross-cultural ICT4D research and practice, but rarely the focus of discussion. In this paper we, a group of researchers with diverse backgrounds and residences, aim to open up a dialogue about how different conceptualizations of time affect cross-cultural ICT4D research. We do this by reflecting on our long-term participatory research, design and deployment with inhabitants of Mankosi, in South Africa’s rural Eastern Cape. We start by considering different concepts of time from a critical anthropological perspective and propose that ICTs embed and propagate ‘modern’ values in relation to time. We then claim, by using concrete examples from engaging with Mankosi’s inhabitants in ICT4D projects that time contributes to dilemmas and paradoxes. This leads us to advocate a deeper sensitivity to the values associated with, and practices that implicate, time in method(ology) and resulting artifacts can significantly enhance studies in ICT4D.



Nicola J. Bidwell and Masbulele Jay Siya. 2013. Situating Asynchronous Voice in Rural Africa. In: Human-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2013 14th IFIP TC 13 International Conference Cape Town, South Africa, September 2-6, 2013 Proceedings, Part III, edited by Paula Kotzé, Gary Marsden, Gitte Lindgaard, Janet Wesson,  Marco Winckler, LNCS 8119, pp. 36–53, Springer, ISBN 978-3-642-40476-4.

Designing for oral users in economically poor places has intensified efforts to develop platforms for asynchronous voice. Often these aim to assist users in rural areas where literacy is lowest, but there are few empirical studies and design tends to be oriented by theory that contrasts the mental functions of oral and literate users, rather than by local practices in social situations. We describe designing an Audio Repository (AR) based on practices, priorities and phone-use in rural Africa. The AR enables users to record, store and share voice files on a shared tablet and via their own cell-phones. We deployed the AR for 10 months in rural Africa and illiterate elders, who have few ways to use free or low-cost phone services, used it to record meetings. Use of, and interactions with, the AR informed the design of a new prototype. They also sensitized us to qualities of collective sense-making that can inspire new interactions but that guidelines for oral users overlook; such as the fusion of meaning and sound and the tuning of speech and bodily movement. Thus, we claim that situating design in local ways of saying enriches the potential for asynchronous voice.


This paper received the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Technical Committee 13 (TC 13)     Interaction Design for International Development (IDID) Award.

The citation for the Award reads:

This paper forms part of a long-term research programme that is exemplary for interaction design and international development. The authors pay close attention to the detailed practices of interaction between people, and to interactions between people and technologies. The work is taking place in rural South African, in a primarily oral culture. The authors’ observations throw into sharp relief unconscious design assumptions that are common to interaction designers because of our shared cultural background, and they illustrate some novel design responses. These ideas can contribute to new interaction designs that are more usable, useful and accessible for people whose cultural background is primarily oral, and whose experience of digital technologies is very limited.

The close, long-term relationships between professional researchers and community participants in this programme, the deep respect shown for the established communication practices in this context, and the determination to design a technology that reflects this reality make the work exemplary as a truly user-centred approach to designing for development.




T.1 PhD Thesis

 Indira Padyachee. 2013. A Model Representing the Factors that Influence Virtual Learning System Usage in Higher Education. PhD Thesis, University of South Africa.

Supervisor: Alta van der Merwe

Co-supervisor: Paula Kotzé


In higher education institutions, virtual learning systems (VLSs) have been adopted, and are becoming increasingly popular among educators. However, despite this ubiquity of VLS use, there has not been widespread change in pedagogic practice to take advantage of the functionality afforded by VLSs. Knowledge of the actual usage of e-learning systems is limited in terms of what specific feature sets are deemed useful, and how this influences system usage. VLSs have a suite of tools with associated functions/features and properties, as well as non-functional system characteristics. In addition, these systems incorporate pedagogic features to cater for online teaching. Educators in higher education, who are the chief agents of e-learning, are confounded by system-related, pedagogic, organisational, user difference and demographic factors that influence VLS usage. Virtual learning system usage involves system feature usage extent and frequency, total system usage and usage clusters. The aim of this study is to develop a model representing the factors that influence usage of VLSs in higher education. The links between system usage and system-related factors, pedagogic factors, organisational factors, user-difference and demographic factors is researched. This research incorporated a literature study, a pilot study, interviews and surveys. A case study research strategy was combined with a mixed methods research design. The results of the qualitative analysis was triangulated with the findings of the quantitative analysis and compared to the findings of the literature study. The study was conducted at two residential higher education institutions (HEI), namely, University of KwaZulu-Natal and Durban University of Technology. The main contribution of this study is the Virtual Learning System Usage Model (VLSUM) representing the factors that influence VLS usage in residential higher education institutions. The proposed VLSUM is based on the empirical results of this study. VLSUM can be used by managers of educational technology departments and instructional designers to implement interventions to optimize usage. The constructs of VLSUM confirmed existing theories, replicated and synthesised theories from different fields, and extended existing models to produce a new model for understanding the factors that influence VLS usage in higher education.

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