Researching QoL change from ICT training, access and use at South African telecentres : empowerment through participatory research.
Attwood, Heidi Elaine.
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A participatory action research project, Community-based Learning, ICTs and QoL (CLIQ) conducted in four areas within KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) between 2008 and 2011, investigated whether information and communication technology (ICT) training, access and use could improve the QoL (QoL) of poorer people. Two thirds of the 113 CLIQ participants did improve their QoL, and furthermore, over three quarters of participants noted an empowering impact from their participation in CLIQ, in addition to other social and educational impacts. Initial analyses of findings found a greater likelihood of improved QoL and CLIQ impact in research areas with better project implementation and participation (Attwood et al., 2011). Initial analysis also identified factors contributing to different levels of participation and implementation (Attwood et al., 2010). With reference to literature on QoL, agency and empowerment; Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D); and participatory methodologies, a detailed analysis of the implementation of CLIQ identifies elements of the research process, methods and ethos that contributed towards participants’ empowerment. The post-field application of Kleine’s (2010b) Choice Framework (CF) to CLIQ findings, confirms the usefulness of this empowerment framework for analysing ICT4D interventions. Analysis of the variety of individual CLIQ stories reveals examples of how all of the CF’s agency resources and structural factors impacted on, or were impacted by participants’ engagement with the intervention. Specifically, this thesis illustrates how interactions between aspects of agency, structure and individual characteristics result in different degrees of empowerment and development outcomes, thereby integrating and augmenting the initial analysis of CLIQ findings. As a complex logic model, the CF accommodates the diversity and complexity of participants’ engagement with CLIQ and efforts to improve their QoL, through providing a framework which allows for multiple, recursive and emergent causality. This thesis concludes by suggesting minor adjustments that could improve the CF, including an elevation of the importance of psychological resources. Based on the empowering outcomes attributed to CLIQ’s participatory action research process, and recognising that problems facing telecentres in South Africa are the same as they were ten years ago, the thesis concludes with recommendations for public access computing in South Africa.