Giving children voice in the design of technology for education in the developing world

Gelderblom, Helene
October 2014
South African Computer Journal;Oct2014, Vol. 54, p34
Academic Journal
Of the numerous projects that involve ICTs to solve the problems of the developing world, many are unsuccessful. Reasons reported in the literature include lack of attention to how the human and social systems need to adapt to the new technologies, problems with the intent of the initiators, and lack of user involvement. Focusing on the design of ICT for education and acknowledging the range of complex reasons for possible failure, this article focuses on the lack of involvement of end users (specifically children) in the design and development of ICT solutions. Children in the developing world are not given voice when it comes to the design of technology aimed at providing them with better education. Through examination of the concept of "children's voice" as well as through discussion of a practical design case to support underprivileged children in South Africa, this article shows that 1. listening to children requires that adult co-designers have the correct attitude towards their child partners and that they are committed to really hearing them 2. power relations and context play an important role in the contribution children can make, 3. South African children have the ability to provide essential input into the design of technology for education. The exploration of disciplines such as youth development, the cultural politics of education and childhood studies alongside ICT for development, provides an enriched view on the role of participatory design in the latter field.


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