IDIA2011 Conference

Conference program

A qualitative study on software application usage and user behaviour at South African Digital Doorway sites

Kim Gush1
Ruth de Villiers2

1. Meraka Institute, South Africa
2. University of South Africa


Digital Doorways are rugged multi-terminal computer systems for promoting self-directed, unassisted or peer-assisted leaning in low-income communities where computer infrastructure is limited. Users develop the necessary skills through exploration and discovery, with limited or no intervention from a facilitator. Application usage data is of interest to content providers, developers, funders, community members and other stakeholders and, while quantitative analysis of usage has certain strengths, a mixed-methods research approach provides a more comprehensive picture. Qualitative studies hold utility in complementing quantitative research, by providing data on the site environment, user interactions and perceptions, and stated requirements. This paper presents the qualitative side of a recent mixed-methods study.

This aspect of the study involved site visits to four Digital Doorway installations. Questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and naturalistic observations were undertaken, with the goal of better understanding user activity and software application usage, particularly with respect to age and gender of users, site location, and environmental factors. The qualitative study had both a confirmatory and complementary effect on the quantitative study, affirming certain aspects and highlighting others not identified by log-file analysis alone. User activity and application usage were influenced both by user demographics and by environmental aspects, with site administrators playing a more meaningful role at certain sites than at others.

The paper highlights key findings from the site visits, notes particular areas of concern, and makes recommendations for future ICT for Development projects of a similar nature.