An Analysis of Factors Influencing Success of ICT4D Projects: A Case Study of the Schools Computerisation Programme in Mashonaland West Province, Zimbabwe

Donna Musiyandaka 1, Gideon Ranga 2, Jacqueline Fungai Kiwa 3
  1. Lecturer and Chairperson, ICT and Electronics Department: School of Engineering Sciences and Technology, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. E-mail: dmusiyandaka@cut.ac.zw
  2. Lecturer, ICT and Electronics Department: School of Engineering Sciences and Technology, Chinhoyi University of Technology. E-mail: rangags@gmail.com.
  3. Recent Graduate, ICT and Electronics Department: School of Engineering Sciences and Technology, Chinhoyi University of Technology. E-mail: jacquelinekiwa@gmail.com

1. INTRODUCTION

The digital divide has taken centre stage in research and development over the last several years. This is because of a marked difference between developing and developed nations. Another motivational factor is the differences between urban and rural populace regarding access and use of information resources availed through ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies). This has seen developing countries, through efforts of NGOs and governments, implementing computerisation and ICT-led developmental programs to narrow this divide.

One such effort is the Schools Computerisation Programme in Zimbabwe. This was a first phase project, aimed at equipping schools with computers and related technology, launched in 2009. The second phase project launched in collaboration with the Ministry of ICT in 2011 focuses on developing e-learning programmes for secondary schools. The Presidential Schools Computerisation Programme launched in 2002, has seen computers being handed out to at least 100 secondary schools across the country with the aim of enhancing learning, although Internet access remains limited. The target has mainly been electrified rural secondary schools. On average each school received 10 computers. The number of schools benefiting per province varies, with no specific criteria except that the rural schools already be electrified and that a room exists to house the computer lab. In Mashonaland West Province 44.6% of (75 of 168 mixed rural and urban) schools received a minimum of 10 computers each in addition to other peripheral equipment such as printers.

An unpublished preliminary survey of the schools by the researchers in Mashonaland West in mid 2011 showed that most of the donated computers had still not been used for basic computer classes, and were still boxed and locked up in storerooms. Only a very small percentage of schools (less than 5%) were fully utilising their computers. One way of establishing the reasons for this overall failure is to determine the reasons for low use of the donated computers. The anticipated reasons for low use could range from lack of expertise to lack of interest. Similar projects, such as the follow up e-learning programme, may suffer similar problems. To implement appropriate remedying solutions, it is thus imperative to understand the reasons for adoption and use of computers.

The objectives of the study are as follows: (1) to investigate the reasons for low use of donated computers in rural Mashonaland West government secondary schools, (2) to determine the critical success factors for ICT4D projects similar to the Schools Computerisation Programme and (3) to recommend ways in which such programmes could best be implemented in order to realise their originally intended outcomes.

The discussion is as follows: section 2 presents a review of related work, section 3 the study area, section 4 the methodology, section 5 is a presentation of the findings, section 6 is the discussion of the findings. Section 7 concludes our paper with a recommended model that we believe would ensure success of ICT4D projects in contexts similar to Zimbabwe.

2. RELATED WORK

The introduction of ICTs in rural communities, schools or community centres is often done to fulfil a developmental agenda. ICT for development projects often focus on achieving the following goals; (a) increased literacy and education; (b) increased socio-political awareness; and (c) self-development, all of which are information based objectives that can easily be achieved using ICTs. However communities find it hard to turn the information into usable knowledge for their immediate and long-term benefit due to shortages of finance, supporting services and infrastructure (Heeks, 2002a).

Other ICT4D projects have also focused on using ICTs for poverty reduction, i.e. achieving both social and economic development. Such projects entail providing information to farmers on pricing; harnessing ICTs to improve community health in marginalised areas through communication between healthcare providers or via the Internet; provision of tele-centres; use of local languages to facilitate digital inclusion and full participation of communities; and e-government in the form of electronic procurement, campaign websites, and provision of governance documents. Governments in particular use e-governance to facilitate development. The major challenge for developing countries is insufficient resources to invest in the three significant areas, i.e. in online services, telecommunications infrastructure and education to close the digital gap (United Nations, 2010; IICD, 1998). The presence of ICTs has, according to many researchers, carved out an alternative path to development, although with many unforeseen problems, causing their full potential not to be realised (IICD, 1998; Langmia, 2005).

Developing countries have often overlooked that the successful contribution of ICTs in developed countries has been due to the parallel development of their use and that of other development indicators such as health, infrastructure and education. Instead of first trying to address the most basic development aspects, ICTs are now being introduced to fast-track this development, hence fulfilling a dual objective of reducing the digital divide and achieving developmental goals such as those in the MDG 2015 list. We posit that this dual strategy is largely responsible for the failures (whether partial or total) of such ICT projects since more often than not, the lack of basic infrastructure and basic needs impacts on the motivation on the part of the communities and also affects the long-term sustainability of the project when donors reduce funding (Togola and Marcilly, 2011; Thirumavalavan and Garforth, 2009; Kumar, 2007).

ICT4D projects have failed for various reasons, the most common being lack of access, misunderstanding of the community's contextual needs and the wrong implementation approach (Bingimlas, 2009). We discuss some of these issues in the following sections.

2.1 Failure of ICT4D Projects

Failure has been mainly attributed to limited network infrastructure, design-reality gaps and inadequate information resources.

2.1.1 Limited Network Infrastructure

The limited network infrastructure and level of Internet literacy and accessibility affect the use of such technology. Across developing countries in general, ICT4D projects are launched in areas where the majority are poor (Kiraka and Manning, 2002; Duncombe and Heeks, 2002) with the success of such projects limited to the few who can afford access (Chapman and Slaymaker, 2002). Developing countries such as Zimbabwe are making efforts to increase the network coverage to national levels. However, Zimbabwe has to contend with lack of funding, poor ICT infrastructure, low ICT literacy rate, high human resource turnover, high impact of HIV/AIDS pandemic, limited Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), and limited data management capabilities (i.e. inadequate bandwidth nationally and power problems) (Ruhode, Owei and Maumbe, 2008).

2.1.2 Design-Reality Gaps

ICT4D projects failures have been attributed to design-reality gaps (Thirumavalavan and Garforth, 2009; Heeks 2002a; Heeks, 2002b). Examples include the lack of awareness of the socio-cultural context, lack of motivation and lack of understanding of the role of ICT in solving urgent pertinent, relevant community problems which often causes projects to fail in the initial phases (Togola and Marcilly, 2011; Kumar, 2007). Other reasons for failure include general gender attitudes (Ashraf, Swatman and Hanisch, 2008), exclusion of important project stakeholders (Chapman and Slaymaker, 2002), sustainability problems, and a community's reluctance to adopt, use and/or invest in ICTs (Apendibadek and Koopman, 2011).

2.1.3 Inadequate Information Resources

ICTs facilitate the transmission of information that can be turned into knowledge for the betterment of communities, especially rural communities which are generally the most disadvantaged in terms of economic, political and social development. However, in most cases, communities do not know how to effectively use the information they get. In such instances access to the Internet gives a false sense of measure of having achieved a certain level of development when all other fundamentals (e.g. water access, roads, and infrastructure) are still being addressed. In addition, the costs of the Internet, computers and maintaining telecommunication cannot be afforded by the general populace, hence it would be inappropriate to generalise and claim that ICTs, when introduced, always facilitate development (Langmia, 2005).

ICTs are also seen as bringing new opportunities for economic growth but it is often large conglomerates in developing countries that can harness these opportunities more effectively. Most developing country governments have meagre resources and hence fail to achieve their social and developmental goals. With sufficient resources, governments could engage in ICT for development projects such as the systems for the distribution of medical knowledge, systems for disaster assistance, coordination of environmental protection and supply of carefully designed resources for education (IICD, 1998).

2.1.4 Retrogressive Attitude

Retrogressive attitude is a behaviour that opposes progress and is not inclined towards development (Howard, 2008). The developing world has produced such behaviour as is seen in civil wars and corruption. In ICT4D, this attitude can cause people to have technical phobia and negativism against computers. Some individuals believe computers are agents of Western civilisation and are meant to redirect Africans away from their cultural, ethnical, social and moral beliefs (Noorman, 2012). Hence in implementation of the schools' programme, many individuals may not be in support of the development.

2.2 Success of ICT4D Projects

Success has been mainly attributed to sound ICT policies, information exchange and partnerships.

2.2.1 Sound ICT Policies

Comprehensive ICT policies are essential to ensure success of ICT4D projects (Harindranath and Sein, 2007). We posit that lack of policies that support effective use of ICTs for development, coupled with a haphazardly, piecemeal non-systematic approach in pushing the ICT4D agenda, have contributed to programs that are off-target. They only benefit the populace in well-developed areas. Skeletons of projects dotted all over the rural areas exist more as test cases than fully-fledged implementations. Absence of sound policy means that, projects will be focussed only on areas with infrastructure. IICD (1998) posits that policies that support ICT4D must focus on the development of HR capabilities to use and maintain ICTs and regulation of network operators. They must encourage network inter-operability so that networks progress towards meeting universal service goals. They should also ensure that none of the populace is excluded from ICTs. ICT must be seen as a means to an end and hence be an integral part of the developmental agenda (Heeks, 2002b).

2.2.2 Information Exchange

The unequivocal sharing of free information as a public good and the importance of partnerships in developing locally relevant technology and content and the integration of ICT into the already existing local knowledge and information systems is a positive contribution to the success of ICT4D projects (Chapman and Slaymaker, 2002; Heeks, 2002b).

2.2.3 Partnerships

Partnerships (whether PPP or Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships (MSP)) offer an attractive alternative for governments which often have limited resources. They often grapple with the complexities of ICT4D initiatives in order to avoid failures of projects implemented in the 2000s which were attributed to lack of buy-in, appropriateness and sustainability (Geldof et. al., 2011; Kumar, 2007). The success rate increases for ICT4D projects which use partnerships because five major principles are adopted: attention to local context and involvement of local community; clear and agreed intended development outcomes; building sustainability and scalability into the project; upholding principles of trust, honesty, openness, mutual understanding and respect; and a supportive ICT environment i.e. policy and infrastructure (Geldof et. al. (2011). Issues of sustainable access and addressing other critical developmental needs must be addressed by any ICT4D project in order for it to be successful (Heeks, 2002b)

It is important to note that whilst rural communities in developing countries may have similar challenges, the irrelative importance on certain developmental issues differs. Therefore, no single model with one line of progression from conception to final rollout of a project fits all. With these different socio-economic contexts, it is imperative to design a flexible multi-directional model that can be used to guide successful implementation of ICT4D projects.

2.2.4 Progressive Attitude

Progressive behaviour is that which favours learning and development. Individuals with this characteristic tend to appreciate innovation and can adapt to new methods of doing things. An example is the community from Dwesa which embraced the fact that they could sell art and craft via the internet, using e-commerce (Gumbo et al, 2012). Progressive people also tend to use computers and embrace new technologies.

2.3 A Successful ICT4D Project

There are several projects which have succeeded in rural areas. An example is the Siyakula Lab, implemented in Dwesa, Earsten Cape, South Africa. This was an initiative by the University of Fort Hare and Rhodes University, Grintek Saab (for Wimax and networking equipment), Telkom Centres of excellence (for broadband, computer equipments), and Reed House Systems (for software) (Dugmore, 2012). This rural community which sells art and craft had an e-commerce site developed where they could market and sell their products.

The Siyakhula Living Lab was successful due to partnerships with academia, industry, networking companies, telecommunications companies and software development houses. The project was heavily funded and had participation from community and a school. It aimed at selling art and craft via the internet, which was a developmental strategy. The schools computerisation programme was different because the government of Zimbabwe is the only active participant. There was no involvement from the industry players or the private sector. Unlike the Living Lab which was deployed at one school, the programme deployed computers to several schools. However, perhaps the strategy utilised by Siyakhula at a micro level can help policy makers in decision making, when embarking on nationwide programmes.

3. THE STUDY AREA

Mashonaland West Province is to the north-western part of Zimbabwe containing 7 districts, namely Kariba, Hurungwe, Makonde, Zvimba, Sanyati, Chegutu and Mhondoro-Ngezi. The capital of the province Chinhoyi, in Makonde district, houses the Chinhoyi University of Technology. Mashonaland West Province is characterised by commercial farming and mining. Hurungwe, Makonde, Zvimba and Chegutu, are mainly farming areas and they have high rainfall (receiving 15% of Zimbabwe's total annual rainfall, which is approximately 700-1050mm per year confined to the summer). These areas have denser road networks, more urban areas and towns, the highest percentage of electrification, and higher populations compared to the other districts in the province. Kariba specialises in tourism and wildlife conservation. Sanyati and Mhondoro-Ngezi are predominantly mining areas.

The study primarily focused on rural government secondary schools from the following districts: Mhondoro-Ngezi, Kariba and Makonde. The schools visited had received donated computers. These areas were chosen because they are the least developed, receive the lowest rainfalls, have relatively poor road networks and have very low populations. The other districts were not selected because the majority of schools in these areas are in a good serviced road network and closer to Chinhoyi. Sanyati which offers similar dynamics to Mhondoro-Ngezi was not chosen because of the distance and unavailability of adequate funding.

A tour of the study districts revealed rural communities with low population densities, poor road networks, sparsely located amenities, geographical or topological features that militate against the establishment of a telecommunication network at an affordable cost, poor access to information and limited infrastructural development. Some of the schools visited, especially in Mhondoro-Ngezi, were difficult to reach because of gullies and broken bridges. Some areas had absent or broken telephone lines, showing low telecommunications services. In these regions, mobile services work as an alternative. Newspapers are the major form of information dissemination. Subsistence farming is undertaken at the expense of commercial farming. This is because of the unavailability of information regarding agricultural best practises.

Random interviews with residents confirmed a lack of current information on government policies, health and other information, useful for individual development. There is also limited economic activity centred primarily on agriculture, fishing and cottage industries. This implies low per capita incomes. The sparse population means that most community residents need to travel long distances to access public, health and education services. There is also a shortage of qualified technical staff within schools and community centres, resulting in some public services no longer being offered.

4. METHODOLOGY

The profile of the study districts as related to donated computers under the Schools Computerisation Programme is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Statistics of computers donated to Kariba, Makonde and Mhondoro-Ngezi districts
table 1

The researchers adopted an exploratory study design in order to establish the factors influencing low usage of computers in rural schools. The extent of the contribution of each factor was not the focus of this study. However, the results of this study will be used to develop valid quantifiable instruments for a nationwide study.

It is expected that those schools closest to the provincial capital, would benefit most from urban proximity or access to services provided by institutions in Chinhoyi, which houses a University of Technology. Because of its dynamics, Makonde offered reasons different from the mainly rural districts of Kariba and Mhondoro-Ngezi, on the non-usage of computers by its rural schools. A generally purposive sampling was therefore used in selecting districts and schools for the study. Amongst the rural schools, 3 in Makonde, 2 in Kariba and 3 in Mhondoro-Ngezi, which represents 60% of our sample frame, were used.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with heads of schools, teachers, schoolchildren and community residents. The headmasters are the custodian of the donated computers. At each school, 3 teachers available at the time of data collection were randomly interviewed. There was no deliberate attempt to balance the male/female respondents because their representation at school level was already skewed with more male teachers. 10 schoolchildren per school were also randomly picked from the grade 3 to grade 7 groups. Members of the community were haphazardly drawn from those who live close to the schools as they are most likely to be aware of any developments.

The interviews were administered using semi-structured questionnaires which focussed on the following issues: access, expertise and knowledge of information technology (IT), understanding of the benefits of IT to school/community/development, perceptions of schools as centres of development in rural environments, attitudes and perceptions towards technology and attitudes towards learning/training in IT.

The questionnaires were translated into the local language Shona with responses translated back into English. Whilst English is used as the language of communication in teaching and regarded as the official language of communication in Zimbabwe, the relative competencies in English are generally quite low. Also the use of Shona gives contextual phrases that yield more information and provides better insights than English.

5. FINDINGS FROM INTERVIEWS

Findings from the case studies were examined in relation to the literature (section 2: related work). This includes availability of the internet, motivation, progressive versus retrogressive attitudes, network infrastructure, information exchange, partnerships and ICT policies. The categories were divided into the following, state of schools, headmasters and teachers, schoolchildren, and community members.

The close-to-urban dynamics of Makonde may offer reasons different from the mainly rural districts of Kariba and Mhondoro-Ngezi for the non-usage of computers by its rural schools. Hence the presentation of our findings will combine the findings of Kariba and Mhondoro-Ngezi.

5.1 Findings from Kariba and Mhondoro-Ngezi

The following section presents findings from Kariba and Mhondoro-Ngezi districts.

5.1.1 State of the Schools

In all the schools interviewed there was no Internet access. Computers were still boxed and not being used. There was no building with proper security and burglar bars that could house these computers. There were no computer desks and laboratory furniture in any of the potential buildings.

5.1.2 Headmasters and School Teachers

Teachers had no access to computers for their day-to-day activities. Headmasters and teachers had adopted a progressive attitude by engaging some of themselves and some schoolchildren in IT training. They see the Internet as an important resource and computers as a great development in the school. However despite their progressive attitude, a large number of the teachers are still computer illiterate. Teachers do not educate schoolchildren about the Internet possibly because of ignorance and fear of the unknown.

5.1.3 Schoolchildren

The schoolchildren's views were divided between the motivated and the unmotivated. The motivated expressed an interest in knowing more about computers even though they did not adequately understand the English language used by application programs and operating systems. The majority of these knew about the existence of the donated computers. They also expressed that they enjoyed playing computer games. The non-motivated schoolchildren expressed a lack of interest in computers. The majority of these had never had any exposure to computers. They also did not appreciate the importance of having computers. Enthusiasm was mainly in playing games on mobile phones. Failure to clearly understand English was a significant barrier towards the use of computers.

5.1.4 Community Members

Regardless of the fact that they are aware of lagging behind, community residents do not see how the Internet can enhance development and boost economic activities. The Internet was perceived as a cause of immorality and social decay amongst young people. The community however stressed the need for solutions to the following problems: increase in illness, households without children, living in deprived areas, disabled people with no access to public services, and limited social life/activities.

5.2 Findings from Makonde district

The following section presents findings from Makonde district. The findings from this district reflect two different perceptions of the teachers and heads of schools: progressive and retrogressive.

5.2.1 State of the Schools

Although the Internet was absent from the schools, it was still considered as a very important instrument by teachers, children and the heads of the schools. Despite computers being present in the school, they are reserved for teaching IT and the head of the school's office, but were not used by the teachers in their day-to-day administration activities.

5.2.2 Headmasters and School Teachers

The progressive headmasters indicated desire to increase their computer literacy. They also encouraged both teachers and students to become computer literate by enrolling them in training classes. Access to the computers in these schools was provided to both the students and teachers alike. Paperwork is still a large part of the teacher's activities. A large number of the teachers are computer literate while a few are now able to teach Computer Studies.

Under the retrogressive category, teachers reflected ignorance and a lack of inquisitiveness of computer technology at their schools. Only a few teachers knew about the presence of the donated computers. Similarly to the progressive category, teachers did not have access, for their day-to-day administration duties. The headmasters however had access to computers in their office but did not appreciate the importance of having the Internet.

5.2.3 Schoolchildren

Schoolchildren are very much aware of the donated computer and have the opportunity to use them on several occasions. They are motivated to learn more about computers and the Internet. They also enjoy playing computer games.

However, under the retrogressive category, the majority of schoolchildren indicated ignorance about the existence of computers in their schools. They however, expressed great interest in expanding their limited knowledge of the technology. The children were keen on using the researchers' mobile phones to play games and record audio sounds.

5.2.4 Community Members

The community residents are mostly poor and hence cannot even afford a mobile phone receiver, let alone a computer. However, they viewed the introduction of computers to the community as a great developmental stride.

Under the retrogressive category, community residents were not aware of the presence of the donated computers. They also had never had any exposure to the Internet. However, they were enthusiastic about learning. They had rough ideas on how the technology could be used to achieve community development. After a brief lecture on the Internet, the people saw the potential benefits. Residents suggested that beer halls could be turned into tele-centres because of their centrality and availability to men. The women proposed a venue where they would meet to discuss ways of grooming themselves using the Internet resources.

A few individuals in the communities felt that computers were reserved for the United Kingdom (UK) and the rest of the developed world. Others felt the existence of computers was contrary to their ethical, religious, cultural and traditional belief systems. To them "Internet" was a bizarre word.

5.3 Summary of findings from all areas investigated

Very prevalent amongst all schools is the high volume of paperwork as opposed to digital work. Consolidated school findings indicated the following reasons for the low usage of computers:

  • Very low computer literacy rate (of concern, notably amongst teachers)
  • Limited access by teachers, and schoolchildren
  • Internet/cultural conflicts
  • Absence of spill-over effects of ICTs to the surrounding communities
  • High levels of technophobia

6. DISCUSSION

It is expected that if teachers cannot use computers for simple administration, they will not be able to facilitate computers for learning either. The continued use of paperwork and yet the progressive training of students is rather contradictory; meaning, teachers train students to use computers, yet do not use them for their administrative tasks. This suggests a very limited understanding of the benefits of having computers.

Our findings suggest that there are progressive users who encourage the use of computers amongst their students. Despite being poor, they value the importance of technology. They also appreciate discussion forums and engaging in productive activities. This well-motivated community could be viewed as a positive factor in the implementation of ICT4D programmes (Togola & Marcilly, 2011; IICD, 1998; Kumar, 2007). However the perception that computers and the Internet are reserved for the "U.K" and contrary to local belief systems echoes the results of Chapman and Slaymaker (2002) and Kiraka and Manning (2002). The communities need to be sensitized on the universal application of computers. Belief systems often create technology-culture conflicts that usually complicate ICT use in developing countries (Kiraka and Manning, 2002).

Although the general attitude in schools is progressive, computer literacy among teachers is still relatively low. This scenario is suggestive of a serious problem of techno-phobia that is being passed over to the schoolchildren. This requires swift action by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture on the compulsory training of teachers in basic IT. Another way to eliminate the phobia is to make computer training compulsory for schoolchildren. Technophobia could have been caused by lack of motivation and exposure (IICD, 1998; Togola and Marcilly, 2011), socio-cultural perception (Ashraf, Swatman and Hanisch, 2008) or simply poor policy implementation.

The fact that there are computers in schools but headmasters are not encouraging use, suggests poor policy implementation. There is still a high technological illiteracy rate and unawareness amongst community members. Meagre information dissemination strategies could have also led to low buy-in and adoption by stakeholders. A related reason for project failure is that of the discordant piecemeal non-systematic policy implementation strategies. A hypothetical example is that of the Ministry of ICT that may soon be embarking on a rural school e-learning programme. Some of the schools may be remote and inaccessible and hence would require the Ministry of Transport to develop road and telecoms infrastructure. However, rural road development may not be on the agenda of the Ministry of Transport in the short run. As such, the Ministry of ICT's project may have already failed before it has begun. Developmental projects require cooperation at national and ministry levels if they are to succeed. These partnerships create the coordinated use of resources and greater outputs are achieved (Geldof, 2011). The Schools computerisation programmes may not rely heavily on financial sustainability, but communities need to continue deriving information and developmental benefits from them.

Addressing social-ills and infrastructural challenges still feature as an important aspect of the developmental agenda as expressed by community residents from Kariba and Mhondoro-Ngezi. Hence these factors must not be ignored in the ICT4D agenda so as to close the design-reality gaps. New strategies to close the gap should best focus on using a process approach to implement ICT4D projects so that changes observed during the project growth are gradual, easier managed and controlled (Heeks, 2009).

Issues of affordability clearly affect access and motivation. Whilst there is an increase in individual and household ownership in urban areas, the issue of low affordability in rural Mashonaland West means community access will still remain as the best option. This echoes the sentiments of Heeks (2009). Schoolchildren who do not have access to computers within the home are generally less motivated to use computer technology. Motivation can be increased by ensuring equitable access to computer technology through community computer centres. Since universal access to ICTs in urban areas has still not been achieved, it remains an even greater challenge for rural communities where most of the technology is non-existent, inaccessible and uncommon due to financial constraints. Other developmental objectives such as water, health and infrastructure are given higher priority. Regardless that it is unrealistic at this point to achieve universal access, community computer centres would go a long way in affording public access.

There are two significant differences offered by the close-to-urban dynamics of Makonde district. There is a general acceptance of the Internet and the community is able to envision its positive potential on development. In addition, whilst the English language is a barrier in remote areas of the provinces such as Kariba and Mhondoro-Ngezi, it is not so much of a problem in Makonde. This can be attributed to reasons of proximity to urban environments, information and new technologies. Patridge and Rickman (2007) show that rural communities receive fewer benefits from urban areas if they are more distant from urban areas. The increase in distance makes information resources and transport costs more expensive and therefore less affordable for those furthest from urban areas. The implications of onsite observations cannot be ignored since these observations also offer valuable insights to the multi-faceted nature of the problem and also serve to confirm some of the views cited by the interviewees.

The shortage of public, health and education services makes health and education services critical issues that the community residents may want addressed before "superficial" issues such as computerisation. This is confirmed by results from interviewing community residents. Inadequate road access and infrastructure, and a shortage of skilled technical staff mean that efforts must be made to ensure that once computing infrastructure is installed, local technical staff must be trained to service their areas. This has implications on sustainability issues: an entire computer laboratory may end up shutting down because of small servicing problems, left unattended due to absence of skilled individuals.

The limited economic activity and low per capita incomes affects the affordability to buy computing equipment. The community thus could benefit from central tele-centres with shared resources. The low population noted in the district, implies a sparse distribution that makes it difficult to plan, locate and provide centralised services within the districts. Invariably, most residents may have to walk long distances for such services. This factor must be taken into consideration in the location of tele-centres. Clear efforts must be made to provide enough motivation to residents who have to walk long distances for a service.

The issue of inadequate road facilities to schools, such as lack of bridges, makes it difficult to provide services to the schools and rural areas. This factor makes it even imperative for policy makers and implementers to realise that pushing ICTs into areas which are not physically reachable undermine projects from the very beginning. This results in little or no adoption. It is thus essential for ICT promotion to ensure prior development of road access.

When the geography or topology of an area imposes additional costs on the development and installation of infrastructure (whether telecommunications or roads), it becomes even more difficult and inhibiting for governments which are already financially burdened to undertake such projects. Lack of current information leaves a community even adopting farming and mining practices that are highly inefficient and ineffective. Newspapers are limited sources since they do not focus on issues that benefit the rural populace. There is need for other mediums of information such as the Internet that, when used wisely, provide information for development.

It is clear that singly implemented computerisation programmes will not achieve maximum gains if the community environment does not have adequate infrastructure, roads and telephone services. It is also clear that computerisation programmes can achieve the information objective for rural communities. Individual development is also restricted when more pressing health and livelihood problems stifle motivation of individual to adopt and use computers for development.

The following observations concerning the limited use of computers for a developmental agenda emerged:

  • ICTs will not transform "bad" into "good" development, but can enhance the "good" development.
  • Effective applications of ICTs are comprised of both technological and information infrastructures.
  • The application of ICTs in the absence of a development strategy that makes effective use of them will inevitably result in sub-optimal gains.

Results achieved thus imply a mismatch between policy, infrastructure and community needs. The study highlighted that central to the success of ICT4D projects are the following issues: (1) ICT literacy (education and skills), (2) community involvement, (3) community contextual awareness, (4) equitable/ public access to ICTs, and (5) adequate infrastructural development, all of which can be addressed through a coordinated policy implementation approach.

7. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

For more targeted programs that understand the socio-cultural context of beneficiary communities, it is imperative that programs move towards targeted local development activity. There is also a need to establish synergies between the project and the beneficiaries by empowering members of the local community. Finally, it is important to integrate projects with the provision of information on socio-health problems bedevilling that particular community.

In light of the above, a coordinated multi-dimensional participatory approach to ICT4D projects, that ensures buy-in, development of adequate infrastructure and provision of community-relevant solutions is recommended. A model of implementation from results that require a match between policy, infrastructure and community needs is drawn. A Critical Success Factors model (see Figure 1) for ICT4D projects with contexts similar to that of Mashonaland West Province is therefore presented.

Figure 1: Critical Success Factors Model
figure1

The Critical Success Factors Model (CSFM), developed by the authors, starts with governmental policies that deal with developmental strategies. The CSFM has two groups of actors: the community and the policy makers/implementers. The policy makers/implementers may be the initiators and/or the co-implementers of ICT4D projects. These may include non-governmental organisations if any, and government departments concerned with physical infrastructure. These should inform the transport, telecommunication and electricity policies in order that there be proper road or rail networks, adequate telecommunications and electricity in various areas. Once policy has been stipulated, there should be the development, implementation and maintenance of physical and information infrastructure. Individuals in rural community should have adequate infrastructure. It is important for this to be available before the Internet can be deployed.

The government policies that favour development strategies should also inform ICT policies. From these, ICT4D programmes and projects are outlined. These will be addressed by government organisations concerned with ICTs, education and rural development, and other private organisations supplying ICT equipment and services. On implementation of projects, the community should participate in outlining various needs. These will then inform the development of solutions. Training and awareness should take place. The design-reality gap should continually be lessened and should inform the implementation process. Finally, the appropriate ICT4D products and accessories will help concerning social inclusion and lessening the digital divide.

It is highly imperative that the policy makers/implementers engage the community on a participatory basis so as to elicit the needs of the community through training the community on how to use ICTs. Training workshops can be used to achieve three major objectives: (1) improve ICT literacy, (2) ensure acceptance of the program, and (3) solicit community needs. The first objective is fundamental to ensuring that users understand the use of ICTs as information catalysts. The second objective serves to justify a campaign for the increased use of ICTs in achieving rural development objectives. The third objective ensures that any ICT products and services that are introduced are relevant to the community's activities. The training workshops enable the communities to clearly contextualise what they could use ICTs for. They also allow local communities to "generate their own demand" (Chapman and Slaymaker, 2002). The responses of the parents (i.e. community residents), point to the need for further community meetings where the role of ICT in their lives is explained. Parents also need to know what their children are involved in so that they can give permission to their children to attend computer classes during the day. They need to develop an appreciation of the skills that may be required of their children when they move to the commercial environment or even to get innovative ideas from the community itself of how ICTs can assist them. Community derived solutions often get a full buy-in, commitment and have built-in sustainability.

Setting up computer infrastructure with inadequate telecommunications and road services affects the maximal use of computers for information access and limits accessibility. It is thus imperative that once the concrete needs are established and pre-tested on the local community, the various policy maker/implementers, including private ICT organisations, collaborate in ensuring complete supply of physical and information infrastructure that also has the potential to service additional programs in the future. The issue of access is critical to the success of ICT-led programs hence developed infrastructure must be situated such that it is reasonably accessible to any community resident. Schools and community centres are often the preferred points for situating ICT equipment. ICT organisations are then in a position to develop ICT products and services that the community understands - products that are suited to the infrastructure setup.

The critical factors of ICT literacy (education and skills), community involvement and community contextual awareness are obtained through the participatory approach, whilst those of equitable/ public access to ICTs and adequate infrastructural development are obtained through the collaborative approach. CSFM is relevant mostly to policy makers/implementers as these are well informed of the potential of ICTs in enhancing rural development. It is necessary to change the way ICT4D projects are implemented - starting from a well-informed viewpoint to the development of appropriate usable products.

Our model, although akin to the Good Practice for ICT4D 2.0 Implementation in Heeks (2009) with respect to the importance of partnerships, the participation of local users, a match with users and technology and the issue of local ownership, recognises the policy tensions between various government departments with overlapping interests and domains and clearly articulates the need for these crucial departments to work together. The model also points out the critical success factors for projects peculiar within a Zimbabwean context. While the model is complete in its own right, it can be further elaborated through the development of a participatory framework for ICT4D projects.

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The Journal of Community Informatics. ISSN: 1712-4441