Developing locally relevant applications for rural South Africa : a telemedicine example

Chetty, Marshini (2005)

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 172-182).


Within developing countries, there is a digital divide between rural and urban areas. In order to overcome this division, we need to provide locally relevant Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services to these areas. Traditional software development methodologies are not suitable for developing software for rural and underserviced areas because they cannot take into account the unique requirements and complexities of such areas. We set out to find the most appropriate way to engineer suitable software applications for rural communities. We developed a methodological framework for creating software applications for a rural community. We critically examined the restrictions that current South African telecommunications legislation places on software development for underserviced areas. Our socially aware computing framework for creating software applications uses principles from Action Research and Participatory Design as well as best practice guidelines; it helps us address all issues affecting the project success. The validity of our framework was demonstrated by using it to create Multi-modal Telemedicine Intercommunicator (MuTI). MuTI is a prototype system for remote health consultation for a rural community. It allowed for synchronous and asynchronous communications between a clinic in one village and a hospital in the neighbouring village, nearly 20 kilometers away, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. It used Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) combined with a store and forward approach for communication. MuTI was tested over a Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) network for several months.