Computing & Society (C&S)/Computing and Societal Impact (CASI)¶
is an inter-disciplinary space, combining Computer Science with all sorts of different disciplines in very interesting ways. For us geeks, it's all about exploring an ecosystem comprising overlapping iterative cycles of community-based co-elicitation of requirements, co-design & planning, co-implementation & production, co-testing, analysis and monitoring & evaluation and finally co-reflection on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools in local languages and local cultural ways, with and by local communities to help evolve strategies to amplify positive deviance via, again, inter-disciplinary and inter-methodological dialectical constructivism and consilience (all terms worth exploring).
For us, this space can be considered as a 'stack' comprising (from the bottom): underlying power provision; resilient, affordable and accessible computer networks; all sorts of devices that connect to those networks like phones, tablets, laptops . . . that are in reality just thin/dumb clients to cloud-based services/storage; the apps that run on those devices; with multiple modalities like text, voice, pics, and video; an array of temporalities (asynchronous, synchronous and everything in between, i.e. semi-synchronous); with localised interfaces and content (local languages!); all the while considering all of these within an ecosystem of cross-cutting issues that can be grouped into Social, e.g. local language, trust, gender . . .; Technical, e.g. the categories mentioned above; Financial, e.g. business model, sustainability, spin-offs/outs, profit vs non-profit, micro- and macro-economics; Legal, e.g. licensing, the Law, policy and implementation; and Governance considerations like Boards, equity, management structures, etc. No one said it was going to be easy ;-) and it's why we must Walk Together in multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder/partner teams.
Some example publications on this theme: Bidwell et al. 2013; Maunder et al. 2006; Bidwell et al. 2011; Petersen et al. 2020; Gwaka et al. 2018; Mdleleni 2022; Tucker & Blake 2008; Kassongo et al. 2018
Software engineering (SE) and Human Computer Interaction (HCI)¶
Community-based co-requirements elicitation, co-design/planning, co-implementation, co-analysis/evaluation/monitoring and co-reflection of ICT co-production requires incremental iteration that is agile and flexible, inclusive and reflective. We want to adapt contemporary SE methods to make them fit for purpose to explore C&S/CASI in meaningful ways.
Assistive technology (AT)¶
One way to explore C&S/CASI is based within a concept of 'Design 4 All' which on a superficial level indicates 'one size fits all'. This could not be further from the truth; which is rather to produce ICT artefacts are adaptable/adoptable for end-users in ways that it bridges gaps, e.g. bridges for Deaf people who speak South African Sign Langauge.
Community networks (CNs)¶
Another way to explore C&S/CASI is to focus on a particular layer, like Affordable and Accessible networks that provide Agency! A good example of this is the work being done in the rural Eastern Cape where 'anchor clients' subsidise broadband wireless access to local people uncapped R25/month! See Zenzeleni Networks.
Ethical considerations (EC)¶
While doing all of this C&S/CASI work, we must remain aware and vigilant that we are not repeating the Exploitation (both monetary and socio/psychological), Colonisation (again, both monetary and socio/psychological) and Othering that we, as humans, are unfortunately wont to do. Thus we continue to explore and reflect upon the ethical space around this C&S/CASI ecosystem.