AfriCHI, Nairobi User Studies, & Homa Bay, Kenya

Thomas Reitmaier, Research Assistant, Computer Science, Swansea University
Host Organisation/Destination: AfriCHI 2016, Nairobi, Kenya & Homa Bay, Kenya

Activities: Thomas attended the inaugural AfriCHI2016 Conference to present a research paper and deliver a workshop on alternative media approaches to HCI research/publication and to disseminate research findings. The timing of the trip also overlapped with the RCUK’s Global Challenges Research Fund deadline, so he also met with co-investigators from South Africa to run through final budgets and to get verbal and written letters of support from Kenyan government, non-government, and educational institutions. Being able to meet face-to-face was enormously beneficial in bringing the GCRF bid to completion.
Through the trip Thomas was also able to assist Matt Jones, Simon Robinson, and Jennifer Pearson with their user study of a research prototype and field trial of a Physical Web application with stall holders at a local market. A key motivator of undertaking this work in Nairobi is to include groups, who often have lower literacy, low access to data connections, low exposure to technology and other constraints in the process of shaping and appropriating devices and services.
Finally, Thomas followed up with a rural community in Western Kenya near Homa Bay, where he had previously conducted field work. He met with key actors in the community and engaged in positive discussions on establishing the community as a site for future technology trials and deployments.
Outputs: The workshop led to plans to develop a repository of exemplars and to explore alternative media approaches to HCI research/publication as a track at future AfriCHI conferences. There are plans to write up the results from the Physical Web field trial as a CHI case study. The team will also analyse, write up, and submit results from the formative evaluation of the second research prototype to a major HCI conference. Further Collaboration: Should their GCRF bid be successful, there will be an opportunity to explore and support future collaborative research with contacts made at AfriCHI around smart cities. Such collaborations could also be explored, on a smaller scale, through CHERISH escalator projects.