Abstract: The New York Times, BBC and other media channels are abuzz with reports about Mark Zuckerberg’s efforts to connect everyone on the planet via Facebook. Missing from these reports are the realities rural African users encounter when trying to access the social media site. In this talk, I present findings from my fieldwork in rural Kenya studying mobile phone owners and social media users to describe how persistent poverty, limited access to technology and unreliable electricity hinder online participation. I draw on these results to discuss new design opportunities, to raise questions about broadening online participation and to highlight the importance of engaging with diverse users on their own terms.
Bio: Susan Wyche is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media at Michigan State University. She is also affiliated with MSU’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovation funded by USAID in their Higher Education Solutions Network. Her current research interests include mobile phone and social media use in rural and urban Kenya. Grants from the CRA/NSF Computing Innovation Fellows Project, Google, Facebook and Nokia support this research. Wyche received a B.F.A. in Industrial Design from Carnegie Mellon University and an M.S. from Cornell University. She earned her Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing from Georgia Tech in 2010.