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Hustling Online: Understanding Consolidated Facebook Use in an Informal Settlement in Nairobi

Susan P. Wyche, Andrea Forte, Sarita Yardi Schoenebeck

Facebook is a global phenomenon, yet little is known about use of the site in urban parts of the developing world where the social network’s users are increasingly located. We qualitatively studied Facebook use among 28 young adults living in Viwandani, an informal settlement, or slum, in Nairobi, Kenya. We find that to overcome the costs associated with Internet use, participants consolidated diverse online activities onto Facebook; here we focus on the most common practice—using Facebook to support income generation. Viwandani residents used the site to look for employment opportunities, market themselves, and seek remittances from friends and family abroad. We use our findings to motivate a design agenda for the urban poor built on an understanding that Facebook is used, with mixed-success, to support income generation. A key part of this agenda calls for developing ICT interventions grounded in users’ existing practices rather than introducing new and unfamiliar ones. Link to full paper.

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