The effects of community participation on sustainability in an ICT4D project: A Case of Vrygrond Community Lab in South Africa



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University of Cape Town

Background: This study explores an ICT for development project in previously ‘underserved’ community of Vrygrond in Cape Town South Africa. Developing countries have embraced technology as a means to improve the pace of development in their countries. Several projects have been setup that allow communities to access skills training programmes within their communities. However, there is a challenge when considering the sustainability of projects implemented to achieve their developmental goals Purpose: ICT for development initiatives are usually centrally planned without the involvement of the targeted communities. The targeted participants may be involved in the implementation phase only, and this may lead to sustainability failure. This study explores the how community participation affects sustainability of ICT for development projects in the context of South Africa. Research methodology: The methodology in this study is qualitative. Exploratory and descriptive research methods were used to analyse how community participation affects sustainability. This study used the Stakeholder Theory to explore community participation and project sustainability. Data was collected using semi structured interviews, documents, observations and applied thematic analysis. The Vrygrond Community Lab in Cape Town South Africa was used as a case study. Key Findings: Based on the analysed data, a number of key stakeholders were not involved in the project planning but were represented by the Vrygrond Community Trust. It was seen from the data that sustainability is dependent on closely working with existing community groups based within the community twenty-four seven. This research found positive relationship between participation and sustainability. Other findings indicated that there was an element of ‘tokenism’ and despite this the Vrygrond Community Lab seemed sustainable. This was attributed to the continued funding and operational support received from University of Cape Town and Pforzheim University. Finally, the study indicated that it was essential that socioeconomic and sociocultural issues are addressed quickly when they emerge. Value of the study: The study broadly contributes to the existing literature on community participation and sustainability of ICT4D initiatives in South Africa. Secondly study makes recommendations for donors and Universities looking to implement initiatives similar to the Vrygrond Community Lab in addressing socioeconomic challenges by equipping communities with computer skills that would assist them in their daily lives, either in finding work, studying, or running a business.