Understanding the factors that influence trust in e-services: a case study of a wireless mesh network implementation in Mankosi, South Africa
This thesis deals with the design of a business model for rural telephony based on a wireless mesh network for a rural community, the Mankosi community, located in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Its aim is to understand the social, economic and technical issues that are involved in the adoption of information and communication technologies for development and how they relates to trust in e-services. Externally funded projects tend to be expensive and are often unsustainable once the external funding ceases. The cost of a mesh network (once implemented) is almost negligible, apart from its maintenance. The pillars of the project are sustainability and community ownership, and the aim was to design the wireless mesh network, provide telephony service to the community and use solar power to charge mobile phones. The community leaders of Mankosi indicated that they do not want the service to be completely free, but would charge a small fee for each call in order to generate the funds needed for the maintenance of the system. In order to do so, a prototype billing system was configured and adapted to the needs and expectations of the community. The principles and steps of soft systems methodology were used to manage the research process of this case study. This methodology was a powerful tool to carry out the research and address the research problem in a participative way with the stakeholders. The participatory design process used in the design phase of the project had the added advantage that the community understood the purpose of the network, and since they contributed to its design, they felt that they owned it and could trust its billing system. A further benefit was that a core group of participants were committed to the project and felt that the overall quality of community members' lives would be improved by it and similar projects. The process contributed to the personal development of the participants by giving the community a voice and sense of power – the ability to change things – and it vastly expanded community members’ vision of what they are capable of. It was found that the current means of communication, i.e. using mobile phones, is expensive for local users in relation to their average income. The proposed billing system – designed with the help of the community – will be trusted by the community and provide Mankosi with a low-cost communication system by making use of the existing experimental mesh network. The community will be able to sustain their network with the income generated. The network will in future provide access to the Internet and will be able to handle breakout calls to external networks.