Bugolobi Market Mailing List
Market-driven and NGO Information and Communication Technology (ICT) design approaches only partially address the access gap for Ugandan women who may not share the same wealth, mobility, and digital and textual literacy as their male counterparts. The Bugolobi Market Mailing List (BMML) is an SMS-based community mailing list which explores the opportunities that arise when the design of ICTs stems from the ambitions, priorities, and daily context of women in Bugolobi Market, Kampala.
Using the BMML, women could do the following:
- Send a message to all 50 mailing list members for the price of one message
- Create their own personal mailing lists to facilitate building a network beyond the market’s main gate
- Send and receive all messages and system responses in their local language of Luganda
Specifications: Tech & People
The BMML was built using Python, Flask, Scripting Layer for Android (SL4A), Peewee (an expressive object-relational mapping for SQLite databases), and SQLite – all of which allow for quick prototyping of lightweight SMS-based applications, great for prototyping directly in the field.
The BMML was also built with people, solidarity, relationships, and multiple modes of communication. Traveling home after a long day of work in the market and sending a “Goodnight” message made women feel connected to their friends, even while apart. Digital relationships produced through the BMML reinforced in-person connections:
“They’ve gotten to know people personally… You talk to her because of the message she sends. Receiving a message over the mailing list causes them to talk more in-person.”
Catherine Apalat, Field Researcher, July 5, 2013
Ugandan woman have restricted access, are poorly represented in the technology sector, and have limited training opportunities. However, by directly involving women in the design, development, and use of ICTs in their daily context, such as domestic spaces and open-air markets, ICTs can serve as tools for transformation.
The BMML begins to demonstrate how women can use technology to expand their social and economic networks, negotiate gender imbalance, and produce and share information.
In order to facilitate further socially inclusive outcomes, dominant design methods and frameworks need to change. Instead of limited ‘user feedback’ or ‘user testing’ sessions, a more open-ended framework can elicit consistent contribution and participation by the women. Rather than a top-down designer/user disconnect, a relationship centered around mutual learning can create space for women to identify and work towards opportunities to leverage technology.
Overall, the development of the BMML depended upon the participation of the women. Their vision guided the next iteration. One such opportunity involved using the BMML to send savings association (SACCO) meeting reminders.
The BMML functioned in Bugolobi Market from March – August 2013. Work completed for ICT4[n] will be presented during a themed session at the Design Principles and Practices Conference in January 2014.