End-User Engagement in the Design of Communications Services: Lessons from the Rural Congo
End-user engagement is considered essential when designing new sociotechnical systems, but in the context of designing large-scale infrastructural systems such as communications networks, this ideal is rarely put into practice. We examine the challenges of engaging end users in the design of communications services by exploring how communities from 15 villages in the rural Congo incorporate mobile phones into their daily lives. To analyze the changes in social and cultural capital that result from mobile phone use, we apply Bourdieu’s capital theory. This analysis exposes the difference in perceived value of the communication services between end users and the business owners of the infrastructure. The article concludes by suggesting new forms of partnership with end users to craft ways in which infrastructures and related organizations and practices can best cohere with local cultural views, specifics, beliefs, needs, or realities of concerned participants.