Redesigning Agricultural Hand Tools in Western Kenya: Considering Human-Centered Design in ICTD

Susan Wyche, Jennifer Olson, Mary Njeri Karanu


Human-centered design (HCD) is a creative approach to technology design that prioritizes users’ needs in the design process. It is characterized by three phases: understanding, ideation, and evaluation. Enthusiasm for using HCD persists among ICTD (information and communication technologies for development) researchers; funding agencies continue to support efforts to use the approach in development projects. However, published studies documenting each phase of the approach are few. Here, we present one such case study that documents our use of HCD to understand farmers’ hand tools in Kenya and to explore their ideas for new tools—designed to make weeding easier. We also present an evaluation of three redesigned tools, which were manufactured by jua kali (local metal workers). Our findings suggest that HCD resulted in improved tools. These findings motivate a discussion that elaborates on using HCD in ICTD. We suggest that the most significant impacts of HCD may come from using the approach to understand diverse local conditions as they relate to design, and from jua kali integrating the approach into their design practices. Finally, we consider how HCD supports (and challenges) conducting ethical research.


agriculture, design thinking, human-centered design, HCI4D, Jua Kali, Kenya

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