Facebook is a global phenomenon, yet the HCI community knows little about how the site is used outside of the United States where users are increasingly located. To address this gap, we built on our prior research in rural Kenya and qualitatively studied Facebook use among 28 young adults living in Viwandani, an informal settlement, or slum, in Nairobi, Kenya. To overcome the costs associated with Internet use, slum residents consolidated diverse online activities onto Facebook. Viwandani residents used the site to look for employment opportunities, market themselves, and seek remittances from friends and family abroad. These findings motivate a design agenda for the urban poor built on an understanding that Facebook is used, with mixed success, to support income generation. A key part of this agenda calls for developing ICT interventions grounded in users’ existing practices rather than introducing new and unfamiliar ones.
Opening different webpages and logging onto to multiple online accounts takes time. Costs of accessing Facebook at cyber cafés and on mobile devices limited the amount of time Viwandani residents spent online. This restriction resulted in them consolidating multiple online activities onto Facebook, or treating the site as an entry point for accessing all types of online content. While simultaneously chatting with friends, monitoring status updates, and answering messages, participants also engaged in income generating activities, such as looking for employment, marketing themselves, and seeking remittances.
Designing Crowdsourcing Applications
In Viwandani, smartphones are scarce and owners of the devices recognize that using them for typing tasks is cumbersome. Because participants are familiar with Facebook and are trying to use the site to generate income, there are opportunities to thoughtfully integrate crowdsourcing applications into the social networking site, rather than design stand alone applications.