Our projects are dedicated to understanding the role information and communication technologies (ICTs) have to play in improving e-Government, the WASH sector, mHealth, and Rurality.


  • Current

    Redefining e-Government Success & Failure in the South African Water Sector

    By applying Critical Systems Heuristics through the lens of the Capabilities Approach, this research aims to determine how e-government initiatives in the South African water sector should define and measure their success and failure. It does so to respond to the 'citizens first' approach envisioned by the country's National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper, which currently offers no guidance in this regard.

    Primary Researcher: Carl Jacobs (BSc in Civil Engineering; MCom in Information Systems)

    Development of a Success Model for Water Management Information Systems

    This research focuses on the development of a novel integrated model to evaluate the success of Water Management Information Systems (WMIS) based on water resource management principles, specifically Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) principles, and Information Systems (IS) success models. The model uses data of WMIS users from various designations within the City of Cape Town’s Department of Water and Sanitation to test and validate the model. The analysis and validation of the model is achieved using a Partial Least Squares (PLS) approach to Structural Equation Modelling (SEM). The findings from the study will be useful for water resource managers in their implementation of WMIS for the various roles and tasks, and also contributing to the IS domain by being a first in the development of a model for water resources management.

    Primary Researcher: Gordon Amoako (BSc in Mathematics; MSc in Mathematics)

    The Value of Information in Municipalities: A South African Case Study in the Eastern Cape

    South Africa has numerous legislation, policies and guidelines that advocate for community participation and informed decision-making, yet local community members do not feel that they have adequate information to participate in any decision-making processes. Access to information and communication plays an essential role in good governance. This research uses the Information Value Chain to assess how the flow of information between the municipality and communities is valued to satisfy the principles of good governance.

    Primary Researcher: Bianca Forlee (BSc in Civil Engineering)

  • Completed

    Access to Digital Information in Under-Resourced Communities: A case study of the Smart Cape Access Project

    The Smart Cape Access Project has the potential to even out the digital inequalities, and thereby empower people to better their lives. The Smart Cape Access project is an initiative by the City of Cape Town that has the aim of providing digital information to under-resourced communities in the City. The Smart Cape is accessible at local libraries whereby library users are given 45 minutes to access a computer and surf the internet. It is important to understand the perspectives of the Smart Cape users to be able to understand if the Smart Cape is, by all means, bridging digital inequalities. This research used a mixed method approach, employing semi-structured interviews to explore the perceptions of the Smart Cape users in under-resourced communities. It focused on the City of Cape Town’s Smart Cape initiative and was conducted using the Resources and Appropriation Framework as its theoretical lens.

    Primary Researcher: Success Mhlanga (BCom; Honours in Information Systems)

    Assessing Stakeholder Perceptions in Public Infrastructure Projects: a Case Study of Project Silvertown in Cape Town

    Using Critical Systems Heuristics, a systems thinking based framework, this research articulated the perceptions and expectations stakeholders, involved in sanitation infrastructure projects in informal settlements, had to determine the implications their contrasting views had towards strengthening participatory processes.

    Primary Researcher: Shamiso Kumbirai (BSc in Civil Engineering; MPhil in Civil Engineering)



ICTs in the WASH Sector

  • Current

    Interaction Between ICT Use and Water Sector Development: A Classic Grounded Theory Case of WSDB Users in Uganda

    By applying Grounded Theory and a Case Study approach, this research aims to examine the relationship between usage of ICT initiatives implemented and development in the Ugandan water sector. Citing the United Nation's SDG for water and sanitation, the research aims to theorise a link between ICT deployment and development in the water sector. It uses a case study of an ICT intervention deployed in Uganda's Ministry of Water and Environment.

    Primary Researcher: Musa Chemisto (BSc in Computer Science; MSc in Computer Science & Computer Technology)

    Information Asymmetries and the Potential of ICTs in the WASH Sector: The Case of Zimbabwe

    Zimbabwe is an example of a developing nation whose rural WASH sector lacks accurate and timely information. This research seeks to explore information management processes in the delivery of water, sanitation, and hygiene services in the nation's rural areas. It does so by demonstrating how Activity-Theory and Information Asymmetry Theory offer a context-centric capacity-building approach to advancing technology for the human development agenda.

    Primary Researcher: Edina Susan Farai Nyemba (BSc in Information Systems; MCom in Information Systems)

    Improving Community Engagement in the Development of Appropriate Technologies for Rural Water Management

    This research explores the use of Community-Based Co-Design (CBCD) as a participatory approach to actively engage with community members expected to benefit from a rural water management intervention. From the deployment of the artifact, the research further seeks to examine the key influences for the adoption of co-designed community interventions. Using Activity Theory as an analytical and evaluation framework, the research extract themes based on the principle of technology being a mediator of activities that therefore informs or influences attitudes and perceptions of technology use within a community setting.

    Primary Researcher: Fiona Catherine Ssozi (BSc in Computer Science; MSc in Information Systems)

    Assessing Participatory Mechanisms in the Water and Sanitation Sector

    This research examines the current public participatory mechanisms used to engage communities in the water and sanitation sector of six rural towns in South Africa. The six case study towns are all located in two rural municipalities in the Eastern Cape province. The research aims to explore the various participatory mechanisms used and investigate whether these mechanisms are perceived by rural citizens as attaining the desired outcomes of public participation.

    Primary Researcher: Runyararo Chibota (BA in Social Work; Honours in Social Development)

    Exploring the use of Digital Nudges to Drive Residential Water Conservation Behaviour

    By implementing personalised nudges into a mobile application, designed to encourage water conservation in households, this research aims to explore the impact that behavioural economic insights can have when applied within a digital format. In doing so, it is intended to help inform how ICTs can best be used by governments to shift citizen behaviour towards sustainable, pro-environmental choices.

    Primary Researcher: Megan Lindsay McLaren (BCom in Accounting; Honours in Information Systems)

    Effect of Information on Water Demand Management: The case of Cape Town’s Water Crisis

    The City of Cape Town employed the measures described in water demand management to efficiently manage the severe draught situation experienced in 2017/2018. This research focuses on how Information from the City of Cape Town, about the water crisis, influenced Capetonians’ water usage during the water crisis.

    Primary Researcher: Joshua Azaki (BSc in Computer Science)


  • Completed

    Assessing the Effect of Water-Related Information, Provided by a Mobile Phone Application on Water Conservation at Household Level

    This research was motivated by the need to address the increasing domestic water demand that had been experienced in Cape Town, South Africa, a water-scarce city. In attempting to address this problem, metered water users were provided with a mobile application called Drop Drop, which provided them with water-related information that could enable them to participate in water conservation at their homes. The research demonstrated that extensive and consistent water conservation participation at homes can be realized if water conservation information is presented through easily accessible media, such as mobile phones.

    Primary Researcher: Hosea Mwalo Arito (BSc in Civil Engineering; MSc in Civil Engineering)

    Drop Drop

    Drop Drop is a stand-alone mobile application that runs on Android smart phones and was developed for individuals to track their water consumption. It allows users to access information on their daily water usage, predicted end-month water bill, water conservation methods, their municipal contacts, and information about the water system. The application was also evaluated during a field study in a low-income community called Makhaza.

    World Bank

    iCOMMS and Cowater completed a regional study to build knowledge and develop guidelines for the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools and services in Africa. The study also investigated the emerging uses of ICTs across sectors in order to improve the planning, implementation, monitoring, management, and regulation of water and sanitation systems and the overall accountability framework of the sector.

    Water Research Commission

    This project focused on contributing to an understanding of our ability to engage rural communities as key stakeholders in water supply management and also provide scientific evidence for the use and usefulness of ICTs when engaging with rural communities in the WASH sector. This research project spoke to the WRC outcome of empowering communities by investigating if and how ICTs can provide communities with new channels for having a voice in local governance.


    The Aquatest Project was a multi-disciplinary, international research programme seeking to develop a low-cost, sustainable water test that can be used widely in low-resource settings in developing countries. iCOMMS was tasked with the design and development of the Water Quality Reporter cell phone application for transferring recorded water quality results and other observed aspects (risk assessment, sanitary inspection forms) to a centralised database.




  • Current

    Appropriation of an mHealth Service in Primary Health Care Clinics: Activity, Hierarchy and Collaboration

    mHealth research has, to date, focused on the required inputs and also the outputs (effectiveness) of these implementations, but has neglected the analysis of how people use them in practice. Understanding how clinic staff appropriate mHealth systems is important to help identify how these initiatives might be more effectively integrated with existing health systems. This research explores a multiple case study of the appropriation of an mHealth service by clinic staff at different levels, as they collaborate to register pregnant women to receive text messages to assist them with stage-appropriate information. The staff receive no direct benefit from their use of the system and management control is not well developed. This represents an extreme case, where staff might be expected to avoid or neglect using the service. The research uses Activity Theory to analyse the daily activities and conditions under which appropriation takes place, the implications for the forms that appropriation takes, and the way that the staff interact in this process. In this way the research contributes to improved understanding of the appropriation of mHealth, extends Activity Theory to take account of the processes observed in the clinics and provides suggestions for improving the effectiveness of practitioners’ interventions.

    Primary Researcher: Brendon Wolff-Piggott (BSc in Physics; MSc in Geography)


  • Completed

    Cell Life

    Cell-Life was initiated in 2001 as a cell phone system that linked nurses and home-based carers, treating HIV+ patients, in the informal settlements of Cape Town and other rural communities. The system is based on mobile phone data capture technology developed by the OpenROSA consortium, of which Cell-Life was a founding partner. To help improve ARV dispensing, the iDart of Intelligent Dispensing of ARVs system was later developed and is still used today.


    Investigating Mobile Graphic-based Reminders to support compliance of Tuberculosis Treatment

    There is an increasing trend of mobile technology identified as a tool that can be used for supporting patients, such as those who have tuberculosis, for treatment adherence. This would enable them to directly communicate or receive health information such as reminder messages from healthcare facilities. However, current mobile interventions, such as text message and speech reminder systems have limited use for people with low literacy levels. To overcome these challenges, this research proposed the use of mobile graphic-based reminders to support tuberculosis patients in improving compliance with treatment regimens, especially for semi-literate and illiterate patients.

    Primary Researcher: Haji Ali (BSc in Computer Science; MSc in Mobile Computing Systems; PhD in Computer Science)




  • Current

    The effect of ICT Diffusion on Rurality and Service Delivery

    Distance and sparse population are the main barriers to development in rural areas because of the higher costs of providing and maintaining services. ICTs facilitate connection to the outside world. Amongst other benefits, ICTs encourage community participation, provide timeous responses to service interruptions and they act as a medium for accessing public services. The research aims to investigate how access and use of ICTs transforms South African rurality. A spatial rurality index is adapted to quantify South African rurality.

    Primary Researcher: Tapfuma Pashapa (BSc in Mathematics; MPhil in Demography)