Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Honours students' research projects for 2015

The following research projects are being undertaken by our honours students this year:

Yaseen Patel: Readiness of Library Users for Smart City: A Study of Self-Perceived e-Skills and Actual e-Skills

The context of this study involves the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) upgrades, including computer and broadband in city libraries in an effort to develop Johannesburg into a ‘Smart City’. This solves the issue of access, however, the success of these initiatives depends on the level of participation from residents of Johannesburg. The participation levels depend on the level of e-Skills residents possess. e-skills are defined as the ability to make use of ICTs. Prior research claims that self-reported e-skills are high, but it is uncertain to what extent self-reporting is reliable.

This will be a descriptive study following a quantitative study method using a positivist paradigm. The sample population will be residents who make use of the city library, particularly the main library in Market Street. The data collection procedure will consist of two parts. First the participants will answer a cross-sectional survey questionnaire about their self-perceived e-skills. A short subsequent test will evaluate their  actual e-skills by assessing how participants interact with elements of e-government websites, such as downloading a city budget PDF document. The results will be statistically analysed to determine the correlation between self-perceived e-skills and actual e-skills. The strength of the correlation will determine the reliability of self-reports.

This research will contribute to determine whether library users are ready for ICT upgrades which will be significant in determining if future initiatives will be successful. Finally, this will contribute to establishing whether self-reported skills can be trusted.

Preshlen Reddy: Adoption of Smart Technologies by City Residents and Effects on Quality of Life

Advances in modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have given people extra levels of comfort, enjoyment and convenience. This allows people to perform tasks in their daily lives much more effectively and which could allow for an enhanced quality of life. This may be particularly so with mobile devices and ‘’apps’’ which together constitute Smart Technology. Improving the quality of life of city residents through Smart Technologies is an important objective for Smart Cities. However, there is no evidence as to whether residents who make greater use of these technologies experience a better quality of life in developing city contexts than residents without such access.

Therefore, understanding how Smart Technologies allow residents to access city services and tailor outcomes to their needs and how this influences their quality of life is a research problem in need of attention. Moreover, past literature has not sufficiently explored (1) the factors that influence the adoption of Smart Technology, or the extent to which these particular factors are applicable in developing city context, and (2) the extent to which such adoption influences the degree to which residents experience an increased quality of life. The adoption of Smartphone Technology by residents is important to the success of any Smart Technology initiative in the Smart City context. It is critical to also understand the factors that affect the adoption of Smartphone Technology.

Shado Masilela: Understanding residents: Constructing personas for the City of Johannesburg website

I propose to conduct a study to understand the information needs of the residents within Johannesburg that can be addressed by using Information and Communication Technology (ICT). My study is in response to the emergence of Smart Cities in Western and Asian nations, where South Africa and other African nations have begun to develop their own Smart Cities. This development of African Smart Cities faces challenges unique to the continent. One main challenge that is to be researched within my study is the complex nature of residents within Johannesburg where I will focus on their information needs in relation to their residence in the metropolitan municipality of the City of Johannesburg. The types of information needs include but are not limited to information regarding utilities, property, the local government along with amenities and services available within the city. The specific form of an ICT that aims to fulfil the information needs of Johannesburg’s residents is the official City of Johannesburg website (http://joburg.org.za/) and my study will assess whether  the information needs of residents, that are to be empirically found through the study, can be fulfilled through the services offered through this website. The information needs are to be aggregated and personas constructed including the residents’ motivation and ability to use ICTs generally and specifically regarding the City of Johannesburg website.

My research will contribute to evaluating the effectiveness of constructing personas for understanding residents and also to furthering the development of the City of Johannesburg as a world class African Smart City.

Kalaela Gold: Improving government e-Service delivery: Evaluating the impact of user expectations, derived from personas, on resident satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is considered paramount in the private sector as organisations aim to design service offerings that will continue to be used by their customers. The same is true of the public sector, such as government services provided to its residents. In order for residents to be satisfied with government services, those services must match the residents’ expectations. It is challenging for practitioners who design and develop government e-services to predict resident expectations. Persons – which are used to facilitate user experience design – may be used as a communication tool to guide development in the understanding of residents’ expectations.

Therefore, the purpose of my study is to initially develop a set of personas that represent residents of Johannesburg who use or have an interest in using the e-service on the City of Johannesburg’s website. The expectations of actual users will be derived from the personas. User expectations of the e-services will be used to evaluate the resident satisfaction of the e-services on the City of Johannesburg’s website. A quantitative approach will be taken to develop the personas and to assess resident satisfaction.

The personas constructed in the study may aid the developers of the City of Johannesburg’s website in understanding expectations from users in order to modify existing e-services or develop new services. However, if it is found that residents are generally satisfied, a low adoption rate may be due to the lack of knowledge of the government e-services. Marketing practitioners may use the information in the personas to develop marketing plans in order to spread the knowledge of the existence of the e-service. Resident satisfaction is vital for continued use of the government e-service and contributing to the continued success of Smart Cities.

Mosi Huma: Connect Living: A study of the Effects of Digital Connectedness on the Quality of Life of Smart City Residents

“Smart Cities” has no clear definition as it is dependent on the context the term is used in, however, most Smart City initiatives make use of Information and Communications Technology to provide residents with satisfactory living. Based on the large use of Information and Communications Technologies, a study on the effects of these technologies is needed. This is conducted by assessing the effects of digital connectedness on the quality of life of Smart City residents and is made possible through the large amount of data obtained by the Gauteng City Regional Observatory (GCRO) over the periods 2011 and 2013. The study will assess the effects of connectedness and investigate if other demographic factors are involved in affecting resident’s quality of life. The literature review has allowed for the formation of a model based on the theoretical foundation of satisfaction theory, components of connectedness and theories of quality of life. Literature relating to connectedness in a Smart City context is limited, therefore this study should add to the body of knowledge for research purposes and also contribute to future Smart City initiatives in South Africa. A quantitative approach to research shall be taken as the study is interested in the measurement of observational criteria. As we are dealing with residents from the ten Smart Cities that compose the Gauteng region, a large population is used and interview surveys are used as a method of data collection because this method attains the necessary data with less bias from the respondent.

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