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Carl Jacobs: PhD

23 Oct 2018 - 08:45

Carol JacobsAfter beginning his academic career in civil engineering, Carl Jacobs decided to move across to Information Systems, as he became more interested in how technology and social systems interact.

His current PhD research looks at the future of South Africa as a digital society. The government’s recent ICT integrated white paper promotes an inclusive citizen-centred approach. Carl’s is looking at what the policy documents are saying, as well as already implemented e-government initiatives, and investigating ways to measure their success.

“In a nutshell,” says Carl, “how should South Africa e-government be defining and measuring their success from a citizen-centred perspective.”

As part of the iComms research team, Carl takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the use, application, and impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in developing countries

As part of his master’s degree, Carl focused on an e-government initiative for two local municipalities in the Eastern Cape. “We developed an online complaints management system.” There was nothing in place to begin with and the municipality had a lot of input in its design. At the end of the project, if standard methods and metrics for measuring success of the initiative were used it would have been a failure, but it is still being used, with the municipalities making adjustments as they see fit.

“This triggered the idea of how we measure success and failure, and from whose perspective? Does it take the users into consideration?” asks Carl. “People should be defining their own development in their own terms, from their perspective.”

Improving people’s lives with technology is Carl’s primary interest.

During his first year of civil engineering, Carl observed the construction of a housing project and found he was more interested in how the new owners had to suddenly cope with maintenance and insurance costs. The examiner’s comment on Carl’s essay was ‘Civil engineering versus social sciences?’

Carl has always been interested in technology, but this fascination is tinted now by society’s needs.

“Once you have technically designed something, what does it actually mean and how can it be used for to improve people’s lives. And who is measuring this improvement?”