Keywords: rural telecommunications planning, socio-technical systems, critical systems thinking, developing countries, rural telecommunications infrastructure, South Africa
A case study on the initial enquiry stage in a framework for improved planning of rural telecommunications infrastructure in developing countries
This paper discusses the practical implementation of the first phase of a systemic framework for the planning of rural telecommunications infrastructure in developing countries. The framework as a whole was formulated on the basis of the theory of critical systems thinking. It involves three essential phases adapted from Ackoff's Interactive Planning: the initial enquiry or the formulation of the current reality of a particular rural area with respect to rural telecommunications infrastructure ('the formulation of the mess'); the idealised design of the rural telecommunications system with benefits to all stakeholders ('the ends planning'); the means and resource planning and the implementation and control that is required to move the rural area from the current reality to the idealised design ('the leverage phase'). The practical implementation of the framework was done in a rural area in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. While an overview of the entire implementation is briefly provided, this paper however focuses on the formulation of the mess phase and its results. The contribution of the paper is in showing the importance of a systemic approach towards this phase of the planning for more appropriate rural telecommunications infrastructure, perceived as a socio-technical system.