Fostering Local Economic Development through Community Informatics: A Soft Systems Approach Case Study.
Information is lifeblood of tourism business, thus, effective efforts to empower members of rural communities to benefit sustainably from tourism industry should involve information management, inter alia. The paper details a case study conducted in Lushoto District, Tanzania where members of Friends of Usambara group participated in a process of empowering by uplifting their information management skills. The skills included information system analysis and development, computing as well as web developing.
The case study employed a Community Informatics approach which is the application of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to enable community processes such as local economic development. Since such processes are complex and adaptive, the paper demonstrates application of one of Soft Operation Research (SOR) methods, namely, Soft System Methodology (SSM) in trying to empower members of community solve their economic challenges. Using some of SSM tools, participants in the case study were able to structure problem situation, create rich pictures, name relevant systems, define human activity systems, create stakeholders diagrams, analyse information and redesign information collection tools, and learn web authoring. These activities empowered the participants to undertake rural tourism business more effectively.
Key words: Information, Usambara, Tanzania, community, technology