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A biography of open source software: community participation and individuation of open source code in the context of microfinance NGOs in North Africa and the Middle East

Houij Gueddana, Wifak (2013) A biography of open source software: community participation and individuation of open source code in the context of microfinance NGOs in North Africa and the Middle East. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

For many, microfinance is about building inclusive financial systems to help the poor gain direct access to financial services. Hundreds of grassroots have specialised in the provision of microfinance services worldwide. Most of them are adhoc organisations, which suffer severe organisational and informational deficiencies. Over the past decades, policy makers and consortia of microfinance experts have attempted to improve their capacity building through ICTs. In particular, there is strong emphasis on open source software (OSS) initiatives, as it is commonly believed that MFIs are uniquely positioned to benefit from the advantages of openness and free access. Furthermore, OSS approaches have recently become extremely popular. The OSS gurus are convinced there is a business case for a purely open source approach, especially across international development spheres. Nonetheless, getting people to agree on what is meant by OSS remains hard to achieve. On the one hand scholarly software research shows a lack of consensus and documents stories in which the OSS meaning is negotiated locally. On the other, the growing literature on ICT-for-international development does not provide answers as research, especially in the microfinance context, presents little empirical scrutiny. This thesis therefore critically explores the OSS in the microfinance context in order to understand itslong-term development and what might be some of the implications for MFIs. Theoretically I draw on the 3rd wave of research within the field of Science and Technology Studies –studies of Expertise and Experience (SEE). I couple the software ‘biography’ approach (Pollock and Williams 2009) with concepts from Simondon’s thesis on the individuation of technical beings (1958) as an integrated framework. I also design a single case study, which is supported by an extensive and longitudinal collection of data and a three-stage approach, including the analysis of sociograms, and email content. This case provides a rich empirical setting that challenges the current understanding of the ontology of software and goes beyond the instrumental views of design, building a comprehensive framework for community participation and software sustainability in the context of the microfinance global industry.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Wifak Houij Gueddana
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Sets: Departments > Information Systems and Innovation Group
Supervisor: Mitev, Nathalie
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/632

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