Tracking the mutual shaping of the technical and social dimensions of solar-powered mosquito trapping systems (SMoTS) for malaria control on Rusinga Island, western Kenya
Oria, Prisca A
Mukabana, Wolfgang R
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Background There has been increasing effort in recent years to incorporate user needs in technology design and re-design. This project employed a bottom-up approach that engaged end users from the outset. Bottom-up approaches have the potential to bolster novel interventions and move them towards adaptive and evidence-based strategies. The present study concerns an innovative use of solar-powered mosquito trapping systems (SMoTS) to control malaria in western Kenya. Our paper highlights the co-dependence of research associated with the development of the SMoTS technology on one hand and research for enhancing the sustainable uptake of that very same intervention within the community on the other. Methods During the pre-intervention year, we examined the design, re-design and piloting of a novel technology to generate lessons for malaria elimination on Rusinga Island. Initial ideas about many technological necessities were evaluated and re-designed following feedback from various sources, including technical and social research as well as broader interactions with the social environment. We documented the interlocking of the multiple processes and activities that took place through process observation and document reviews. We analysed the data within the conceptual framework of system innovation by identifying mutual shaping between technical and social factors. Results Our findings illustrate how various project stakeholders including project staff, collaborators, donor, and community members simultaneously pursued interdependent technological transformations and social interests. In the ongoing process, we observed how partial outcomes in the technological domain influenced social events at a later phase and vice versa. Conclusions Looking at malaria intervention projects employing novel technologies as niches that may evolve towards system innovation, helps to reveal interrelations between the various technical and social aspects. Revealing these interrelations requires a different role for research and different perspective on innovation where innovation is more than the technical aspects. This approach therefore requires that research is designed in a way that enables obtaining feedback from both aspects.