Global/Local Usability: Locally Contextualized Usability in the Global South

  • Michael L. Best
  • Thomas N. Smyth
Part of the Human-Computer Interaction Series book series (HCIS)


Digital technology has permeated nearly every inhabited corner of the globe, from information hubs in the USA or Europe to the most remote African or Indian village. But is the accompanying one-size-fits-all approach to usability for the best? This chapter argues that for true usability to prevail, usability methods, techniques, and institutions must be localized and contextualized. We feel that this principle is most important in the world’s poorest countries, which are in many cases highly distinct from the environments for which these new technologies were designed. We structure this argument around three meanings of the word ‘usability’: usability as a property of technology, usability as a collection of competencies (i.e. methods and techniques), and usability as a discipline or community of practice. We examine how prevailing differences between the Global North, as producer of technology, and the South, as consumer, have important implications for each of these incarnations of usability.


Mobile Phone Heuristic Evaluation Usability Methodology Mobile Phone Market Illiterate Participant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and School of Interactive ComputingGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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