Journal Article

The evolving braid: How an organization in Uganda achieved reliable communications

When engaged in ICTD research, it is often simpler to focus efforts on a single specific technology, whether that entails computers for telecenters, mobile phones for data collection, or text messages for public health education. In practice, however, people and organizations use a variety of technologies together, smoothly interweaving them as they navigate their lives. In this paper we analyze the ways in which a health financing organization in Uganda integrates a variety of communications technologies together to achieve reliable communications with their partnering health facilities distributed throughout Southwest Uganda. Based on four years of participant observation, we describe two communication scenarios in this organization to illustrate braided communications at work. We find that stakeholders work together to develop and maintain effective relationships using many different communications channels together in parallel, a combined channel we describe as braided communications. Braided communications have three primary characteristics. Firstly, they use co-existing channels, employing each as best suits a given set of goals. Secondly, they are co-dependent, or co-reinforcing, with strengths of individual channels reinforcing weaknesses of other channels. Finally, they are co-evolving; as available technologies and the ways in which they are used change, the nature of the braided use changes as well.