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Empowerment of Underprivileged Youth in Developing

Countries through Information Technology




Journal: International Conference on Information Systems 2013
Manuscript ID: ICIS-1265-2013
Track: 02. Breakthrough Ideas in IS
Keywords:
User empowerment, Social cognitive theory, Digital divide, Developing
countries, Developing nations, Cognition/cognitive science, Cognitive
psychology, Empirical analysis, Social issues, ICT in developing countries
Abstract:
Urban migration in developing countries is expected to increase the
number of slum inhabitants from 940 million in 2003 to over two billion by
2030. As socio-economic status at birth is a strong predictor of future
socio-economic status, slum children seem destined to a life of poverty.
However, emerging examples of empowerment appear to demonstrate
possibilities of information technology to benefit the lives of slum children.
In this paper, we use social cognitive theory to study why and how children
participate in IT learning in the absence of formal training courses, using
the constructs of symbolizing, forethought, visceral learning, self-
regulating and self-reflecting human capabilities. In doing this, we attempt
to validate a theoretical basis for human capabilities of slum children to
overcome the forces of environmental determinism working against them.




Thirty Fourth International Conference on Information Systems, Milan 2013 1
Empowerment of Underprivileged Youth in
Developing Countries through Information
Technology
Completed Research Paper
Introduction
Over 940 million people currently live in slums (UN-Habitat, 2003) and consequently suffer from
extremely poor living conditions, endemic poverty, and lack of security. By the year 2030 the number of
people living in slums is expected to increase to over two billion (UN-Habitat, 2003). Several studies show
that the living conditions of a childs parents before and during childbirth has strong effects on the childs
mental and physical health, as well as the childs future socio-economic status (Margolis et al 1992;
McLoyd, 1998; Mullick & Goodman, 2005). These studies indicate that the substandard conditions that
these children are born into affect more than just their physical health. High exposure to toxic substances
and lack of access to resources during childbirth and during formative years diminish their cognitive
functions, scholastic achievements, Intelligence Quotient (IQ), and ultimately affect employability and
income levels. These forces of environmental determinism acting against a child born in a slum are
debilitating, and very likely to cause a life of poverty without intervention.
Models of intervention to empower impoverished children in gaining self-efficacy sometimes include
access to technology. Although empowerment is a strong concern in several fields, there are some who
dismiss the idea of using Information Technology (IT) to empower slum dwellers and believe it should be
a low priority because of the urgent needs for basic health and sanitation (Neuwirth 2005). However,
emerging reports indicate that IT training has made a difference in the lives of some slum dwellers (Mair
and Verges, 2003; Onyango, 2001). Empowerment of slum children through their gaining self-efficacy of
IT is highly relevant to the field of Information Systems (IS) due to our cumulative research on IT
adoption and use. However, little research in the area of slum childrens adaptation of technology
currently exists. If technology has the ability to overcome the forces of environmental determinism, then
research-based models need to be created in order to justify the IT expenses.
This paper specifically focuses on an emerging model of empowerment through IT without any formal
training or computer courses. Our research question explores why and how some slum children learn IT
skills within their debilitating environment even though they have no formal instruction in IT. Despite
the importance of the topic and the relevance to the field, research in IS has been slow to respond. While
several theoretical models addressing IT adoption exist in IS, they are inadequate for answering our
research question. First, Davis (1989) Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) addresses use, not self-
learning, and also assumes that the users have been trained. Following this, empirical work done using
the Technology Acceptance Model measure user perceptions and behavior after a period of formalized
training (Venkatesh, Morris, Davis, & Davis,, 2003). Second, constructs used in many IS theoretical
models like perceived self-efficacy may not be sufficient as slum dwellers do not believe that they will be
able to learn these IT skills, especially since they have a history of poor academic performance, with most
dropping out of school. Third, the social and subjective norms in Fishbein and Ajzens (1975) Theory of
Reasoned Action (TRA) and Ajzens (1985) Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) work against technology
adoption here. The parents of these slum children may be strongly against the children spending time on
IT, as they consider this not only a fruitless and pointless endeavor, but it also takes time away from the
work they could be doing to support their familys immediate needs. Subjective norms are particularly
strong in the case of female children in some developing countries. For example, the conservative views of
minority settlements in South Asia are strongly against girls leaving the house, and independence and
skill in girls are perceived as highly undesirable qualities. Furthermore, none of these models explain how
slum children learn about complex, unfamiliar subjects like IT in the absence of formal training and
courses.
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This study makes a valuable contribution to research by extending Social Cognitive Theory (SCT)
(Bandura, 1986) to the research question. Banduras (1986) abstraction of human capabilities is utilized
here to explain how slum children learn about IT without formal instruction. The construct of
symbolizing capability considers the ability of slum children to imagine possibilities of this new
technology that they have no idea about. The construct of forethought capability explains how slum
children envision desirable futures of better lives, and work toward those possibilities instead of focusing
on immediate needs. The construct of visceral capability explains how slum children learn through
observing others in the absence of formal training. The construct of self-regulating capability explains
why these children disregard social norms and conventions, and instead hold their actions up to an
internal set of values, standards, and beliefs. Finally, the construct of self-reflecting capability explains
how and why these slum children persevere in their efforts in the face of repeated failures.
This paper attempts to validate the theory through an empirical study of a sample at a few slums in and
around New Delhi, India. In these informal settlements, several slum children have taught themselves IT
skills, including basic computer use, internet browsing, basic webpage creation, blogging, maintaining
audio and video archives, and short animation clips (Times of India, 2004). This has garnered these slum
children worldwide attention, including an invitation to demonstrate their creative skills in Hamburg,
Germany (Sarai, 2004), increased their employment opportunities (Times of India, 2004) and has even
helped stay the Government of India from displacing their illegal squatter settlement (Nangla Lab, 2006).
These are relatively high achievements for slum children in the developing world.
This paper makes a valuable contribution to the practice of empowerment as well. Empowerment of slum
children through IT is still nascent, and the numbers of those empowered still lag far behind the growth of
slums. Merely setting up labs where children may come and teach themselves IT skills may not be enough.
Practitioners also need to focus on addressing the capabilities of these children to overcome their
debilitating environments and empower themselves through learning. The constructs used in this paper--
symbolizing, forethought, visceral, self-regulating and self-reflecting capabilities--provide a valuable
guide to practitioners on where best to direct their efforts to increase empowerment.
Slums in Developing Countries
In developing countries, slum dwellers account for 43% of the population, in contrast to about 6% in
developed countries (UN-Habitat, 2003). The 2003 United Nations study found 940 million people, close
to one in every six people, living in slums, with Asia alone having 550 million slum dwellers due to urban
migration (Guardian, 2003). While some of the urban migrants are able to avail of employment
opportunities, accommodation for the migrants is a problematic issue for the already overburdened and
underdeveloped infrastructure of cities in developing countries. Urban population in these countries grew
by about 36% in the 1990s (Guardian, 2003). Urban migration has therefore resulted in the development
of informal settlements of the migrants, including slums, shantytowns, and squatter colonies. These
settlements are usually overcrowded, with little infrastructure. Some of the housing may be temporary
structures built of corrugated metal sheets, plastic, plywood and cardboard. Others may be permanent but
low-quality structures built of brick and concrete block. Several of these settlements may be illegal, as the
migrants may squat on government or private property that is either undeveloped or abandoned. In these
cases, the inhabitants live in constant fear of eviction by the government, and consequently make little or
no effort to improve their living conditions. Informal settlements usually do not have running water inside
the structures, and have to rely on a communal water source. Makeshift electrical connections are
frequently appropriated by stealing power off public electricity lines. In 2003, 32% of the worlds urban
population lived in slums (UN-Habitat, 2003). This number is projected to rise to in the next 30 years to
two billion people (Guardian, 2003), close to one-third of the current population of the world.
Environmental Determinism and Slum Children
Environmental determinism posits that environmental factors play a strong role in several life outcomes
of individuals. Socioeconomic status at birth, and even before birth, has strong correlations on long-term
mental and physical health, and on future socio-economic status. Empirical results of earlier studies
demonstrate that being born in a slum to parents of low socio-economic status probably means a destiny
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Thirty Fourth International Conference on Information Systems, Milan 2013 3
to suffer from poor physical and mental health, poor cognitive development, poor academic achievement,
low IQ, few employment opportunities, and a low future socioeconomic status.
In a comparison of the mental health of children in a rural area, a moderately prosperous urban
area, and an urban slum, Mullick and Goodman (2005) find that not only are the slum children more
likely to have serious behavioral problems than other urban children, they are also disadvantaged
compared to the rural life that their parents had left behind. McLoyd (1998) demonstrated that persistent
poverty has detrimental effects on IQ, school achievement, and socio-economic functioning. She showed
that the diminished cognitive capacity among poor children was caused by higher rates of prenatal
complications, high exposures to lead, and lower home-based cognitive stimulation. Poor academic
achievement was caused by lower teacher expectancies and lower academic-readiness skills among poor
children. Bernard (1939) reported that as middle and higher income group children grow older, they tend
to mix with others outside their neighborhood. However, lower income group children do not exhibit such
behavior and associate only with other low-income group peers as they grow into adulthood. Children of
lower socioeconomic status are also more prone to persistent illness due to environmental factors
(Margolis et al, 1992). These studies indicate that environmental determinism is a major factor in
predicting the physical, mental and economic outcomes of slum children. Slum dwellers are acutely aware
of this and tend to resign themselves to their fate. In the words of a slum dweller, "I was born in a slum, I
live in a slum, I will probably die in a slum, and if there is a slum in heaven, then I will most likely end up
there too" (Warah, 2004).
Empowerment through IT
In the face of environmental determinism, it appears that slum children have little hope of improving
their life without intervention. Research on empowerment has been slow in addressing the issues of slum
children. A new model of empowerment by giving voice to slum dwellers by explicitly stressing
information and communication as strategic resources (Madon and Sahay, 2002). While critics of this
approach believe that IT should be low on the list of priorities in empowerment, some Non-Government
Organizations (NGOs) in developing countries are attempting to empower slum children through IT
training. NGOs have set up schools to teach IT skills to children in the Brazilian slums or favelas (Mair
and Verges, 2003) and in African slums (Onyango, 2001). However, developing countries suffer from
several constraints, including financial and human resources. Due to low rates of education in the middle
class of developing countries, most governments focus their resources on the larger sections of the middle
class, leaving few resources for urban slum dwellers. Therefore, new models of empowerment are needed
which are less dependent on outside resources. In this study, we focus on a model of empowerment
through IT where the slum children are not trained by others, but are mostly self-taught.
This leads to our first research question: what enables slum children to learn these skills on their own?
According to the findings of the studies on the detrimental effects of the slum environment, slum children
have low academic achievements and IQ, in addition to suffering from poor physical and mental health.
These children have not been exposed to IT earlier, as their schools, workplaces, and homes consist of
rudimentary facilities at best with little modern technology. Slum dwellers are generally aware that
possibilities of a future outside the slum, particularly as a skilled worker, are remote. Therefore, most
slum inhabitants may consider it impossible to develop their computer skills, and, even if they do develop
these skills, they may not consider it likely that these would improve their employment opportunity or any
other aspect of their lives. Developing computer skills with this disadvantaged background may be
daunting, and doing so in the absence of a formal course and trainers appears even more formidable.
Female children may face even greater pressures in cases where there are strong cultural, religious and
social norms that oppose female children from working outside their homes. For these slum children and
their disadvantaged background, learning without any formal training may be very difficult. Therefore, for
the children to engage in an activity that most other slum inhabitants would consider fruitless, and
disregard social convention in doing so, seems highly unlikely. In this study, we make a valuable
contribution to research by analyzing the process of learning in slum children.
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Social Cognitive Theory
We approach our research question through the perspective of Banduras (1986) formulation of Social
Cognitive Theory (SCT). SCT posits that people are neither driven by inner forces, nor are they
automatically shaped and controlled by external stimuli. Instead, human functioning is explained through
an interactional model of triadic reciprocity in which environmental events, personal factors and behavior
all operate as interacting determinants of each other (Bandura 1986). This allows individuals some
opportunities to change their destinies within limits of self-direction. We choose this theory for its holistic
view of human action (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Triadic Reciprocity between the
Environment, Behavior, and Personal factors

This takes into consideration the results of earlier studies that show evidence that the environment has an
effect on personal/cognitive factors as well as on behavior (paths 1 and 2 in the model). It also takes into
consideration the view espoused by several theories in the IS literature such as Davis (1989) TAM,
Fishbein and Ajzens (1975) TRA, and Ajzens (1985) TPB, which predict that attitude affects behavior
(path 3 in the model). Results of social experiments that demonstrate that behavior influences attitude as
shown in path 4 are contained within this model as well (Festinger and Carlsmith, 1959). In addition,
individuals may be able to affect their environment (paths 5 and 6) indicating the possibility of slum
dwellers, in this case, changing or enacting their environment.
SCT posits that humans have several capabilities including symbolizing capability, forethought capability,
vicarious learning capability, self-regulatory capability, and self-reflective capability (Bandura 1986).
Symbolic capability means that humans do not attempt to test different alternatives by putting them into
practice by trial and error. They test these symbolically and determine the best alternative before actually
choosing a course of action. Forethought capability theorizes that humans do not simply respond to
immediate stimuli, nor are they driven by the past. Forethought is the product of generative and
reflective ideation (Bandura 1986). Human capacity for foresight lessens the impact of present and past
experiences in lieu of a desirable future. The concept of vicarious learning capability rejects the notion
that humans learn primarily from their actions, and suggests that humans learn from other peoples
experiences instead. With self-regulatory capability, individuals do not change their behavior depending
on social preferences, but instead, have internal standards that they use to evaluate their own actions.
Self-reflective capability posits that people reflect on their experiences and their thought processes, to
derive knowledge about the world around them. This lets them evaluate and alter their own thinking.
Hypotheses Development
SCT provides us with an appropriate framework to study our research questions: what enables slum
children to learn these skills on their own? Why do some slum children engage in an activity that most
other slum inhabitants consider fruitless, and disregard social convention in doing so? Among the various
Environment
Personal /
Cognitive
Factors
Behavior
1
2
3
4
6 5
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Thirty Fourth International Conference on Information Systems, Milan 2013 5
participants in self-learning about IT, what factors predict the amount of knowledge gained? The answer
may lie in the human capabilities that SCT defines.
First, if slum children use their symbolizing capability to generate innovative courses of action., then,
using symbols, they may be able to use imagine possibilities about the use of IT that they have not seen or
heard about. This may lead them to see IT like those of us that are familiar with it do, or, more probably,
they may imagine unlikely and fanciful possibilities of the technology beyond our expectations. They may
then act on these conceptions (or misconceptions) that to others may seem irrational. Therefore, we arrive
at our first hypothesis:
H1: Symbolizing capability is positively related to participation in IT learning
Second, slum children may use their power of forethought to imagine a desirable future. This desirable
future may include more skills, expertise, higher socio-economic status, and voice. The child may imagine
that some of these are possible through the new technology and unknown possibilities. These images of a
desirable future may guide and motivate their present behavior to participate in the learning activities.
Therefore, we arrive at hypothesis 2:
H2: Forethought capability is positively related to participation in IT learning.
Third, the reason that some slum children do not follow the social order of the community may be due to
their self-regulatory capability. Subjective or social norms (Ajzen 1985; Fishbein. and Ajzen 1975) of the
friends and family of the slum children would pressure the children to avoid IT. The community at large
may believe that it is not possible to learn about IT, and that even if some IT skills are learned, it may not
have any positive benefits. In the case of male children, families may believe that they are wasting their
time with IT instead of helping out with housework and sharing the family burden. In the case of female
children, the family may feel that they are violating social and religious customs and norms. These social
norms may prevent them from engaging in the activities to learn about IT, as the theory of reasoned
action and the theory of planned behavior may predict. However, self-regulating capacity may be the
reason that some young slum children defy social norms to participate in the IT learning activities. Slum
children have personal standards to which they hold their actions. This exercise of self-influence
determines the course of the children's participation in IT learning.
H3: Self-regulatory capability is positively associated with participation in IT learning.
H4: Negative social influence is negatively associated with participation in selflearning about IT.
H5: Self-regulatory capability moderates the relationship between social influence and participation in
self-learning. The higher the self-regulatory capability, the less the effect of negative social influence on
participation in self-learning.
The next set of research questions deals with the knowledge gained from such participation. Obviously, to
gain knowledge from IT self-learning, one has to participate in IT self-learning. There is always the
possibility that some children participate in IT self-learning activities but do not learn anything from it.
However, we can expect that the more the disadvantaged youth participate in self-learning activities, the
higher their chances of learning something from it. Therefore, we arrive at our next hypothesis:
H6: Participation in IT self-learning is positively associated with knowledge gained from IT self-learning.
While participation in IT self-learning is necessary, it is not sufficient to be the sole predictor of
knowledge gained from IT self-learning. Two youth may participate to the same extent in IT self-learning
activities, but one may learn more while the other learns less. We turn to SCTs other factors to try to
predict this.
Environmental determinism would predict that slum children have low IQs and low academic
achievement due to the poor health of their parents, the high levels of environmental toxins that they are
exposed to during and after birth, and the sub-optimal resources and facilities that they have had access to
in their formative years. Their challenge to learn IT would then become an uphill battle, with high
probabilities of failure to comprehend the complexities of the new technology. Conditioning and
associative learning would predict that these children would give up after the first few failed attempts, as
they have invested a lot of time and effort, defied social norms, received no reward for their actions, and
in fact, may have been punished by the frustration of failure. Self-reflective capability may indicate why
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some children persist even in the face of failure. This capability allows the children to reflect on their
actions, on the causes of their success or failure, and then decide what needs to be changed on the next
attempt, and whether it is worth investing more time and effort after a series of failed attempts. This
brings us to hypothesis 7:
H7: Self-reflective capability moderates the relationship between participation in IT self-learning and
knowledge gained from IT self-learning. The higher the self-reflective capability the more the knowledge
gained from participation in IT self-learning.
Next, slum children may observe a few other slum children learning IT skills and using them to express
their creativity. They may also notice that these children gain respect in the community as a result. The
slum children may use their vicarious capability to draw from these exemplars. Through social interaction
they may learn about uses of IT by observing other slum children working on the computers and other
media. This enables them to learn about complex subjects like IT when they have no chance of acquiring
this knowledge spontaneously. This brings us to our next hypothesis:
H8: Vicarious capability moderates the relationship between participation in IT self-learning and
knowledge gained from IT self-learning.
However, for IT self-learners to use their vicarious capabilities to learn from others, there must be other
leading peer-learners present for the vicarious learner to observe. Therefore, we can reasonably expect
that the more the peer learners, the more vicarious capability can affect knowledge gained. This brings us
to our next hypothesis:
H9: There is a three-way interaction between peer learners, vicarious capability, and participation in self-
learning on knowledge gained from self-learning. The greater the peer learners, the more the positive the
effect that vicarious capability has on the effect of participation on knowledge gained from IT self-
learning.
These hypotheses are represented in Figure 2.


Figure 2: The Effects of Human Capabilities on IT self-learning
Participation
in IT Self-
Learning
Self-reflective
capability
Self-
regulatory
capability
Vicarious
capability
Forethought
capability
Symbolizing
capability
Knowledge
gained from
IT Self-
Learning
Social Influence
Peer
Learner
s
H1
H2
H3
H4
H5
H9
H6
H7
H8
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Thirty Fourth International Conference on Information Systems, Milan 2013 7
Methodology
This paper studies the research model through an empirical survey of a sample consisting of slum
children and youth in settlements in and around New Delhi, India. To increase the generalizability of the
study, we collected data through two separate samples. One sample includes youth who accessed IT
through the efforts of a non-governmental organization that is interested in creative and artistic
endeavors. The second sample includes slum children who accessed IT through the efforts of a different
non-governmental organization focused on educational development.
The first sample was collected at informal settlements that are the site of as a joint project between Sarai,
a new media initiative of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, and Ankur Society for Alternatives
in Education, a Delhi-based NGO (Times of India, 2004). The project is called CyberMohalla, an Urdu
term which translates into cyber-neighborhood. These are located in an illegal squatter settlement
named Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Basti, a resettlement colony named Dakshinpuri, and in another
illegal squatter settlement named Nangla Maachhi (Nayar, 2008). In 2006, the Government of India
began displacing the Nangla Maachhi settlement. The Dakshinpuri settlement is legal; however, it is
plagued by endemic poverty and violence, like the other two informal settlements (Sarai, 2006). The
project consists of five CompuGhars (computer houses) or locality labs. Each locality lab consists of
three computers, portable audio recorders, cameras, and scanners. Around sixty children from these
slums with no previous computer experience have used these labs to teach themselves IT skills to express
their creativity, including basic webpage creation, blogging, maintaining audio and video archives, and
creating short animation clips (Times of India, 2004). These children now report benefits of increased
visibility in the community and internationally, increase in the respect of their peers and their elders,
greater confidence about their skills, and improved employment opportunities (Times of India, 2004).
Their self-taught skills have garnered these slum children worldwide attention, including an invitation to
demonstrate their creativity in Hamburg, Germany (Sarai, 2004). The increased visibility has even helped
stay the Government of India from displacing their illegal squatter settlement (Nangla Lab, 2006). These
are high achievements for slum children in the developing world. Therefore, they may have important
benefits through their participation in the Cybermohalla. At the community level, it may enable them to
have voice that national policy makers and international organizations may hear. At the individual level it
helps them develop skills, self-efficacy, confidence, and increases their status inside the community. It
also may provide them with a social support network consisting of other slum children who participate in
the Cybermohalla as well as others in their virtual network outside their geographic region. This social
support is critical as it provides vision and connects slum members to opportunities and resources. These
slum children now have improved employment opportunities, and some have moved to better
environments (Sarai 2006).
The second sample is taken from slums surrounding project sites of a separate project named Hole-In-
The-Wall(Mitra 2003). This project is largely the brainchild of Dr. Sugata Mitra, a professor in the
United Kingdom, and a director at The National Institute for Information Technology (NIIT), a computer
education institute in India. NIITs head office in New Delhi shared a wall with a slum. Dr. Mitra
conducted an experiment by building a computer into this shared wall, with the monitor, keyboard and
mouse on the side of the slum, and the CPU on the NIIT side. He also installed a camera to observe what
happened. Several slum children approached the computer, and after some trial and error, eventually
learned to use the computer, surf the internet, use word processing, listen to music, and even make some
computer graphics. A paper on the experiment inspired the author to write the bestseller Q & A which
inspired the movie Slumdog Millionaire, an international blockbuster in 2008 (Roy, 2009). Following
the experiment, now titled the Hole-In-The-Wall project, Dr. Mitra conducted similar experiments in
other slums, and obtained similar results. Now several clients, including numerous governmental bodies,
have approached him to replicate his results, resulting in the opening of several similar installations, now
called learning stations. The organization HiWEL (Hole In the Wall Education Limited) was set up for
this purpose, with a philosophy of minimally invasive education (Mitra, 2003). In New Delhi, the local
public school system asked HiWEL to put two learning stations into the exterior wall of several public
schools next to slums. The second sample from this study is drawn from the slums near these learning
stations in New Delhi.
An instrument was developed in Hindustani, a language spoken by the majority of the sample, to measure
the constructs in the study. The instrument was tested on a small sample of slum children. It underwent
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several modifications to make it easier to understand, and then a few questions were dropped following
validity and reliability analysis. An English translation of the instrument can be provided on request.
Results
The survey resulted in 84 usable responses. The ages of the respondents varied from 12 to 21, with an
average age of 15 years. The respondents had an almost equal number of males and females. All
hypothesis were testing using Partial Least Squares (PLS) using SmartPLS 2.0 Beta (Ringle, Wende &
Will, 2005
To test Hypotheses 1-5, we ran Models 1 and 2 in Table 1.

Table 1: Tests for Hypotheses 1 to 5
Model 1: DV=
Participation in self-
learning
Model 2: DV=
Participation in self-
learning
Age -0.06 -0.05
Gender 0.02 0.02
Symbolizing capability 0.14 0.15
Forethought capability 0.71** 0.69**
Self-regulatory
Capability
0.55* 0.21*
Social influence 0.49* 0.18
Self-regulatory
capability x social
influence
-0.61**

As we can see from Table 1, we do not find support for Hypothesis 1: symbolizing capability does not have
a significant effect on participation in IT self-learning. However, we do find evidence for hypotheses 2 to
5. Forethought capability has a significant and positive relationship with participation in IT self-learning
(b=0.71, p<0.01), supporting Hypothesis 2: forethought capability is positively related to participation in
IT learning. In accordance with Hypotheses 3 (self-regulatory capability is positively associated with
participation in IT learning) and 4 (negative social influence is negatively associated with participation in
selflearning about IT), we find that self-regulatory capability and social influence both have a significant
and positive influence on participation in IT self-learning. To test the moderating effect, we introduce the
interaction term, self-regulatory capability x social influence into the model. As we can see from Model 2
in Table 1, the interaction term is significant and negative, lending support for Hypothesis 5: self-
regulatory capability moderates the relationship between social influence and participation in self-
learning. In addition, the presence of the interaction term reduces the significance and the strength of
both self-regulatory capability as well as social influence, lending further support for Hypothesis 5. The
higher self-regulatory capacity is, the less the effect of social influence on participation in IT self-learning.
To test Hypotheses 6-9, we ran Models 3 and 4 in Table 2.

Table 2: Tests for Hypotheses 6 to 9
Model 3: DV=
Amount of IT self-
learning
Model 4: DV=
Amount of self-
learning
Model 5: DV=
Amount of self-
learning
Age -0.08 -0.07 -0.07
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Gender 0.05 0.03 0.04
Participation 0.91*** 0.31** 0.24*
Self-Reflective
capability x
Participation
0.40** 0.32**
Vicarious capability x
Participation
0.25** 0.11
Peer-learning x
Participation
0.21** 0.10
Vicarious capability x
Peer-learning x
Participation
0.43**

To test Hypothesis 6 (participation in IT self-learning is positively associated with knowledge gained from
IT self-learning), we ran Model 3 in Table 2. From this, we can see that IT self-learning participation has a
positive effect on IT self-learning knowledge (b=0.91, p<.001), lending support for Hypothesis 6. To test
hypotheses 7 and 8 on the moderating effects of self-reflective capability and vicarious capability on this
relationship, we enter the interaction terms self-reflective capability x IT self-learning participation and
vicarious capability x IT self-learning participation into the model. We see that both the interaction
terms are significant and positive, lending support for hypotheses 7 and 8 (b=0.40, p<0.01, and b=0.25,
p<0.01, respectively). Finally, we test hypothesis 9 (the greater the peer learners, the more the positive the
effect that vicarious capability has on the effect of participation on knowledge gained from IT self-
learning) by entering the three-way interaction term vicarious capability x peer-learning x IT self-
learning participation into the model. We see that this has a significant and positive effect on IT self-
learning knowledge as well (b=0.43, p<0.01).
Discussion
The results reveal how these underprivileged youth learn to use a computer on their own and in the
absence of any formal training. The first set of research questions examined motivation of these youths to
partake in an activity that many in their social circle view not only as a pointless waste of time but also as
a distraction from the real work of manual labor. According to the survey results, the main factor that
affected these underprivileged youths participation in self-learning is their forethought capability,
followed by their curiosity. Social influence can affect this participation, but the more self-regulatory the
children and youth are, the less the effect of social influence.
The second set of research questions dealt with the question of the knowledge gained from self-learning
about IT. Without the moderating factors, it appears that participation has a large effect on knowledge
gained from self-learning about IT. However, once the moderating factors are added, we see that the main
effects of participation is greatly reduced and that the factors making the most impact on knowledge are
the interaction factors participation x self-reflective capability and the three-way interaction vicarious
capability x peer-learners x participation. We find that there are two styles of learning among the
participants. One style suggests that participants learn on their own, with their self-reflective capabilities
guiding them through trial and error. Another style indicates that participants learn in groups of peer
learners, with their vicarious capabilities guiding them to learn from their peer learners successes and
failures.
The hypothesis that was unsupported was H1, the effect of symbolizing capabilities on participation in
self-learning about IT. Upon reflection, it appears that symbolizing capability may help more with
knowledge gained from self-learning on IT. Symbolizing capability deals with the ability to use symbols
such as language and imagery. Youth with a high capability to use such symbols may have an advantage in
learning the language and images used on a computer's graphical user interface, and therefore, may be
better able to gain knowledge through participating in self-learning about IT. Therefore, we posit a new
hypothesis:
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10 Thirty Fourth International Conference on Information Systems, Milan 2013
H10: Symbolizing capability moderates the relationship between participation in IT self-learning and
knowledge gained from IT self-learning. The higher the symbolizing capability, the more participation in
IT self-learning affects knowledge gained from IT self-learning.
We then test this hypothesis by adding this interacting variable to Model 5.

Table 2: Tests for Hypothesis 10
Model 6: DV= Amount of self-
learning
Age -0.07
Gender 0.04
Participation 0.23*
Self-Reflective capability x Participation 0.30**
Vicarious capability x Participation 0.11
Peer-learning x Participation 0.10
Vicarious capability x Peer-learning x
Participation
0.42**
Symbolizing capability x Participation 0.13*

Here, we see that symbolizing capability has a significant and positive effect on knowledge gained from
self-learning on IT. However, the effect is not as strong as the effects of the other two interacting
variables.
Contributions To Practice
We make a valuable contribution to the practice of empowerment through self-learning in IT. As the
forces of environmental determinism are strong, it may not be enough to simply set up these labs and
expect large numbers of slum children to benefit. Practitioners, therefore, also need to focus on
addressing the capabilities of these children to overcome their debilitating environments and empower
themselves through learning. The constructs used in this paper--symbolizing, forethought, visceral, self-
regulating and self-reflecting capabilities provide a valuable guide to practitioners on where best to direct
their efforts to increase empowerment.
The results of the empirical analysis gives some insight into the factors that distinguish between the slum
children who have been able to empower themselves through IT and those that have not. This may be
valuable in future initiatives for empowerment of slum children. First, forethought capability appears to
be one of the primary differentiators between the participants and non-participants of self-learning in IT.
Hence, it is possible that practitioners can try various methods to increase the forethought of the targeted
youth to try and increase participation. One way this could be affected is to get youth to start thinking
about possible futures through self-empowerment through IT. This might be affected by highlighting
successes of others from the same socio-economic background, along with other similar opportunities.
In addition, the moderating factors give greater insights into how knowledge is gained through
participation. We find existence of two distinct styles of self-learning. One from reflecting on trial and
error, and the second from vicariously learning from peers learning together. Practitioners can use this to
investigate if the computer learning stations can be designed to emphasize and accentuate the two
different styles of learning. If not some sort of timesharing could be worked out to accommodate the two
styles of learners.
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Empowerment of Underprivileged through IT

Thirty Fourth International Conference on Information Systems, Milan 2013 11
Contributions to research
In this paper, we use SCT to study what makes children and youth from lower socio-economic
backgrounds participate in self-learning about IT. In addition, we study which factors predict to what
extent knowledge is gained through self-learning. We thus provide an explanation for how disadvantaged
children and youth learn about IT in the absence of formal training, education or courses. In doing so, we
make the following contributions to the body of knowledge
Research on information technologies for underserved communities is growing, but so far there very little
is done in terms of theory-building addressing the empowerment of slum children in developing countries
through IT. This is a highly relevant topic, as the magnitude of the problem of slum dwellers is enormous,
and is projected to grow rapidly over the next quarter century. In using SCT to study this issue, we bring
in a broad framework to address the complexity of the issues involved.
In studying this issue, we see that the constructs used in IS literature focus more on user acceptance, not
self-learning, have limited utility in addressing the empowerment of slum children. For example, the TAM
(Technology Acceptance Model) constructs of perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use assume
some level of basic familiarity with the technology in question. Studies done using TAM are done post-
training (for example, see Venkatesh et al, 2003). These assumptions do not hold when dealing with slum
children, as these constructs make little sense to a slum child who has never touched or even seen a
computer before, let alone received specialized training. It would be irrational to assume that a child will
have perceptions of ease of use of a completely alien technology. Here, we see that it is not perceptions of
ease of use, but of imaginations of possibilities that actually play a part in whether these slum children
participate in learning or not. We make a valuable contribution here by extending SCT to understand the
dynamics of slum children learning about IT. Symbolizing capability enables slum children to imagine
various possibilities of a technology that they have little to no comprehension of. Forethought capability
allows them to envision a desirable future and work towards it, reflecting human aspirations to pursue
dreams. Vicarious capability enables these children to learn about IT without formal training, and instead,
learn about IT by observing others who use it. Self-regulatory capability allows these slum children to
reject subjective and social norms and conventions and forge a new course for their lives, in spite of all the
beliefs and evidence to the contrary all around them. Self-reflective capabilities allow the children to
persist in the face of failure, changing their actions with the feedback they receive, to keep trying until
they succeed. In doing this, we attempt to validate a theoretical basis for the human capabilities in slum
children to overcome the forces of environmental determinism working against them.
This study makes another valuable contribution by developing a model that theorizes how these
constructs affect participation in self-learning about IT as well as knowledge gained from such
participation. In addition, by developing an instrument to measure these constructs, and empirically
testing the model, we further the body of knowledge in this area. Participation in IT self-learning is
affected primarily by forethought, and negative social influences on self-participation are moderated by
self-regulation. The higher self-regulation is, the less negative social influence will affect participation in
self-learning about IT. Future research can focus on studying the factors that affect forethought and self-
regulation. This can help aid practitioner efforts on increasing participation. In addition, participation is
necessary, but not sufficient to predict knowledge gained from self-learning on IT.
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