Sustainability and Ethics by Design: On the development of digital platforms in low-resource environments

Sophie Vos, Hella Schaefers, Anna Bon, Patricia Lago*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book / ReportReportAcademic

87 Downloads (Pure)


Context. ICT projects in low-resource environments often fail. Furthermore, ICT
projects that are introduced by means of development aid often cease to exist once the funding stops. This situation is not sustainable. Moreover, technology can have negative consequences for society, especially in low-resource environments.
Goal. We aim to understand the sustainability and ethical concerns of designing
context-sensitive ICT systems in low-resource environments. Our main research
question is “Can we define a general good practice for designing sustainable and
ethical (software-intensive) systems in low-resource environments?".
Method. To answer the research question, we conducted a case study regarding the redesign of an information system that supports the seed value chain processes in Mali.
Based on interviews and focus groups, we modeled and analyzed the sustainability and ethical concerns and proposed context-sensitive changes to the information system that fit the local needs.
Results. The main contribution of this work is a description of a methodology in
developing sustainable and ethical software in low-resource environments.
Conclusion. Sustainability can only be measured over time. Hence, to introduce a sustainable system, its context and long-term effects need to be understood. Co-creation can be a tool to facilitate culturally-sensitive ethical consideration in software projects for low-resource environments, however, more general ethical reflection is needed to fully embed ethics in such projects.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherVU University Press Amsterdam
Number of pages43
Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Sustainability
  • Ethics
  • Food security
  • Software design
  • Software Engineering
  • Decision Maps
  • Mali
  • Seeds Value Chain

VU Research Profile

  • Science for Sustainability
  • Connected World


Dive into the research topics of 'Sustainability and Ethics by Design: On the development of digital platforms in low-resource environments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this