Evaluating mHealth Apps Using Affordances: Case of CommCare Versus DHIS2 Tracker
CommCare and DHIS2 Tracker are two software packages which were configured for community health workers (CHW) in Malawi and evaluated and compared. To capture a wide scope of aspects including possible developmental ones, the Affordance concept was applied as an analytic frame. Being configurable software packages, concept of Platform Affordance was considered but abandoned, since its domain could be covered by the configurer’s affordance. To operationalize the concept, usability concepts from HCI were applied for the evaluation and comparison of end-user and configure affordances. Organisational Affordance, based on structuration theory modalities, was used to characterize affordances not attributed to specific people.
The study revealed that much as CommCare is more specific to CHWs, hence having more weight on the configuration (where configuration was quicker) and end-user affordances (with an ability to display images which could be used for health promotion) compared to DHIS2, it had weak organisational affordance mostly due to license fees. Further, DHIS2 had the ability to produce reports summarizing health indicators and comparing the data generated with data collected outside the DHIS2 App.
In addition to usability issues, the CHWs perceived that any of the systems would relieve them from bulky registers to carry and time-consuming reporting, hence affording more time for other tasks. Observations of their slow typing speed point in the opposite direction. While the Affordance concept emphasizes the relationship between users and technology, the case points to the need for not making users’ first impression the only basis for judging affordances.