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PhD Defence Iqbal Mukti | Defining, Designing, and Implementing Rural Smartness

Defining, Designing, and Implementing Rural Smartness

The PhD Defence of Iqbal Mukti will take place in the Waaier building of the University of Twente and can be followed by a live stream.
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Iqbal Mukti is a PhD student in the department Industrial Engineering & Business Information Systems. (Co)Supervisors are prof.dr. J. van Hillegersberg, prof.dr. M.E. Iacob, dr. A.I. Aldea from the Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences and dr. R. Govindaraju from Institut Teknologi Bandung.

Rural inhabitants, particularly in developing countries, are characterised by having a low income. Thus, to gain a better livelihood, most of them migrate to urban areas where economic activities are agglomerated. On one side, this rural-urban migration fuels economic activities in the urban area. However, on the other side, the unmanageable pace of rural-urban migration has negative consequences for the migrants themselves and for both urban and rural areas. The migrants typically end up in low-wage jobs because a large proportion of them lack the skills necessary for well-paid jobs in the cities. Therefore, instead of having a better livelihood, they are trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty. Urban areas, as their critical infrastructures are overwhelmed by the increasing demand, get numerous problems, such as traffic congestion, energy crisis, slum areas, and pollution. Rural areas, on the other hand, lack the talent needed to fuel their economic engine since much of the population at a productive age is pulled to the cities, which, in turn, makes alleviation of rural poverty more difficult. 

Given the above negative consequences of rural-urban migration, the rural economic climate needs to be improved. The promising approach, as suggested by the literature, is by making rural areas smarter through the intensification of the use of novel information technology (IT). This dissertation elaborates on this approach by defining, designing, and implementing rural smartness as reflected in its research goals.

The first research goal (RG1) is to understand the social artefact of rural smartness. The purpose is to portray the causal mechanism that explains how the realisation of rural smartness leads to economic welfare improvement for rural citizens. Within this goal, we carried out a systematic literature review (SLR) to elaborate on the current knowledge of the characteristics, the determinants, and the implications of rural smartness. The results from this SLR provide us with a grounded knowledge to define the concept of rural smartness. Subsequently, we formulated a theoretical model that depicts the interplay between the determinants of rural smartness and its implications on the economic welfare of rural citizens. This model has been tested using data from a sample of respondents from rural areas of West Java, Indonesia. The results suggested that rural smartness is determined by the interplay of organisational, environmental, and technological readiness, and has a strong positive impact on innovativeness which, in turn, improves the competitiveness of the rural business ecosystem.

The second research goal (RG2) is to design a reference architecture of the IT artefact of rural smartness. The aim is to provide an architectural guideline to develop a digital service platform aimed at improving the rural economic climate, which we refer to as the rural smartness platform. We put forward the idea that the platform works as an efficient mechanism to stimulate the establishment of a digital business ecosystem (DBE) tailored to unlock the potential of the rural economy. The reference architecture of the platform was grounded on the understanding of the social artefact of rural smartness resulting from the first research goal and was formally described with the ArchiMate modelling language. Subsequently, the effectiveness of instantiating the proposed reference architecture has been evaluated by means of expert opinion and a survey to the users of the instantiated platform. The results from both evaluation methods suggested that instantiation of the architecture was perceived to improve the innovativeness and competitiveness of the business ecosystem in rural areas.

The final research goal (RG3) is to understand how should the reference architecture of rural smartness platform be deployed in a real setting. To achieve this goal, we carried out a technical action research to help the ICT Agency of West Java province, Indonesia, implement the proposed reference architecture. We explained how the implementation project was carried out and described the contextual requirements that must be satisfied to ensure a feasible implementation of the proposed reference. Moreover, to make sure that rural businesses are willing to use the platform as part of their daily activities, we explained the usage intention by means of a survey among the platform’s early adopters in West Java.

We consider that the main contribution of this dissertation is providing guidelines to understand the social artefact of rural smartness, to design an architecture of an IT artefact of rural smartness, and to implement the IT artefact in a real setting. The proposed theoretical model (resulting from RG1) can serve as a kernel theory for improving rural citizens' economic welfare. The proposed reference architecture (resulting from RG2) contributes to the body of knowledge regarding the formation and development of a DBE for rural communities. Meanwhile, our implementation approach in West Java (resulting from RG3) can be used by practitioners as the starting point in implementing the proposed reference architecture in their context. Finally, in addition to the contributions to the field of rural smartness, this dissertation has a novel contribution to the general area of design science research. Based on the research activities that we have carried out, we came up with a general design science research methodology that systematically incorporates the empirical methods of behavioural science research in designing an IS artefact.