This paper analyzes the processes and challenges of technology repair in remote, low-income areas far from standard ICT repair infrastructure. Our sites of study are the fishing and farming villages of Dibut, Diotorin, and Dikapinisan in Aurora Province, Philippines, located in coastal coves against a mountain range. Residents are geographically isolated from urban areas, with the nearest peri-urban center of Baler a boat trip of several hours away, infeasible in some sea conditions. Unlike prior work in more connected rural areas, there are no local repair shops and device repair is uncommon, despite frequent breakage due to harsh conditions for electronics. The scarcity of local electronics repair limits technology access and leads to accumulation of e-waste. While prior work demonstrates that local electronics repair capability does arise in many rural areas around the world, we must also acknowledge that the successful emergence of this infrastructure depends on the intersection of many structural conditions and cannot be taken for granted. We present the material hardships of achieving local repair in terms of seams between heterogeneous urban and rural infrastructures, which illustrate the cove communities' marginality with respect to many forms of public infrastructure. However, intermittent and informal repair infrastructures based on trust relationships emerge to patch these seams in remote settings. We show how trust affects the way people dynamically construct repair infrastructure and why, based on their remoteness and the resulting value propositions of repair. Networks of trust between repairers, their clients, suppliers, fellow repairers, and certifying or training institutions crucially facilitate the movement of resources and expertise across the Philippines, but also reinforce the marginality of residents and repairers in the coves. Despite these structural challenges, local people are able to maintain a robust ecosystem for rural electrical line repair, from which we generalize the model of training grounds as a strategy for sustaining local communities of repair experts.
Esther Han Beol Jang, Philip Garrison, Ronel Vincent Vistal, Maria Theresa D. Cunanan, Maria Theresa Perez, Philip Martinez, Matthew William Johnson, John Andrew Evangelista, Syed Ishtiaque Ahmed, Josephine Dionisio, Mary Claire Aguilar Barela, and Kurtis Heimerl. 2019. Trust and Technology Repair Infrastructures in the Remote Rural Philippines: Navigating Urban-Rural Seams. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 3, CSCW, Article 99 (November 2019), 25 pages. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3359201
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