A digital design training model for Jua Kali artisans in Kenya

  • Mary Clare Akinyi Kidenda

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Interaction with Kenyan informal sector artisans – also known as the Jua Kali (JK) has suggested that their skill acquisition through the informal traditional apprenticeship (TA) system, which is devoid of theory, constrains their product quality and incomes. The JK sector accounts for 84.8% of the national labour force, and produces affordable goods and services for a majority of Kenyans. Thus, appropriate design practice and planning skills among artisans are imperative for uplifting many Kenyans’ livelihoods quality and incomes, contributing to Kenya Vision 2030’s development objective of transforming the country to middle income status.

The objective of the research reported here was to establish the status of design practice and planning skills among the JK artisans, with the aim of developing and testing a competency-based Digital Design Training Intervention (DDTI) model encountered in the literature, with which to remedy skills shortfalls through m-learning. The model aims at bridging the skills development gap by delivering a tailor-made, learner-centred, competency-based design training model that is accessible online or through mobile technology. Available anytime anywhere with no tuition fees involved, the DDTI would uplift the supply of properly trained JK artisans, in keeping with Vision 2030’s aspirations.

The study involved a mixed methods research approach alongside an action research design. The first phase employed situational analysis involving qualitative and quantitative data collection, to establish the existing design and planning skills acquired through TA and the workplace, and the gaps needing attention. The second phase engaged the artisans in the development of a competency-based design-training model for delivery through m-learning, accessed through the web or mobile technology. The final phase tested the model’s efficacy among the JK artisans, and among government officials for relevance to Vision 2030’s policies and strategies.

The testing established that the DDTI’s web-based and mobile phone-based Unstructured Supplementary Service Data models could enhance the JK artisans’ design practice and planning, thereby promoting Vision 2030 objectives. These ground-breaking findings introduce ICT into a new realm, the JK manufacturing sub-sector. The study also makes the important finding that Kenya lacks a nationally integrated database on the primary livelihoods sector, whose establishment would allow more nuanced analysis of the role of the JK sector.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
  • Technical University of Kenya
SupervisorMartin Woolley (Supervisor), Suki K K Mwendwa (Supervisor) & Karen Bull (Supervisor)

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