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The role of design values in information system development for human benefit

Aditya Johri (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA)
Sumitra Nair (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 23 August 2011




This paper appropriates the value sensitive design (VSD) framework to examine the role of design values in the development of an information system designed to increase transparency and reduce corruption within the context of a large‐scale e‐governance project in India.


A qualitative case study was conducted and data were collected through interviews with system designers, observations of system design and implementation, and walk‐through of designed systems. Data analysis followed an interpretive approach intended to understand informants' meaning‐making. Analysis occurred iteratively both during and after the field study.


The study reveals the complexity of the role of values in the design of information technology wherein the designers in their pursuit of transparency and reduced corruption have to continuously balance their idealistic and pragmatic values.

Research limitations/implications

This study tests the VSD framework in the context of developing an e‐government system thereby highlighting its usefulness but also outlining ways in which the framework can be expanded to make it more relevant to diverse contexts.

Practical implications

This study extends the VSD framework, particularly in contexts where designers' values are primary drivers of design decisions. A greater understanding of the role of design values across the design process can prove crucial in inculcating and reinforcing design values that lead to a more contextually relevant product.

Social implications

This research provides valuable lessons on how to approach design of systems that can benefit humans with implications for designers and for public policy.


This is one of the first studies that utilizes the VSD framework to study information system design in a human development context with novel implications for both research and practice.



Johri, A. and Nair, S. (2011), "The role of design values in information system development for human benefit", Information Technology & People, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 281-302.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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