Original Research

A hermeneutic framework for responsible technical interventions in low-income households – mobile phones for improved managed health care as test case

Montagu Murray, Ernst Wolff
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 11, No 3 | a61 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v11i3.61 | © 2015 Montagu Murray, Ernst Wolff | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 February 2016 | Published: 31 December 2015

About the author(s)

Montagu Murray, NOVA Institute, South Africa
Ernst Wolff, Department of philosophy, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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In this article the authors, a philosopher and a social development practitioner, formulate recommendations for responsible planning of technical interventions in health care relations under circumstances of uncertainty and moral risk. It is proposed that the hermeneutic approach followed in this article could serve as a heuristic guide to research and development teams in the planning phase of similar projects to proceed in a responsible manner. The introduction of mobile phone technology by a managed health care service provider to clients from a low-income South African context is used as a test case to illustrate the value of the proposed heuristic approach. The strength of this approach is situated in its coordination of general anthropological considerations, with interpretative attention to particularities. The test case is a relevant to the problem since it cannot be assumed that the same habitus of acquaintance with the mobile phone apparatus has been formed in the low-income South African context as in contexts or societies where people have been using telephones for decades.


Managed health care; responsibility; technical intervention; mobile phones; communication in rural health care; heuristics; hermeneutics


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