Computers have their roots in the natural sciences, and was developed as a machine to compute numerical mathematics. Computers soon became more than number crunchers or calculators. They became useful instruments for collecting data, make calculations and present the data to the user. The computer became an information processing system, which gave the user more accessible and useful information. Many researchers have since theorised about the use, functioning and construction of computer based information systems. There existed information systems before the computer, but they were not labeled as such. An information system can potentially be completely paper based. I will focus on computer based ISs, but I recognise that computers are only one piece in a broader context. It is this broader context and the interplay of humans and computers that IS theory seeks to conceptualise.
In this chapter I will present the theoretical background relevant to my research. I will discuss different perspectives used to understand an describe ISs. I will start with a broad perspective and narrow down to my application area. After that I will describe the participatory design strategy for IS development. Last I will look into perspectives and strategies relevant for IS development in developing countries.