Karen Sowon

Mail -

I am a postdoctoral research associate at Carnegie Mellon University where I am honored to be co-advised by Giulia Fanti and Conrad Tucker. My research lies in the broader domain of human computer interactions. I investigate the behavioral and socio-cultural aspects of digital technology adoption and use, and human factors in security, with the aim of surfacing challenges and opportunities of such technologies on people and society, as well as to design appropriate technological solutions that are culturally relevant, safe, and usable. My research interests are driven by the desire to contribute to the formulation of policies and design of technological solutions that will foster sustainable, empowering, and inclusive techno-enabled societies and economies especially for understudied and marginalized populations.

Research Interests: Human-computer interaction, Usable security and privacy, ICT for Development (ICT4D), Inclusive innovations, Social computing, Human-centered cybersecurity.



  • 8/28/23: Excited to have been accepted to the EECS Rising Stars Workshop 2023!
  • 10/05/23: Thrilled to have been part of the future faculty diversity program at Virginia Tech! This was an enriching experience
  • 7/21/23: Honored to have given a talk at NIST (U.S. Department of Commerce) on challenges and opportunities in the use of identification (ID) for mobile money services.
  • 6/28/23: Honored to be the speaker at the Upanzi Network Digital Public Goods webinar series.
  • 4/01/23: I am on the PC for IEEE symposium on security and privacy. I look forward to engaging with the great pieces of work.
  • 10/10/22: Excited to be sharing our preliminary insights on the role of human agents in privacy and security of digital financial systems at the CyLab Africa summit on Digital Public Goods (Kigali, Rwanda)

Short Bio

Karen Sowon is a postdoctoral researcher at CyLab, the Security and Privacy Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research spans the adoption and use of digital and emerging technologies such as those in finance and healthcare and human factors in privacy and security. She completed her Ph.D. in Information Systems from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Her doctoral research investigated the socio-cultural issues affecting the use of digital health interventions for maternal health in Kenya. She has previously served as a teaching and research assistant in the Department of Information Systems at UCT and worked as a research fellow at the Cybersecurity Capacity Centre for Southern Africa (C3SA). She has also worked as a Business Analyst on systems such as Converis and Microsoft Dynamics. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, she received her Masters and Bachelors in Information Technnology from Strathmore University, where she also taught several undergraduate courses.


Luhanga, E., Sowon, K., Cranor, L.F., Fanti, G., Tucker, C., & Gueye, A. (2024). User Experiences with Third-Party SIM Cards and ID Registration in Kenya and Tanzania.CHI 2024 (Under Review)

Sowon, K., Luhanga, E., Cranor, L.F., Fanti, G., Tucker, C., & Gueye, A. (2024). The Role of User-Agent Interactions on Mobile Money Practices in Kenya and Tanzania.IEEE S&P 2024 (To Appear)

Nakaizumi, C., Patel, S., Wang, B., Kimura, H., Li, R., Yuan, Y.,Sowon, K, & Cranor, L.F. (2023). A Usability Evaluation of Money Transfer Apps in the United States. In Symposium on usability, privacy, and security (SOUPS)

Sowon, K, & Chigona, W. (2021). How the Information System Utilisation Context may Lead to Unintended Technology use - A Case of a Maternal Mhealth Intervention In Kenya. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries

Maliwichi, P., Chigona, W., & Sowon, K. (2021). Appropriation of mHealth Interventions for Maternal Health Care in Sub-Saharan Africa: Hermeneutic Review. JMIR mHealth and uHealth and uHealth, 9(10), e22653.

Sowon, K., & Chigona, W. (2021). Conceptualising Healthcare-Seeking as an Activity to Explain Technology Use: A Case of M-health. arXiv preprint arXiv:2108.10082.

Sowon, K & Chigona, W. (2020). Trust in mHealth: How do Maternal Health Clients Accept and Use mHealth Interventions? In Conference of the South African Institute of Computer Scientists and Information Technologists 2020 (SAICSIT ’20), September 14–16, 2020, Cape Town, South Africa. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 9 pages.

Banzi, U., Sowon, K., Mudavanhu, S., & Chigona, W. (2018) The Use of Mobile Data Services Among Women in Cape Town – South Africa

Sowon, K., Sikhwari, O., Nyemba-Mudenda, M., & Chigona, W. (2018). Smartphone Paradoxes in Working Mothers’ Pursuit of Work-Life Balance. In International Development Informatics Association Conference (pp. 94-106).

Sikhwari, O., Sowon, K., Nyemba-Mudenda, M., & Chigona, W. (2018) Work-Life Balance or Imbalance? Smartphone Use by Working Mothers in South Africa

Echaminya, M., Karen, S., & Kasamani, S. B. (2013). The 3D Gaming Simulation for a Real-World University Experience. International Journal of Computer and Information Technology,2(3)

Sowon, K., & Marwanga, R. (2011). Providing home-based care using text messaging. Engineering, 12, 196-200.

Professional Service

Program Committees


  • 2022: Mentor, Cybersafe Foundation
  • 2021: Mentor, Cybersecurity Competition, C3SA