Social Impact of Technology

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In 2002 Randy Bush gave a talk at Rhodes University about the social impact of technology. It is interesting to re-visit this talk with the lens of ICTD research:

"Technology is not an end in itself, it is only a tool to assist our humanity, and should be used for good. That is technologists must take responsibility for the social results of our work. Techno-colonialism is as dangerous as political imperialism, at least to us nerds and those we enable. Life is not just about money and capital success; education and privilege come with responsibility to our societies and to humankind which follows us all our lives. And each of us, as individuals, through our daily acts, can and must do what we can to effect positive social evolution and change."

Full transcript here.

On Writing ICTD Research Papers

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kentoy photo.jpg     Evaluation criteria and methods for ICTD research are still evolving. Admittedly defining these will be hard and will take time. Kentaro Toyama (MSR) takes a first stab at describing what a "good" ICTD research paper should be like. The document is available from his website, here. This is an evolving document, so feel free to give your feedback.

On a side note, Kentaro and MSR India were recently featured in the NY Times. The article gives a good overview of ICTD research at MSR India. Read the complete article here.

The Arial Home Initiative

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More than a billion people live in sub-standard, unhealthy conditions. Unfortunately, most government and charitable organizations are addressing the housing crisis with short term solutions that are unlikely to catch up with population growth. This is also a big concern in metropolitan areas, where slums continue to grow along with the rest of the cities e.g., in Mumbai.

An interesting project out of Princeton, called the Arial Home, looks at a new way of addressing the problem of inadequate housing for poor families. They explore building pre-fabricated cheap homes. A typical home can be assembled by 12 volunteers in a day. More details here.
trlogo.jpg     MIT TechReview has featured our work on improving Internet connectivity in the developing-world. This Project, dubbed DonateBandwidth, is a follow-up on our Poor Man's Broadband work. With DonateBandwidth, users in the developing-world can help each other by donating their unused bandwidth to those who need it. This project received funding from the US State Department/NAS and HEC and will be further developed in collaboration with UC Berkeley.

Read the TechReview article here.

Kenneth Keniston's Keynote

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Keniston.jpg     Kenneth Keniston is scheduled to give the keynote address at NSDR this year. The keynote will focus on key issues like lessons learnt from previous efforts e.g., in India, understanding the current ICT4D boom, and future directions for ICT professionals and researchers.

Kenneth Keniston is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Human Development at MIT and Director of the MIT India Program. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College. He received his D. Phil. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He has taught at Harvard, Yale, and MIT. He is the author of nine books including IT Experience in India: Bridging the Digital Divide and The State, IT, and Development.

More information on the keynote here. More information on the NSDR 2008 program here.

NSDR 2008

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We organized the first ACM Workshop on Networked Systems for Developing Regions (NSDR 2007), with SIGCOMM 2007, last year. Now, we are organizing NSDR again. NSDR 2008 will be held with SIGCOMM 2008. You can have a look at last year's papers and presentations. Looking forward to your participation!     acm-sigcomm.jpg
chopaal.JPG    Check out ChOpaal - an SMS-based communication system that brings together people with similar interests. ChOpaal allows you to make 'tags' about stuff (e.g., earthquake, football, protest, IEEE) and then other people can join these tags to get updates. The system is currently functional only with cellular providers in Pakistan.


This week's issue of New Scientist has published an article on our research on Poor Man's Broadband. This project has resulted in a modified version of a P2P system (BitTorrent) designed to bypass the "bottleneck of the Internet" in the developing-world. The system employs direct point-to-point POTS connections to exchange data at the maximum speed afforded by a modem. This project was funded by Microsoft Research's Digital Inclusion Grant.

Google's Android

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Waiting for the "GPhone"? Well keep waiting because it will never come out, atleast not in the form that you thought it would. Say hello to Android instead - an open, and free mobile platform. There is a USD 10 million incentive (or bribe) for developers to start hacking on Android, called the Android Developer Competition (ADC). Applications in service of global economic development are included in ADC. For more information about Android, check out the demo below:

OLPC Review by NY Times

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NY Times reviews the features of the $100 laptop, i must admit that some of the features are pretty cool.

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