Faculty Candidate Seminar

Designing Appropriate Computing Technologies for the Rural Developing World

Dr. Tapan Parikh

SI faculty candidate/possible joint appointment with CSE
Recent history has seen an increase in disparity between the
rich and poor regions of the world. Disproportionate access to
information is both a symptom and a factor contributing to this
disparity. People living in the rural developing world have many
information needs that could, but are not, being met by information
technology. Technology for this context must be low-cost, accessible
and appropriate given the local infrastructure, including conditions
of intermittent power and connectivity. In this talk, I describe my
experiences developing CAM – a toolkit for mobile phone data
collection for the rural developing world. Designing technologies for
an unfamiliar context requires understanding the needs and
capabilities of potential users. Drawing from the results of an
extended design study conducted with microfinance group members in
rural India (many of whom are semi-literate or illiterate), I outline
a set of user interface design guidelines for accessibility to such
users. The results of this study are used to inform the design of
CAM, a mobile phone application toolkit including support for
paper-based interaction; multimedia input and output; and disconnected
operation. I provide evidence of CAM's usability, breadth, and
real-world applicability. Regarding real-world applicability, a CAM
application for microfinance data collection is now being used by 17
NGO (non-governmental organization) to serve over 10000 group members
in two states of India. Regarding breadth, I list some important
rural data collection applications – including for retail supply chain
tracking, agricultural monitoring and health care – that we have
implemented, or can be implemented, using the CAM toolkit. I conclude
by discussing possible topics for future work and my long-term
research vision.
Tapan S. Parikh is an Intel Fellow and Ph.D. Candidate in the
Department of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of
Washington. Earlier, he received a M.S. degree in Computer Science
from UW and a Sc.B. degree in Molecular Modeling (with Honors) from
Brown University. Tapan's research interests include human-computer
interaction (HCI), systems engineering and information and
communication technologies for development (ICTD).

Sponsored by

School of Information