What: Melissa Densmore and Alex Densmore: Employer-Issued Mobile Devices and Pay-As-You-Go Solar Energy
When: Tuesday, Oct 7 at 12pm
Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203
Please join us this week for two mini talks by Melissa and Alex Densmore about their work in ICTD. Melissa will be talking about her recent work exploring how frontline workers use employer provided mobile devices for personal use. Alex will be sharing his experiences trying to provide affordable solar energy with Simpa Energy.
Part 1: Mobile devices are increasingly powerful and flexible tools for computing and communication. When ICTD workers are given a mobile phone “for work”, what else do they do? And to what extent can or should an employer shape that use? This talk will examine rules that development projects impose to govern use of mobile devices. This work maps these rules against actual instrumental (work-related, non-prescribed) and non-instrumental (personal) device use, and enforcement of these rules, in eight projects using a popular mobile-based job aid, CommCare. We present early insights from qualitative analysis of two such deployments in India identifying a range of often conflicting policy choices that affect device use for project mission and/or professional and personal empowerment. We explore tradeoffs for morale, work quality, mission, and device integrity. We identify user remote availability, soft intimidation, and validation as mechanisms to shift authority and credibility of information sources. The implications of our findings are increasingly important as governments and NGOs arm frontline workers with mobile devices as tools to improve service delivery.
Part 2: Simpa Energy is a market leader in providing affordable solar energy in rural areas. This talk will include a brief overview of Simpa’s business model, its technology, and some of the unique challenges of working in rural India.
About the speakers:
Melissa Densmore is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at University of Cape Town. Prior to joining UCT, she completed a postdoc at Microsoft Research in Bangalore, India as part of the Technology for Emerging Markets group, where she has been conducting a trial comparing the effectiveness of community health workers using interactive mobile health education materials to health workers using paper flipbooks. Other work includes a delay-tolerant tele-consultation system for doctors in Ghana and contributions to infrastructure enabling village health centers to consult with doctors at the Aravind Eye Hospitals. Her research interests include human computer interaction for development (HCI4D), mobile health, and last-mile networking. Recipient of the 2008 Yamashita Foundations for Change Prize, she has been doing ethnographic fieldwork, systems design, and deployments in Ghana, India, Mexico, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda since 2004. Melissa completed her PhD at University of California, Berkeley in Information Management and Systems, a 3 year ethnographic study of the use of Internet and mobile technologies by health practitioners and NGO staff in a health financing program in Uganda, has an MSc in Data Communications, Networks and Distributed Systems from University College London, and holds a BA in Computer Science from Cornell University.
Alex Densmore is an energy-access professional and formerly the Lead Hardware Engineer at Simpa Energy, where he designed the electronic controls for Simpa’s pay-as-you-go electric metering system. His past work includes a wide range of engineering projects in developing contexts, including an internet-enabled solar charge controller, gravity flow water systems, and various solar power installations. Previously, he worked as a building energy modeler for The Integral Group, evaluating designs for low-energy HVAC systems. He received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.