Change is a group at the University of Washington exploring how technology
can improve the lives of underserved populations in low-income regions.

Robert Racadio: The work of community health workers in India: Opportunities for Design

April 14th, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

What: Robert Racadio: The work of community health workers in India: Opportunities for Design

When: Tuesday, April 15th at 12pm

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203

Please join us tomorrow for Change.  Robert Racadio from Human Cantered Design and Engineering will be presenting on research on the work flows of Indian health workers.


Much of the work on mobile health technologies in low-resource settings has focused on providing health workers new tools for working in their communities. Finding design solutions most appropriate for them must be grounded in an understanding of their day-to-day work. Through field observations and interviews, this research seeks to understand the work and social practices of community health workers at primary health centers in India. I present stories and experiences of health workers from primary health centers in India, describing their responsibilities, strategies, and challenges of working in these centers. I conclude by exploring implications and opportunities for designing technologies that better support and augment their work.
About the speaker:
 Robert Racadio is a 3rd year PhD student in Human Centered Design and Engineering, where he is a member of the Tactile and Tactile and Tactical Design Lab, and is advised by Professor Beth Kolko. Robert is interested in understanding how to better design technologies that promote community well-being in low resource environments.

Neha Kumar: The Link Between ICT’s and Media Consumption

April 7th, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

What: Neha Kumar: The Link Between ICT’s and Media Consumption

When: Tuesday, April 8th at 12pm

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203

Join us tomorrow for Change.  UW CSE postdoctoral researcher Neha Kumar will join us for a discussion on her work examining the relationship between ICT and media consumption in rural, small-town, and urban India.


Research initiatives in the fields of Information and Communication Technology and Development (ICTD) have largely overlooked leisure-driven uses of new media technologies in their efforts to address agricultural, educational, financial and other instrumental needs.

My research finds that affordable new media technologies have been significant in driving the procurement of entertainment content and the production of culture. Individuals from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds quickly become adept at using these technologies, paving the way for development-friendly outcomes. This is the phenomenon I analyze, as I examine individual agency in the intertwining of culture and new media in the context of dominant development narratives.
This talk will draw upon research that investigates the leisure-driven appropriation of the mobile phone by youth from marginal backgrounds in rural, small-town, and urban India. I study the influx of new media and its resulting impact in folk music-rich communities of rural Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Shifting focus to the motivations that drive youth towards mobile consumption of folk and popular media, I examine the unique material affordances of mobile technology and its influence on emerging media practices. Highlighting the notion of agency, both human and material, I investigate the pirate media network responsible for the widespread dissemination of digital media and technical skills. I then discuss the agency of urban Indian youth that guides them to further build on these skills as they negotiate various linguistic, social, and technological hurdles in their thirst to engage with social media.
About the speaker:
Neha is a postdoctoral researcher at UW CSE, where her research focuses on the design, production, and dissemination of visual media to address maternal and infant mortality in rural India. She recently completed her Ph.D. from the School of Information at UC Berkeley, where she conducted an ethnography of the adoption and self-guided uses of new media technologies of Indian youth from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Her research objective is to contribute a deeper, more grounded understanding of emerging uses and users to the field of ICTD and its interventions. She is most at home in cross-disciplinary contexts, having worn the hats of computer scientist, education researcher, designer, data analyst, and ethnographer at various stages of her graduate work.

Cliff Schmidt – Reaching Beyond Mobile: Tech Solutions for Extreme Poverty Where Mobile Fails

March 30th, 2014 by Nicola Dell

Join us for the Change seminar this week where we will have a talk by Cliff Schmidt from Literacy Bridge.

Cliff started Literacy Bridge in 2007, leading the development of an audio-based mobile device called the “Talking Book” for people with minimal literacy skills living in rural areas without electricity or Internet access. Literacy Bridge now partners with UNICEF to use Talking Books to reach 40,000 people with new on-demand content every six weeks. Cliff received the Microsoft Alumni Foundation Integral Fellow Award by Bill and Melinda Gates and was awarded a Clinton Global Initiative membership by President Bill Clinton. He received the top prize at the Tech Awards in 2012 and Computerworld Honors in 2013, and was selected by the PBS Newshour as one of five Agents for Social Change in 2013.

Reaching remote villages with agriculture training and health promotion can dramatically reduce poverty, disease, and hunger. Mobile phones offer a solution in some cases: SMS messages can reach literate users, and voice calls can reach those who own a phone and can easily keep it charged. But in villages with 10% literacy rates, no electricity, and where most women don’t own a phone, mobile solutions have failed — and this is where you find extreme poverty. Radio broadcasts address these challenges but run into others: listeners must be available during the broadcast and they must remember everything they hear.  Illiterate users, who cannot take notes, must rely on their memories when the information is needed; otherwise, they need an on-demand solution. Cloud services and smart, connected, devices are increasingly able to distribute digital information right up to the last mile, but not beyond. Join us to discuss our experience leveraging mobile devices, but reaching beyond them with a simple, durable, audio device that provides on-demand messages while capturing metrics and user feedback to send back via mobile technology to cloud-based services.

What: Cliff Schmidt from Literacy Bridge

When: Tuesday, April 1st at 12 noon

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203

No Change Seminar on March 10th

March 10th, 2014 by Nicola Dell

The scheduled speaker for tomorrow’s seminar is unfortunately unable to make it so we are canceling the last talk of winter quarter.

Next quarter we will be having Change every week on Tuesdays from 12-1pm in CSE 203. Please register for CSE 590 C1 or come to any talks that sound interesting!

Kalika Bali: Understanding Language in Emerging Markets

March 3rd, 2014 by Nicola Dell

We WILL be having a Change seminar on Tuesday, March 4th. Our speaker will be Kalika Bali from the Technology for Emerging Markets lab at Microsoft Research, India.

Please join us at 12pm in CSE 203. As usual, lunch will be provided.    

Speaker Bio

Kalika Bali is a researcher in the Technologies for Emerging Markets and Multilingual Systems research areas  at Microsoft Research India. Her interests are in speech and language technology for education, NLP and speech technology for Indian languages, linguistic resources and standards, and cognitive models of language processing. Her current research focuses on the use of non-standard language use in computer-mediated conversations, especially in social media. 

Understanding Language in Emerging Markets

In emerging markets such as India and China, the typical user demography differs not only in the language used but also in the way languages might be used. Technology especially mobile and internet must cater to a user base that differs in many ways from those in North America or Europe. Taking India as a case study, this talk outlines major challenges in localizing technology and services vis-à-vis language technology, policy, and linguistics, as well as user demography and practices. Deeper research issues need to be addressed regarding issues of language use, such as the dominance of transliteration and code mixing in all spheres of computer-mediated communication. We will also discuss potential solutions that point towards an improved natural language user interface for these users.