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

Aditya Vashistha: Educational Content Creation and Sharing by Low-Income Visually Impaired People in India

October 13th, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

What: Aditya Vashistha: Educational Content Creation and Sharing by Low-Income Visually Impaired People in India

When: Tuesday, Oct 14 at 12pm

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203

Please join us this for a talk by Aditya Vashistha based on formative work he conducted this summer in India working with MSRI and TEM.


Low-income visually impaired people face a wide variety of educational challenges which are magnified in the developing world. Digital assistive technologies (such as screen readers) are typically out of reach, so individuals depend on Braille and audio recordings to access educational content. Unfortunately, there are acute shortages of Braille and high quality audio books for many subjects, leaving students scrambling for ways to continue their education. We present a formative study that examines the educational landscape for low-income visually impaired communities in rural
and peri-urban India, the challenges they face in accessing educational content, and the solutions they have invented. We conducted interviews with 16 stakeholders, including students, teachers, and content producers, to understand the education ecosystem in their communities and how they use technologies such as basic mobile phones to consume, create, and share educational content. In particular, we found that these communities have established an informal network of peer-produced audio content that is shared via Bluetooth, memory cards and CDs. Our analysis suggests ways in which technology can improve access to professionally authored materials and augment these informal networks of peer-production.

About the speakers:
Aditya Vashistha is pursuing Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Washington where he design, build and evaluate technologies for marginalized rural and urban communities to improve their access to information, healthcare and education. Much of his research lies at the intersection of Social Computing and Information and Communication Technologies for Development. His current focus is to build and evaluate scalable voice based communication platforms that enable the next billion people to access the Internet, social media platforms, and crowdsourcing platforms on their non-Internet-enabled mobile phones.

Melissa Densmore and Alex Densmore: Employer-Issued Mobile Devices and Pay-As-You-Go Solar Energy

October 5th, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

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.

Neha Kumar: Of Projectors, Mobiles, and Maternal Health

September 29th, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

What: Neha Kumar: Of Projectors, Mobiles, and Maternal Health

When: Tuesday, September 30 at 12pm

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203

Please join us for the first Change Seminar of the autumn quarter.  Neha Kumar will be presenting work she did over the summer in Uttar Pradesh India working with the Projecting Health project.


 Projecting Health is a maternal and neonatal health initiative that was implemented in rural Uttar Pradesh (UP, India) almost two years ago through a collaboration between PATH, UW, and local partner organizations situated in UP. In Projecting Health, frontline workers organize group screenings of locally crafted films using low-cost pico projectors in order to teach pregnant women and new mothers about various health-related issues. This talk will discuss the emerging mobile media practices of the Projecting Health target audience, with a view to examine whether mobile phones can play a role in the dissemination of these videos and if yes, how.
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.

Capstone Presentations

June 1st, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

What: Capstone Presentations

When: Tuesday, June 3rd at 12pm

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 403 (NOT CSE 203)

This week at Change four groups from undergrad capstone class on designing technology for resource-constrained environments will be presenting on their group projects.  The capstone is a two quarter class with the first quarter focused on design and the second focused on implementation.

The four group projects are listed below and each will present for 10 min.

DashTricks: Tablet for District Manager – Tanzania

Hadiza Ismaila, Michael Kutz, Bryan Martin, Jian Zhao

DashTricks is an Android tablet application that provides district immunization managers in Tanzania with a dashboard for monitoring the performance of key immunization indicators in health facilities in their districts. Our project aims to give district managers a sense of ownership over their data to help them realize problems and make better vaccine management decisions intuitively and correctly.


IcePAK: Tablet for National Manager – Pakistan

Jennifer Apacible, Brian Donohue, Austin Hedeen, Daniel Luna, Dov Shlachter

Here is a brief description of our project:
IcePAK is a mobile application focussed on vaccine cold chain
management in Pakistan. It’s goal is to integrate large amounts of
data into easily consumable forms, enabling decision makers and
managers to allocate resources effectively. High visibility of problem
areas, and automated allocation recommendations, allows these at risk
locations to recognised early and dealt with efficiently.


Training App for Laos

Sam Brender, Tore Hanssen, James Lee, Sang-Wha Sien

We are developing a tablet-based training application that will be used to train health workers in Laos.  The initial purpose of the application is to train workers on how to use an SMS-based vaccine stock reporting system, but it will be used for other training in the future. Some of the challenges this group has faced: designing for potentially non-technical users, creating an extensible application for future training needs, and simplifying the application update and synchronization process.

SMS Immunization Manager

Jennifer Kang, Isaac Reynolds, Jackson Roberts, Nicholas Shahan

The SMS Immunization Manager (SIM) is an easy-to-install and easy-to-customize system that allows community health workers to report information about the vaccine cold chain (such as fridge temperature and condition) by SMS rather than paper forms. SIM’s main features include robust SMS-based operations that correctly handle even poorly-formatted messages and a moderation web application for administrators to review the system’s operation. The system will be deployed in Laos in the coming months and possibly to other countries after.


Trevor Perrier: Mobile WaCH – A Bidirectional SMS Messaging Platform for Maternal Health

May 27th, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

What: Trevor Perrier

When: Tuesday, May 27th at 12pm

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203

Please join us for this weeks Change Seminar.  CSE graduate student Trevor Perrier will be presenting work done in collaboration with UW Global Health on creating an SMS messaging system and using it in randomized controlled trial for maternal health awareness  in Nairobi Kenay.


In this talk, I describe Mobile WaCH (Women and Child Health) – a collaboration between the Computer Science and Engineering and Global Health departments at the University of Washington the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi. Mobile WaCH is a controlled experiment piloting a bidirectional SMS messaging platform for public health awareness and behavior change with the goal of improve antenatal and postnatal health. Starting in September 2013 we began registering pregnant women at Mathare North Clinic outside of Nairobi. Women are randomized into one of three groups: a control who receive no SMS messages, a one-way group who receive health messaging content only, and a two-way group who are asked direct questions via SMS and communicate with a study nurse who can reply to each message through a custom web management console. Maternal health messaging begins 20 weeks before the estimated date of delivery and continuous 10 weeks after birth. Initial findings show 30% of the two way group respond to 40% of the messages and 60% respond to 20%. I will describe design considerations for building the platform, lesson learned since the study began and plans for future development.

About the speaker:

Trevor Perrier is a second year grad student at UW working with Richard Anderson and Gaetano Borriello in the ICTD lab in Computer Science and Engineering. His interests lie at the intersections of HCI and global development with a particular focus on ICTD related education initiatives. At UW Trevor has worked on three main ICTD projects: Projecting Health which uses pico projectors to display maternal health related videos in Uttar Pradesh, India; an SMS backed for receiving monthly vaccine reports in Laos; and Mobile WaCH which is an automated SMS messaging system for maternal health education and is being deployed in collaboration with UW Global Health.