But unfortunately not Live! from Bangalore… ICTD2007 (in my opinion) was a smashing success! (With of course very little smashing, except for that errant glass hiding under a chair…). The conference was held at the Ashoka Hotel in Bangalore, India on Saturday and Sunday December 15-16, 2007. Before I digress into my overall observations, immediately below are links to my notes from the keynotes and the sessions I attended. The usual caveats apply.
ICTD 2007 Opening Keynote Notes – Anirudh Krishna
ICTD 2007 Session 1: Design Notes
ICTD 2007 Session 2: Extending the Boundaries of ICTD
ICTD 2007 Session 3: Telecenters
ICTD 2007 Panel Discussion Notes: Meaningful Research for ICTD
ICTD 2007 Session 4: Alternatives to Real-time Internet
(Oops, no notes for Sessions 5 and 6)
ICTD2007 Session 7: Children and PCs
ICTD 2007 Closing Keynote Notes – Paul Polak
The (unedited) notes available in the links above are not verbatim (I can’t type quite that fast), and don’t include everything said. Please don’t attribute content in these (especially the Q&A) to the labeled speakers without consulting with the speakers first – I may have misheard what they said, or paraphrased it in a way that misrepresented their meaning. For the talks themselves, you should refer to the corresponding papers for details and missing graphics, although of course the Q&A won’t necessarily be represented. In any case I hope these notes help you find ICTD work that is of interest to you!
The keynote speakers were both incredibly engaging. Anirudh Krishna spoke on his research on how people move in and out of poverty. For me – two main points were:
- Poverty is escapable: many people escape poverty every year, just as many fall into it. At a high level, this indicates that while working on ways to help people escape poverty is good, our efforts may be moot if we fail to also prevent others from becoming impoverished
- The capacity to aspire: Krishna notes a glass ceiling for those in villages; although they may try to aspire higher, their condition (the socio-economic-political context) prevents them from aspiring beyond the level of schoolteacher. Perhaps we can work on ways to provide protection against descents into poverty by connecting talent with opportunity.
Interestingly, two papers spoke directly to the topic of aspiration. Renee and Kathi’s paper on gender and shared computing in Chile and India (Akshaya) looked at women’s aspirations; Joyojeet’s paper on his work with parents of schoolchildren in India talked about how computers factored into children’s aspirations as well as parent’s aspirations for their children.
Paul Polak started off the closing keynote with some of Krishna’s slides on the consistent divisions (asset/status-wise) between extreme poverty and poverty, and between those in poverty and those who are not. And then went on to talk about his last 25 years of work talking with and listening to $1/day farmers, trying to understand how they want to move out of poverty. His takeaway: we need to collaborate and co-design with them to find ways to help them make more money, noting that by starting with the problems they give priority to, one opens up the door to addressing their next priorities… Anyways – his talk was packed with interesting stats, observations, an three-step how-to’s, courtesy of the editor of his forthcoming (Feb 2008) book Out of Poverty.
Tap also did an awesome job with the poster session – probably the most interesting and engaging poster session I’ve attended; since each one was also accompanied by a peer-reviewed conference-length paper, all of the posters exhibited real work, real ideas and were well thought-out. The posters in the same room as the sessions, exactly where everyone was during the break, so they had great exposure to a great audience.. And the fast forward session, in which each author gave a 90 second intro to their work, was a brilliant way for all of us to get an overview so we could quickly target the posters we were interested in during the poster session.
Before I close, there’s a couple of presentations I want to highlight as ones that I thought were especially interesting and well-crafted. (Apologies to those who presented in the sessions I missed – I’m sure J Sherwani and Indrani’s presentations were excellent, and I’ve also heard good feedback about Aishwarya Ratan’s paper on Welfare, agency, and ICT4D.)
Digital Green provides a sort of “Indian Farmer Idol”/YouTube to farmers employing new agricultural technology advocated by the Green Foundation (see paper for details) . I think it’s really interesting to note their results on how various deployment/video strategies affected the farmers’ adoption of practices, with low receptiveness to expert-facilitated video and hole-in-the-wall/tv-broadcast strategies, and 6-7x more adoption with videos including low/medium-skilled mediators working with local farmers. These results underline ideas and observations from Janaki’s paper on the role of trustworthiness in the Parry information kiosk: information access is not sufficent – “whether a community uses the information services offered by information kiosks depends, among other factors, on the perceived quality of the information offered by such services.”
This was a one-paper session. Janini’s presentation did a great job of explaining the transnational flows of e-waste, and the associated issues. It would definitely be remiss for us not to consider these issues as we pursue our ends of employing ICTs for development, and as markets (some consequent of ICTD movements) draw more and more toxic materials into developing countries.
I’m really impressed by Revi Sterling. Out of all the papers presented, hers truly integrates theory and practice, enabling theory-backed (driven?) engagement in development using novel technologies.
Of course in this session (as with Session 3 on Telecenters), I’m a little biased. I think I must have listened to Joyojeet’s research talks at least two or three times each now, but I’m still riveted every time. With all of the (often hype-driven) push towards information-kiosk-as-community-centers and computers-in-schools (with Internet or without), I think Joyojeet’s findings on the engagement of the local communities with these projects are critically important, but often not done because they are, well, hard to do.
Rabin’s paper on usage models of classroom computing gets started on some important critical thinking about how one can plan for computers in schools. Although they did pull out some numbers on public spending in other countries, I wonder how these models translate outside of India. I just visited some secondary school computer labs in Jinja, Uganda (urban, private schools, no internet access), and indeed, the multiple students per shared computer model is the norm, with one school putting 10 students at each of their computers. At the same time – multimouse/multipoint is certainly not mainstream – so their representation, while nice, isn’t representative. In Uganda’s secondary schools, computer education is largely about basic “theoretical” (what is RAM, CPU, etc) and practical (create a word/excel/access/powerpoint document, print, move files) computer skills. While they are taught with 10 students to a computer, they are tested with one person per computer (they have to test the students in shifts, since there aren’t enough computers). I think it’s possible that a multimouse approach might be useful for teaching/learning certain aspects, there are limits to where that approach can be employed in teaching computer skills. I think their main arguments still hold up – even the single-user-per-community-computer model is significantly more financially feasible than the single ownership model.
That’s all she wrote.
But hopefully she’ll also write a couple of submissions for the next ICTD conference!