Assistant Managing DirectorMicrosoft Research India
University of Washington
March 12, 2009
Global DevelopmentMultidisciplinary Approach
Solution and Evaluation
An Appeal to Computer ScienceConclusion
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Kentaro Toyama - Computer Science Research for Global Development
On the same planet where there are 1.4 billion Internet users, a far less fortunate 1.4 billion people survive below the World Bank’s definition of the poverty line. The same technology that has transformed our lives…
On the same planet where there are 1.4 billion Internet users, a far less fortunate 1.4 billion people survive below the World Bank’s definition of the poverty line. The same technology that has transformed our lives - the lives of the wealthiest people on the planet - also remains out of reach and irrelevant for the poorest. How do you design user interfaces for an illiterate migrant worker? Can you keep five rural schoolchildren from fighting over one PC? What value is technology to a farmer earning $1 a day? The young field of "information and communication technology for development" (ICT4D) asks these kinds of questions in the expectation that computing and communication technologies can contribute to the socio-economic development of the world’s poorest communities. In this talk, I’ll introduce the Technology for Emerging Markets group TEM group at Microsoft Research India, where an interdisciplinary team of researchers explores solutions in the context of agriculture, education, healthcare, microfinance, and other domains of development.
There are several ongoing debates in ICT4D research, including questions about the role of computer science, project sustainability, and multidisciplinarity with academic integrity. I’ll discuss these issues in the context of MultiPoint, one of our projects where a computer-science concept not only solves a challenge in the context of under-resourced schools, but opens the door to rich avenues for further research. I hope to show that while technology alone rarely supplies the answer to the deep problems of poverty, technologists can make a significant difference as long as we retain equal measures of skepticism about the brash claims of technology and optimism about its true potential.
Kentaro Toyama is co-founder and assistant managing director of Microsoft Research India (MSR India), which opened in Bangalore in January, 2005. In addition to his responsibilities to MSR India overall, Kentaro leads the Technology for Emerging Markets research group, and is a co-founder of the IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD). Prior to MSR India, Kentaro spent seven years at MSR in Redmond (WA) and Cambridge (UK) working on computer vision, multimedia, and geographic information systems. In 2002, he took personal leave from Microsoft to teach mathematics at Ashesi University in Ghana. Kentaro earned his Ph.D. in computer science at Yale University and received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard University.