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Myths of Information Technology for International Development. Kentaro Toyama Visiting Scholar University of California, Berkeley University of Pennsylvania – ICT4D Lecture Series Philadelphia – October 13, 2011. Photos: http://indiveggie.wordpress.com/; http://VegIndiaRecipe.com.

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Myths of Information Technology for International Development

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Myths of Information Technology

for International Development

Kentaro Toyama

Visiting Scholar

University of California, Berkeley

University of Pennsylvania – ICT4D Lecture Series

Philadelphia – October 13, 2011


Photos: http://indiveggie.wordpress.com/; http://VegIndiaRecipe.com


Microsoft Research India

Bangalore


- Research lab

- Observational research

- Intervention research


remaining

data

p1

p2

t

0


Outline

Introduction

ICT for Development

Myths of ICT4D

A Theory

ICT for Development, Revisited

Recommendations


Outline

Introduction

ICT for Development

Myths of ICT4D

A Theory

ICT for Development, Revisited

Recommendations


The Problem

How can an application UI be converted into one that is usable by non-literate users?


Text-Free User Interfaces

  • Design principles:

    • Pen or touch interface

    • Liberal use of imagery

      • No text (but numbers OK)

      • Semi-abstracted cartoons

    • Aggressive use of mouse-over functionality

    • Voice feedback

    • Consistent help icon

    • Full-context video

Screenshot of text-free job search


Evaluation Results

Non-literate users strongly prefer text-free user interfaces

Indispensable features

Voice annotation

Full-context video

100% task completion versus 0% for text-based!

Text-Free User Interfaces

Better task completion!

Faster task completion!

Indrani Medhi and a subject during

initial evaluation

Users like it!


“Technology can be a major force to advance financial inclusion, which can help improve the lives of the poor in the developing world.”

– Bill Gates

Photo: Safaricom; Source: http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Topics/Development/Mobile-Phones-and-Savings-A-Powerful-Pair


“Facebook-armed youth of Tunisia and Egypt rise to demonstrate the liberating power of social media.”

– Roger Cohen [New York Times]

Photo: KhalilHamra, Associated Press, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/world/middleeast/09egypt.html

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/opinion/28iht-edcohen28.html


“We want to be connected to one another, a desire that… our use of social media actually engages.”

– Clay Shirky

Photo: http://jobsblog.com/blog/wumpus-outreach-project;

Source: Shirky, Clay. 2010. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.


“Technology can be a major force to advance financial inclusion, which can help improve the lives of the poor in the developing world.”

– Bill Gates

“Facebook-armed youth of Tunisia and Egypt rise to demonstrate the liberating power of social media.”

– Roger Cohen [New York Times]

“We want to be connected to one another, a desire that… our use of social media actually engages”

– Clay Shirky

Sources: New York Times, 2011; Bill Gates, 2011; Clay Shirky, 2008.


Outline

Introduction

ICT for Development

Myths of ICT4D

A Theory

ICT for Development, Revisited

Recommendations


You and a poor rural farmer are each asked to raise as much money for the charity of your choice, and to do so using free, unlimited, high-bandwidth access to the Internet over the period of one week.

Who would be able to raise more money?


Or, “the world is flat” because of technology.

Or, “technology levels the playing field.”

Underlying human capacity and social connections matter.

Myth

The Internet democratizes.

Photo credit: Rikin Gandhi


Which of the following will have the most impact on making you more physically fit…?

  • Buying a treadmill

  • Promising yourself you’ll exercise every day

  • Hiring a physical trainer


Technology causes many changes:

Greater power

Greater convenience

Greater desires

People are what’s important for…

Real education

Political action

Social change

Technology causes little change in entrenched values and capacities.

Myth

Technology is the cause of positive behavior.

Source: http://www.squidoo.com/wtf-witness-the-fitness


Are you as rich as you’d like to be?

Are you as educated as you’d like to be?

Are you as compassionate as you’d like to be?

Sources: http://www.google.com/search?q=how+to+be+rich

http://ocw.mit.edu

http://zenhabits.net/2007/06/a-guide-to-cultivating-compassion-in-your-life-with-7-practices/


Information is just one of many requirements for positive change.

Other requirements:

will

capacity

Infrastructure

money

etc.

Information ≠ education

Myth

Information is the bottleneck.

Sources:http://ecigblogs.com/tag/electronic-cigarette/


Should members of the army have guns?

Should police officers have guns?

Should ordinary civilians have guns?

Should 5-year-old children have guns?

Should convicted serial murderers have guns?


Myth

Technology’s impact is always positive.

Widespread technologies also have negative impacts…

  • TV: violence, envy, reality TV

  • Internet: illegal content, yberbullying

  • Mobile phone: corruption, consumption displacement

    Negative intentions are also magnified.

Photo: http://www.poptower.com/nicole-snooki-polizzi-jersey-shore-picture-15288.htm


Thomas Edison, 1922

William Levenson, 1945

Wilbur Schramm, 1964

Patrick Suppe, 1966

X = cinema

X = radio

X = television

X = computer

I believe that the X is destined to revolutionize our educational system.

The time may come when X will be as common in the classroom as is the blackboard.

What is the full power and vividness of X teaching if it were to be used to help the schools develop a country’s new educational pattern?

The huge information-processing capacities of X make it possible to use them to adapt mechanical teaching routines to the needs and the past performance of the individual student.


Wasn’t true for X = radio, TV, or landline phone.

Doesn’t seem true for X = PC.

How about…

X = mobile phone, or

X = social media?

Myth

Technology X will save the world.

Photo: Tom Pirelli


Google

ARPANET

Cellphone

Microsoft

iPhone

WWW

PC

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Wikipedia


Outline

Introduction

ICT for Development

Myths of ICT4D

A Theory

ICT for Development, Revisited

Recommendations


Technology

human intent and capacity.

only

magnifies


As a Theory

Falsifiability

  • E.g., if ICT has positive impact without positive intent or capacity

    Causal explanation

  • E.g., ICTs have positive impacts + ICTs have negative impacts

    Corollary

  • E.g., ICT “solutions” limited by existing substrate of human intent and capacity.

    Prediction

  • E.g., ICTs alone will never turn around an underperforming school system.

Photo credit: Rajesh Veeraraghavan


Related Work (Press & Knowledge)

Phillip J. Tichenor, Donohue, G.A., & Olien, C.N. (1970). Mass media and the differential growth in knowledge. The Public Opinion Quarterly. 34(2):159-170.

“Knowledge gap hypothesis”: Everyone learns, but higher socio-economic strata learn better and faster.

Four factors:

  • Comprehension skills

  • Existing knowledge

  • Relevant social contact

  • Openness to new or correct knowledge


Related Work (Education)

Mark Warschauer, M. Knobel, L. Stone. Technology and Equity in Schooling: Deconstructing the Digital Divide. Educational Policy, 18(4): 562-588

Technology helps good schools; technology hurts bad schools. Technology amplifies inequalities between schools.

Reasons:

  • Technology requires resources and coordination to integrate.

  • “Bad” schools lack one or both.


Related Work (Internet & Politics)

Philip E. Agre. (2002) Real-Time Politics. The Information Society, 2002.

The Internet amplifies existing institutional forces. It doesn’t create new ones. End outcomes are difficult to predict.

Consequences:

  • Social networks cause spread of good and bad information.

  • Background knowledge pooling becomes more consistent.

  • Communities reinforce “spacing” between members.

  • Tension between democratization and hierarchy is case by case.


Related Theories

Overlaps with…

  • Absorptive capacity

  • Social capital

  • Social construction of technology

    More precise than…

  • Socio-technical theory

  • “Context matters”

Alternative to…

  • Technology determinism

  • Actor-network theory

  • Structuration


Outline

Introduction

ICT for Development

Myths of ICT4D

A Theory

ICT for Development, Revisited

Recommendations


“We want to be connected to one another, a desire that… our use of social media actually engages”

– Clay Shirky

“Facebook-armed youth of Tunisia and Egypt rise to demonstrate the liberating power of social media.”

– Roger Cohen [New York Times]

“Technology can be a major force to advance financial inclusion, which can help improve the lives of the poor in the developing world.”

– Bill Gates

Sources: New York Times, 2011; Bill Gates, 2011; Clay Shirky, 2008.


“We want to be connected to one another, a desire that… our use of social media actually engages.”

– Clay Shirky

Photo: http://blog.beliefnet.com/markdroberts/2011/01/in-the-news-does-facebook-make-us-more-or-less-social.html; http://newsone.com/nation/newsonestaff2/glenn-becks-civil-rights-rally-ripped-by-jon-stewart/; http://whsbulldogs.wikispaces.com/+Cyberbullying


“Facebook-armed youth of Tunisia and Egypt rise to demonstrate the liberating power of social media.”

– Roger Cohen [New York Times]

Photos: Sergey Ponomarev, Associated Press, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/picturesoftheday/8719801/Pictures-of-the-day-24-August-2011.html?image=36; http://the-explorer.com/human-chains-tanks-crisis-in-syria-worsens-2/2011/3422172.html/; http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-01/24/content_790804.htm


“Technology can be a major force to advance financial inclusion, which can help improve the lives of the poor in the developing world.”

– Bill Gates

Photo: Vishwa Kiran; http://www.electronicstakeback.com/global-e-waste-dumping/;

http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/10/14/idINIndia-52199820101014; cameroonechoes.org;


Text-Free User Interfaces

Practical Impact

Job-search database for low-income work

Non-technology requirements:

  • Door-to-door registration

  • Training

  • Process discipline

  • Legal framework

    Started with paper-based trial… ended with paper-based trial.

    More success when used by an existing service that focuses on non-technology requirements.


Outline

Introduction

ICT for Development

Myths of ICT4D

A Theory

ICT for Development, Revisited

Recommendations


Technology

only magnifies

human intent and capacity.

For technology to have positive impact,

the right intent and capacity

have to be there first.


Recommendations

If constrained to use ICT…

  • Identify institution already having positive impact and use technology to amplify.

    If excited about ICT, but not constrained to use it…

  • Support aspiring technology producers.

    If not constrained to ICT at all…

  • Focus on human intent and capacity.


Summary

Examples of ICT4D:

  • Good for development, democracy, community, etc.

    Myths of Information Technology

    • The Internet democratizes.

    • Technology is the cause of positive behavior.

    • Information is the bottleneck.

    • Technology’s impact is always positive.

    • Technology X will save the world.

      Theory: Technology magnifies human intent and capacity.

      Beware claims of interventionist ICT4D.

      Recommendation: People first, technology second.


Thanks!

[email protected]://www.kentarotoyama.org

Photo: Kentaro Toyama


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