Open Sessions

Friday, January 4, 1000-1300

Narratives in ICTD Research: A Workshop on Theory and Praxis of the Most Significant Change Technique

Impact evaluation forms one of the perennial and core areas of research within the ICTD community which entails the use of a diverse range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies—separately or as mixed methods. In this open session, we propose to stress on the importance of narratives within the ICTD research and in so doing, familiarize the session participants with the theory and praxis of the Most Significant Change Technique.

Aparna Moitra (University of Delhi)
Pooja Ichplani (Johns Hopkins University)
Archna Kumar (University of Delhi)

Beyond IVR: Voice-User Interfaces for Emerging Smartphone Users

With the steady growth of smartphone users and increasing number of mobile Internet users, new types of voice user interfaces—such as voice-based search and voice assistants—are becoming an integral part for smartphone users’ everyday lives. Following the long-term interest of the ICTD community in user interfaces for users in developing contexts, we aim to host an unconference to bring together like-minded individuals to develop a research agenda for these interfaces among underserved communities.

Apoorva Bhalla (IIIT Bangalore)
Bidisha Chaudhuri (IIIT Bangalore)
Linus Kendall (Sheffield Hallam University and IIIT Bangalore)

Application of Google’s Framework for Building Mobile Experiences for India

Hundreds of millions of people around the world are about to come online for the first time. These “next billion users” live in emerging markets like India, Brazil, and Indonesia—places where connectivity is improving and mobile phone usage is poised to dramatically increase. The technical, social, and cultural nuances are critical to consider in the act of designing new technologies. At Google, we’ve taken the insights from our field research and developed a framework for designing and building technology aimed at emerging markets. We have considered the framework under these three main pillars of experience: Usable, Useful and Engaging. Under each of these pillars, we have three essential sub-themes which are crucial for product thinkers to consider when creating apps, services, and devices tailored to the lives and local infrastructure. In this workshop, we aim to share this framework and the tools for its implementation. Some of the examples from Google products could also be discussed.

Muzayun Mukhtar (Google)
Garen Checkley (Google)
Prachi Nagpal (Google)
Aysha Siddique (Google)
Divy Thakkar (Google)
Mrinal Sharma (Google)

The Fairwork Foundation: Strategies for Fairer Platform Work

This open session will address the rise of platform work. It will introduce the Fairwork Foundation—a project designed to use academic research to find ways to support platforms workers and improve conditions. The aim of the session is to explore and understand what “fair work”—mediated on online platforms—means in an Indian context. Participants will discuss the challenges and opportunities, reflecting on how these can be met in practice.

Mark Graham (University of Oxford)
Jamie Woodcock (University of Oxford)
Richard Heeks (University of Manchester)
Jean-Paul VanBelle (University of Cape Town)



Friday, January 4, 1630-1800

Post-use ICTs and their Disposal

This open session will discuss the politics of ICT disposal. This is an aspect of ICT deployment and use which is often overlooked but is nonetheless extremely important, as improper disposal of ICTs can have a damaging effect on human health and the environment. In this session, members from NGOs, government and legal organizations, as well as academics will come together to discuss how to resolve the e-waste problem as well as discuss who gets left out of conversations about e-waste disposal and how they can be included in the discussion.

Anisha Nazareth (Independent)

Designing Culturally Aware and Resource Appropriate Digital Mental Health Interventions

In the Global South, the burden of mental health disorders is unique, with increased stigma, fewer resources, and 80 percent of those with a mental health disorder living in the Global South. Considering the impact of identity-based attributes on mental illness and technology usage, we convene a diverse group of mental health professionals, ICTD researchers, and HCI researchers to discuss best practices and research priorities when doing digital mental health research in the Global South.

Sachin Pendse (MSR India)
Mamta Sood (AIIMS Delhi)
Seema Mehrotra (NIMHANS Bengaluru)
Amit Sharma (MSR India)

Sustainable Business Models for Last Mile Connectivity

Grassroots Internet access initiatives are exploring ways of driving down the costs of deploying and operating network infrastructure through the use of innovative technologies and business models. These deployments have adopted different ways of financing and raising revenue—some of these initiatives provide Internet access at community anchor institutions, and offer a range of complementary products in addition to Internet connectivity. Are these initiatives sustainable, financially and otherwise? What are their drivers of sustainability? How do community-centered principles of governance interact with business principles of profitability?

Sarbani Banerjee Belur (Gram Marg, IIT Bombay)
Sharada Srinivasan (University of Pennsylvania)
Ritu Srivastava (Digital Empowerment Foundation)


Saturday, January 5, 1200-1330

Entrepreneurship in ICTD

Many in ICTD find themselves navigating two separate worlds between entrepreneurship and academia, sometimes with astounding success and sometimes not. Entrepreneurs encounter many challenging scenarios, such as the ethics of defining a sustainable business model in poor communities, the imposition of capitalist business ideals and funding models, and the dynamics between local and non-local entrepreneurs. This session will include a panel Q&A, small group discussion, and self-reflection.

Sam Castle (University of Washington)
Neil Patel (Awaaz.De)
Kurtis Heimerl (University of Washington)

Machine Learning for India-Specific Problems

Machine Learning (ML) is a branch of AI that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. In recent years, there has been a widespread interest in ML. ML has been applied across diverse domains like agriculture, automotive, customer service, travel, healthcare, banking and financial services, education etc. This session will focus on India-specific problems that can be addressed by ML. It will be conducted in a workshop style and will have talks and a panel discussion.

Ashish Tendulkar (Google Inc.)
Divy Thakkar (Google Inc.)
Pankaj Gupta (Google Inc.)
Varun Gulshan (Google Inc.)

Social Media, Politics, and the Process of Engagement in the Indian Context

Increasingly, political movements in the Global South have been taking place online, and fundamentally understanding this process is essential to the study of democracy. In this session, we will map the intersection of political and social engagement with technology in the Indian context, focusing on the influence of social media. We will be approaching this space from different angles, including qualitative research with campaign organizers, as well as quantitative analysis of political social media.

Divya Siddarth (MSR India)
Anmol Panda (MSR)
Ram Chandrasekharan (MSR)
Drupa Charles (MSR)
Shubi Agarwal (MSR)
Azhagu Meena (Tata Trusts)
Srujana Kamath (MSR)

Do Digital Identity Systems Have a Theory of Inclusion?

Designing a national scale unitary digital ID system in democratic regimes can be better understood as a wicked problem which are well served by adopting systems-thinking approaches that explicitly engage with the inherent complexity rather than rationalizing them away. In this session, we engage with diverse perspectives on complexity drawn from the disciplines of computer science, law, and public policy to engage with questions concerning inclusion in digital ID designs and infrastructure.

Bidisha Chaudhuri (IIIT Bangalore)



Saturday, January 5, 1630-1800

Creating Your Own Path in ICTD

As a young researcher, finding productive, reliable mentorship and role models in both personal and professional contexts can be influential, yet challenging. This session offers opportunities for younger researchers to get career guidance and mentorship from a diverse set of experienced members of the ICTD community. The focus of the session will be to expose young researchers to potential career paths and ways of exhibiting leadership in their local community, as well as to support students in making decisions about their futures.

Naveena Karusala (University of Washington)
Esther Jang (University of Washington)

Child Trafficking in India: How can Technology Help?

The session will present an overview of child trafficking in India through an organisation that is actively working in this domain. We will also present a demo of an existing AI-based technology that is being used to tackle some of the existing issues. This will be followed by an analysis of how this technology is being expanded to predict generic mental health problems such as depression. The session will conclude with an open discussion that will foster partnership between industries and other organisations and discuss how the existing technology can be expanded and utilized for different use cases.

Shubham Atreja (IBM Research India)
Anupama Ray (IBM Research India)
Prerna Agarwal (IBM Research India)
Darcy Pierce
Priyanka Halli

Open Government Data and Accountability: Hype, Reality or a Possibility?

Open Government Data (OGD) refers to making government data publicly available through online portals to enhance transparency of the State towards citizens. Many national and regional governments are adopting OGD world over. Yet, we don’t fully understand how the availability of such datasets influences the existing mechanisms of citizen-State engagement. Does it make the citizens negotiate more effectively with the State? Does it make the State more accountable to citizens? Or does it only “empower the empowered” while leaving out the more disempowered? In this session, we seek to understand the practitioners’ perspective on the impact of OGD.

Rajesh Hanbal (IIIT Bangalore)
Sham Kashyap (Azim Premji University)

ICTD Ethics Clinic

The aim of the session is to create a supportive peer-to-peer learning environment where researchers can get guidance on how to translate the newly announced minimum ethical standards for ICTD/ICT4D research into their professional practice. These standards were developed in a participatory, interdisciplinary, multi-year process with members of the ICTD conference community and others (see https://ictdethics.wordpress.com/). Peer mentors will be offering short confidential conversations to discuss particular ethical challenges. The session will allow the standards to embed as a continuous, participatory learning process.

Dorothea Kleine (University of Sheffield)
Andy Dearden (Sheffield Hallam University)

ICTD Evaluation: Exploring its Focus, Gaps, Core Elements, and Values

ICTD evaluation has been vigorously discussed among researchers and practitioners in terms of applicable theoretical approaches and methods. However, it is yet to be conceptually defined with a clear consensus on its core values and elements. The open session will invite researchers and practitioners from diverse backgrounds, stimulating discussions on: what approaches have been at the focus of ICTD evaluation; what are current gaps in ICTD evaluation; and how ICTD evaluation can be improved.

Moonjung Yim (University of Washington)



Sunday, January 6, 1200-1330

Gary Marsden Memorial Session: Whither ICTD

Is it time for ICTD 3.0? What is working, and what needs change in our disciplines, conferences, and departments? In other words: Whither ICTD? This open session will dive into some of the major points of change and challenge within ICTD, will weigh alternatives, and will try to chart some directions forward. It will be organized as a highly interactive panel dealing with three primary areas of change and opportunity: geography, disciplines, and themes.

François Bar (University of Southern California)
Michael Best (Georgia Tech)
Chris Coward (University of Washington)
Nicki Dell (Cornell Tech)
Richard Heeks (University of Manchester)
Dorothea Kleine (University of Sheffield)
Kentaro Toyama (University of Michigan)

Applications of mHealth in Emerging Markets

This panel session will examine the role of mobile health technologies (mHealth) in emerging markets. The focus of the session will be on the integration of mHealth into existing healthcare infrastructure to provide dependable and robust care to underserved communities. The session will also aim to highlight the ethical concerns around providing short-term and limited scope health services via short-term research projects in mobile health.

Olawunmi Oduyebo (University of Michigan)
Sabah Pirani (University of Michigan)

Beyond Online Experiences: Designing for Offline and Intermittent Connectivity

We propose an open session in form of a Panel Discussion, discussing the challenges, limitations and opportunities for experiences in intermittent connectivity. Further, we deep dive on transitions from an online to offline experiences. Finally, we consolidate various strategies that could be deployed in modern day technology systems and services, to counter the constrained and intermittent access to the Internet in emerging markets. The major takeaway for the participants, from the open session is to envisage technology design for varying connectivity.

Saurabh Srivastava (Google Inc.)
Tara Hirebet (Google Inc.)
Shweta Barupal (Ad Astra Consultants)
Divy Thakkar (Google Inc.)

Impact of EU GDPR and Other Data Protection on ICTD Projects: How it Will Affect the Concepts of Open Data and Big Data for Social Innovation

This is a panel session that will bring together ICTD, data protection, and open data researchers to discuss the impact of EU GDPR on ICTD projects or data collection procedures. Also discussion will look at how the different privacy and data protection laws are going to impact data collection for decision-making in developing countries. This session will provide avenues for students and researchers who did not submit or have their papers accepted and are working in the area of data science and development to have an open conversation. How is data privacy affecting social innovation and the realities of ICTD in different countries? We anticipate participation from the community to discuss how EU GDPR and other data protections impact ICTD projects and how they will inhibit the concepts of open data and big data for social innovation.

Benjamin Akinmoyeje (Management Sciences for Health)



Monday, January 7, 1130-1300

Is This Time Different? The Novelty of ICT in ICTD

ICTD research and practice often encounters classic issues in the effort to understand and improve the human condition. This panel aims to open up a discussion on the long-lasting themes that precede ICTD and that will surely outlast it, and how they interplay with the novel features of ICTD. Where should we learn from other fields because ICTD is not so different? Where do we need to think anew because these technologies are so novel?

Brandon Liu (Everwell Health Solutions)
William Thies (MSR India)

ICTD and Personal Informatics

The Personal Informatics (PI) community has explored using smartphones and wearables to better understand various facets of an individual, such as their health and well-being. ICTD has conducted PI-type research (e.g., maternal health tracking), but it has a different philosophical approach towards it. Even though smartphone adoption is increasing in the developing regions, not much work has examined the adoption of such platforms or their requirements. In this panel, we seek to explore how why this is the case, and potential opportunities and challenges in bringing the two communities together towards a shared goal.

Ravi Karkar (University of Washington)

Gender Equality in the Indian IT Workplace

We want this panel discussion to start a dialogue amongst practitioners and policy makers about the experiences of being a woman in the Indian IT workplace. We are hoping this will bring out the hidden nuances of these experiences and give these women a suitable platform to share and even discuss them.

Oindrila Matilal (IIIT Bangalore)
Mounika Neerukonda (IIIT Bangalore)

Listening from the Archives

This session explores the use of historical and participatory art methods in ICTD research. Seasoned practitioners, please join us to share your experiences and primary documents. We also welcome researchers new to these methods who hope to learn from the experiences and archival selections of other researchers. As a starting point, we will listen to archival selections from the National Radio Cambodia, including music from 1960s and a lakon ajai (spoken comedy, with translation) from 1984. Before and after the listening portions, we will explore through discussion the ways that contemporary ICT use builds off of older forms of culturally-specific media practices, particularly in postcolonial and post-conflict settings. We hope that the listening portion (which includes rare Khmer traditional music samples) will be an enjoyable and relaxing way to spend conference time. This program was originally developed in collaboration with Lyno Vuth and the Sa Sa Art Project team in Phnom Penh.

Margaret Jack (Cornell University)