ICT research to boost India socio-economic dev't
Microsoft researcher William Thies and colleagues presented technologies specifically tailored to foster socio-economic development in India.
William Thies, researcher at Microsoft Research India technologies for emerging markets group, presented a study focusing on in creating appropriate information and communication technologies (ICT) to promote socio-economic development at the VLSI conference. The presentation was part of the session targeted at the theme of the conference: Affordable technologies for the emerging markets.
Many technologies that are taken for granted remain inaccessible or inappropriate for rural communities, due to barriers such as cost, usability and robustness. Thies and his colleagues have sought to invent and apply technologies that are specifically tailored to foster socio-economic development, spanning diverse sectors such as education, agriculture, microfinance, and healthcare.
The talk focussed on the domain of healthcare where their research ranges from low tech, utilizing commodity biometrics to improve the delivery of tuberculosis (TB) medications, to high tech, developing the software underpinnings to enable versatile lab-on-a-chip diagnostic systems.
The multidisciplinary research group composed of individuals from diverse fields like sociology, computer science and communications. Some of the sample projects the group focus on microfinance, text-free user interface for non-literate users, digital green and MultiPoint mouse for education. Thies illustrated a few of them involving low-end technology.
Figure : Biometric terminal for TB clinics
The group provided a simple solution to rural schools, where they found children battling with a single mouse attached to a PC. They decided to attach several mice to the computer and designed applications where they could compete and collaborate with each other to enable simultaneous learning. The team also found that impact of shared education was similar or even more than the level of education imparted by single mouse user as the children were much more engaged. This has now been replicated in more than 200 schools in South East Asia and other areas of the world.
In order to help farmers improve their agriculuture practices, leveraged the use of a regular camcorder to record best agriculture practices and disseminated to other farmers through mediator-based screenings. This resulted in up to a 10x improvement in the uptake of new agricultural practices per unit cost of the program.