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ICT4D@Penn Seminar Series: Myths of Information Technology for International Development

October 13, 2011
04:00PM - 05:30PM

Annenberg School for Communication, Room 500
3620 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, 19104

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Categories: Seminar

Title: Myths of Information Technology for International Development

By: Kentaro Toyama, Visiting Researcher, School of Information, University of California, Berkeley

Abstract: The past decade has seen incredible interest in applying information and communication technologies for international development, an endeavor often abbreviated “ICT4D.” Can mobile phones be used to improve rural healthcare? How do you design user interfaces for an illiterate migrant worker? What value is technology to a farmer earning $1 a day? Interventionist ICT4D projects seek to answer these kinds of questions, but the excitement has also generated a lot of hype about the power of technology to solve the deep problems of poverty. In this talk, I will (1) present several myths of ICT4D that persist despite evidence to the contrary, (2) offer a theory of “technology as amplifier” which explains the gap between rhetoric and reality, and (3) provide recommendations for successful ICT4D interventions. My hope is to temper the brash claims of technology with realism about its true potential.
About the Speaker: Dr. Kentaro Toyama (hyperlink towww.kentarotoyama.org) is a visiting researcher in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. He is working on a book that argues that increasing wisdom should be the primary focus of global development. Toyama co-founded Microsoft Research India, where he started an interdisciplinary research group to understand how electronic technology could support the socio-economic development of the world’s impoverished communities.  The group’s projects – including Digital Green, MultiPoint, and Text-Free UI – have been seminal in ICT4D research. Prior to his time in India, he did computer vision and multimedia research at Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA, USA and Cambridge, UK, and taught mathematics at Ashesi University in Accra, Ghana. Toyama graduated from Yale with a PhD in Computer Science and from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in Physics.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) Seminar Series is a new interdisciplinary venture at Penn to bring together researchers, students, and leaders from all sectors who are interested in better understanding the role that ICTs play in international development, and the impact that they have on impoverished and under-resourced communities. The Series will bring together noted researchers, practitioners, and policy makers in the ICT4D field, and will provide a venue for the Penn community to explore this important area of work.

To RSVP, please email Laura Schwartz-Henderson (hyperlink to lsh@asc.upenn.edu)

For more information about the series, please visit the ICT4D website

ICT4D Seminar Series Faculty Core Group: Emily Hannum (Assoc Professor Sociology & Education, GR Chair Sociology),  John Jemmott (Kenneth B. Clark Professor, ASC), Monroe E. Price (Director, Center for Global Communication Studies, ASC), Carrie Kovarik (Asst Professor Dermatology, Dermatopathology, and Infectious Diseases, SOM), Joseph Sun (Vice Dean, SEAS), Dan Wagner (UNESCO Chair & Professor GSE)

PhD Student Coordinators: Deepti Chittamuru (ASC, lead contact), Katie Murphy (GSE), David Conrad (ASC)

* The ICT4D Seminar is supported by the Provost’s Interdisciplinary Initiatives Fund, the Annenberg School for Communication, the Graduate School of Education/International Educational Development Program, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Programmatic support is provided by Annenberg’s Center for Global Communication Studies.