Technology for Emerging Markets

Technology for Emerging Markets

Established: November 30, 2004

babyphontemThe Technology for Emerging Markets group seeks to address the needs and aspirations of people in the world’s developing communities. Our research targets people who are increasingly consuming computing technologies and services as well as those for whom access to computing remains largely out of reach.

TEM is a multidisciplinary group engaged in a range of technical and social-science research. By combining a variety of backgrounds and training, we are able to engage deeply with some of the complex problems associated with constraints in infrastructure and resources. Our goal is to study, design, build, and evaluate technologies and systems that are useful for people living in underserved rural and urban communities.

Based in Bangalore with Microsoft Research India, we work closely with a variety of partners, including NGOs, universities, government, and private companies. We also work with several groups within Microsoft, but our emphasis is on rigorous research and exploratory pilots rather than product, business, or partner development.

In addition, TEM has been fortunate to host some incredibly brilliant minds over the years:  TEM alumni

TEM Research

Broadly speaking, most of our research can be considered ICTD/ICT4D (Information and Communication Technology for Development). Our work is typically multidisciplinary and is motivated by questions of social relevance. At base, we believe that computing is a profoundly important tool that can be used to improve the lives of people around the world. Over the years TEM has engaged in research in a broad range of topics (some older work is here). Currently, our research can be loosely grouped into four broad areas:

Health, Health Organizations, and Health Education

rmf-spotcheck-thumbHow can information technologies be used to support health organizations, community health workers, and communities? We believe that computing can have a huge impact on improving the health of people in developing communities. Our interests include the design and implementation of systems for data collection, electronic and biometric medical records, health education tools, and systems to encourage healthy behaviors. In addition, we use ethnographic methods to study the assimilation of information technologies in health contexts.


qcards2-thumbA long-time research interest for the group explores the use of computing in education. Research projects in this area span work with both formal and informal learning, addressing the needs of children, college students and adults. We examine how technology can enhance the educational experience of teachers and learners while recognizing the constraints that most organizations and schools face regarding budgets, user familiarity with technology, and challenging learning environments and infrastructure.

Human Computer Interaction

testingphones-thumbDesigners of interactive systems meet many unique challenges when working with developing communities. For instance, the standard techniques and methods of HCI often break down when faced with the variety of contexts and constraints of emerging markets in the developing world. HCI research in TEM seeks to understand: 1) How technology is used by and on behalf of people in a wide range of developing communities; and 2) How to design and evaluate systems that address their needs and desires.

Context & Critique

everydaymobiles2-thumbPeople and communities across the world use, are affected by, and can shape the evolution of information and communication technologies. Research at TEM draws on social-scientific and humanities approaches—particularly ethnographic methods—to explore tensions, opportunities, and complexities of sociotechnical systems in resource-constrained settings.


















A Hindi Speech Recognizer for an Agricultural Video Search Application

January 2013

Voice user interfaces for ICTD applications have immense potential in their ability to reach to a large illiterate or semi-literate population in these regions where text-based interfaces are of little use. However, building speech systems for a new language is a highly resource intensive task. There have been attempts in the past to develop techniques…


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January 1, 2017


Project AVARE

Established: January 19, 2016

India is home to the largest population of visually-impaired persons (VIPs) in the world, accounting for around 40% of the world’s total blind population as measured by the World Health Organization (WHO). AVARE (Augmented Virtual And Real Environments) is a…

Mobile Data Collection

Established: June 1, 2011

In rural settings within developing countries where digital devices are not pervasive, all written records are maintained on paper forms which take a long time to aggregate and process data, resulting in corresponding delays in remedial action. We study this…

Chatbots for young, urban India

Established: August 1, 2016

As text-messaging chatbots become increasingly “human”, it will be important to understand the personal interactions that users are seeking with a chatbot. What chatbot personalities are most compelling to young, urban users in India? To explore this question, we conducted…

VideoKheti- Video search for Low-Literate Users

Established: April 25, 2012

VideoKheti (CHI’13, DEV’13) is a multimodal video search system for low-literate farmers that combines local language speech, graphics and touch interaction to help find and watch agriculture extension videos (of digitalGreen), in the farmer’s own language and dialect. We investigate if the complementarity of speech, graphics…

KrishiPustak- Social Networking for Low-Literate Farmers

Established: January 1, 2014

With the wide penetration of mobile internet, social networking systems are becoming increasingly popular in the developing world. However, most social networking sites contain medium to heavy text, and are therefore unusable by low-literate populations. KrishiPustak (CSCW'15) is a research and design…

Sneakernet: Facilitating Ubiquitous Device-to-Device File Transfers

Established: August 1, 2016

Device-to-device file transfers are pervasive in many emerging markets, but users typically only share content with close friends or informal media vendors. We seek to facilitate ubiquitous device-to-device file transfers beyond one’s immediate social network. Based on initial interviews with…


Established: May 1, 2014

Low-cost medication adherence and monitoring 99DOTS is a technology-enabled project focusing on medication adherence for anti-Tuberculosis drugs. Treatment programs wrap each anti-TB blister pack in a custom envelope, which hides phone numbers behind the medication. Patients can only see these hidden…

UIs for Low-Literate Users

Established: June 20, 2006

One of the greatest challenges in providing information and communication technology access is that about 775 million people in the world are completely non-literate and many are able to read only with great difficulty and effort. Even though mobile phone…

Future workplaces

Established: April 26, 2016

Technology platforms are emerging as a new kind of workplace: from crowdwork to ‘peer economy’ platforms. This project uses ethnographic methods to address questions such as: Who are the workers on these platforms? What are their work practices? How do…


Battling TB Using Microsoft Technology

By Microsoft News Center Giri Prasad, a 33-year-old tailor who lives in Delhi, first noticed the pain below his ribs. He went to see a doctor, but when it didn’t subside, he traveled to the hospital where he eventually learned…

December 2012

Microsoft Research Blog

A Simple Way to ‘Poll’ Students

By Douglas Gantenbein, Senior Writer, Microsoft News Center In a classroom near Bangalore, India, young students packing a classroom eagerly wave sheets of white paper covered with black symbols. They aren’t misbehaving—they are participating in a test of new educational technology…

June 2012

Microsoft Research Blog

CHI ’09: Computing with a Human Touch

By Rob Knies, Managing Editor, Microsoft Research Historically, Microsoft Research has had a big footprint during CHI, the annual conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction—and this…

March 2009

Microsoft Research Blog

Microsoft Researchers at Intersection of Science and Art

By Rob Knies, Managing Editor, Microsoft Research Life, a great man once said, is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. And sometimes, it appears, so is art. Three members of Microsoft Research can attest to that. The three,…

March 2008

Microsoft Research Blog