The 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.
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
How 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.
A 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
Designers 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
People 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.