Portrait of Indrani Medhi Thies

Indrani Medhi Thies



Indrani Medhi Thies is a Researcher in the Technology for Emerging Markets Group at Microsoft Research India in Bangalore. Her research interest is in the area of User Interfaces, User Experience Design, and Technology for Global Development. Indrani’s primary work has been in User Interfaces for Low-Literate and Novice Technology Users. She has recently submitted her Ph.D. dissertation at the Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay, India. Indrani has a Masters degree in Design from the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT-ID), Chicago, USA.  And a Bachelors degree in Architecture from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (formerly VRCE), Nagpur, India.

Indrani has been listed in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Technology Review’s MIT TR35 2010 world’s top 35 innovators under the age of 35; has featured in the list of “50 Smartest People in Technology” by Fortune magazine; and has won the “Young Indian Leader” award from CNN IBN.

Indrani was born and raised in Guwahati, Assam. She lives in Bangalore with her husband Bill and baby girl Tara. When not working Indrani loves watching and reviewing Bollywood movies, and going on wildlife travels. Recently she featured in an advertising campaign with Bollywood star Farhan Akhtar. Video here.


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…

Project Mélange

Established: January 1, 2012

Project Mélange: Understanding MixEd LANguaGE and Code-mixing The goal of Project Mélange is to understand the uses of and build tools around code-mixing. Multilingual communities exhibit code-mixing, that is, mixing of two or more socially stable languages in a single…













1) KrishiPustak- Social Networking for Low-Literate Users

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 investigation that explores what a social networking application for low-literate users would look like and how it might be used. We designed, developed, deployed and evaluated KrishiPustak, a prototype audio-visual mobile application for low-literate farming populations in rural India. A video demo is available here.

2) VideoKheti- Video search for Low-Literate Users

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 and touch lead to a better experience for low-literate and novice users? And if it is even worth the extra cost in engineering (to build automatic speech recognition) and bandwidth for sustained use? Among other things results from our usability studies show that speech works best where there is a long list of choices and selections comprise of short familiar words and expressions. A video demo here.

3) Mobile Data Collection:

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 problem in the context of malnutrition treatment of rural children in Madhya Pradesh through ethnographic interviews and contextual inquiries, and present a health data record management application on a low-cost digital slate prototype (UX’12) built through iterative prototyping. The solution directly accepts handwritten input on ordinary paper notebooks placed on the digitizing pad of the slate, and provides immediate electronic feedback on the display of this device. This simultaneously generates a paper and digital record of the data. The digital slate’s micro SD card can be transferred to a mobile phone and the data sent to the backend database via GPRS. The server is updated at the end of each day, and the summary of the data is made available to the decision makers.

We also conduct a case study of dimagi‘s CommCare (NordiCHI’12), a health data collection and record management system deployed on low-cost mobile phones. Through a three-month unsupervised field trial in rural Madhya Pradesh with ten health workers we report data management gains in terms of data quality, completeness and timeliness for 836 recorded patient cases, and demonstrate strong preference for the system by rural health workers.