We work on socio-technical systems that involve designing technologies situated in the context of people, to solve challenging problems that communities face. Over the years we have worked on a spectrum on topics including health, medication adherence, online education and skilling, citizen journalism and giving a voice to the underprivileged, financial inclusion, agriculture, improving internet access and road safety. Our team consists of social scientists and technologists working together to design systems that truly benefit communities. We design frugal innovation methods that take into account the needs and aspirations of our users, and partner with NGOs, startups and government organizations to deploy and evaluate our solutions in the real world. Though our presence in India provides us a test bed to experience severe resource constraints our communities face, much of our work has seen broad adoption and value in many parts of the world.
Some current projects
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 they differ from traditional labor? How is the complex relationship between workers, customers, platform provider, and the algorithms they create, experienced? What does all this imply for designing more equitable and sustainable markets for work?
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 penetration is growing very fast, people with low levels of literacy have been found to avoid complex functions, and primarily use mobile phones for voice communication only. “Text-Free UIs” are design principles and recommendations for computer-human interfaces that would allow a first-time, non-literate person, on first contact with a PC or a mobile phone, to immediately realize useful interaction with minimal or no external assistance.
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 numbers after dispensing their pills. After taking daily medication, patients make a free call to the hidden phone number. The combination of the call and patient’s caller ID yields high confidence that the dose was “in-hand” and they took the dose.