Instructor: Kurtis Heimerl
TA: Aditya Vashistha
Time: MW 1:30-2:50
Location: MGH 082A
Credits: 4

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are having enormous
impact on the livelihoods of the world, from tech workers taking Uber to
work, to farmers using online forums to share best practices, to people in
rural areas using cellular phones to stay up to date on their children in
the big city. Often ICTs take power away from disadvantaged communities
(e.g., rural) and centralize it in those with the money and knowhow to use
the technologies. As these interventions sweep through communities
throughout the world, we strive to understand how to build technologies
that instead empower and support marginalized groups. This class will focus
on exploring how to build technologies for communities that you are not a
part of (short answer, get involved!), understanding the space of people
and organizations engaging with and solving these kinds of problems (from
Facebook to the Clinton Health Initiative to Ob Anggen), and eventually
building our own (likely naive) solutions.

While a critical theory of development is important to doing good work,
this is a class for builders and designers. All students will complete a
project and end up with an artifact; potentially a tool (designed and/or
built) for empowering community health workers or a model for mapping
satellite data to population density. This is a graduate-level computer
science class but particularly motivated and experienced students
(including undergrads) from other disciplines can reach out if they'd like
to participate.

We have engaged with a few external organizations to suggest projects and
mentor students with the hope of these projects reaching deployment and
scale. We're also keen to engage with more than just system builders, and
in particular have future project funding available for work with data
scientists and system builders after the class ends. Some example projects
and backgrounds include:

Hardware/Wireless: Facebook's OpenCellular platform (link) is an SDR-based
solution for rural/community cellular. While still in its infancy, there
are clear opportunities to implement novel access solutions (such as
backscatter) that could be optimized to make access better for those
without it.
Software/Distributed Systems: Community Cellular (link) is a model of
access where small organizations run their own cellular networks. At the
moment, the software stacks are ad hoc solutions with simplistic models of
shared state (like user information). We can build a large distributed
database that can handle the rampant disconnections in rural backhaul
networks and make it easier to setup and run these types of networks.
Data Science: Telecoms often need to understand the demographics of
uncovered areas in order to make judgments about where to build out their
networks. Given call data records, the census, and other information, we
can build models to allow telecoms to better understand areas without
coverage and profitably serve them in the future.
Healthcare: The Clinton Health Initiative (link) provides healthcare all
over the world and are actively engaged in the effort to eradicate Polio.
What tools can we build to make the front-line workers more effective?
Financial Services: Many areas lack robust access to financial
infrastructure such as credit and insurance, making them more sensitive to
disasters, both physical and medical. A number of organizations are working
to improve this and enable mobile money solutions, development
technologists are key to doing this in a scalable and interoperable manner
that actually benefits the constituents rather than just the incumbents.

Students are also invited to bring their own projects. These could be in
the space of Education, HCI, Security, or anything, as as they work to
empower marginalized people or groups.

For more information reach out to Kurtis Heimerl <>.
Please forward to other groups on campus who could be interested as well!
change mailing list

Reply via email to