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 <kheim...@cs.washington.edu>. Please forward to other groups on campus who could be interested as well!
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