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Putting People First

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March 2012
17 March 2012

“Doing the Internet” – BoP research with youngsters in India

 

Anthropology, Development and ICTs: Slums, Youth and the Mobile Internet in Urban India” is the title of a research paper by Nimmi Rangaswamy and Edward Cutrell of Microsoft Research India.

Abstract

In this paper we present results from an anthropological study of everyday mobile internet adoption among teenagers in a lowincome urban setting. We attempt to use this study to explore how information about everyday ICT use may be relevant for development research even if it is largely dominated by entertainment uses.

To understand how ICT tools are used, we need to study the spaces users inhabit, even if these spaces are dominated by mundane, non-instrumental and entertainment driven needs. The key here is for ICTD discourse to situate insights from anthropological studies (such as this one) within an understanding of what drives a specific user population to adopt technologies in particular ways. Clearly there is a link between context and use, and understanding this may be invaluable for development research. Adopting a narrow development lens of technology use may miss the actual engagements and ingenious strategies marginal populations use to instate technologies into their everyday.

- Download paper
- Key findings (synthesis by MobileActive)

15 March 2012

The consumerisation of IT

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In November last year, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) published the short (free) report “The consumerization of IT- The next-generation CIO“.

The “consumerization of IT”—defined as the use of technologies that can easily be provisioned by non-technologists—is a hot topic among CIOs these days. Today’s consumerization of IT trend is the culmination of a fundamental shift in the relationship between employers and employees—especially professionals—that began four decades ago. This shift has only now worked its way into the world of enterprise technology .

To be successful, CIOs need to be more proactive. Accepting the inevitability of the consumerization trend and preparing for it by rethinking how they run IT. CIOs should consider forging new, collaborative relationships with users, giving them freedom to make IT decisions, and teaching them how to assume responsibility for those decisions. And rather than enforcing hardware and application standards, they’ll need to rethink IT architecture and controls to focus on controlling — or loosening controls on — information.

Download report

(via Dan Hill)

14 March 2012

UNDP Mobile Technologies and Empowerment report

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A report, recently published by UNDP, on mobile technologies and human development, “Mobile Technologies and Empowerment: Enhancing Human Development through Participation and Innovation”, does a good job of summarizing the many ways in which mobile technologies are being used successfully as tools for stimulating development.

It’s intended to provide information and ideas for development practitioners on how mobile technologies and applications can be used appropriately and effectively in international development projects.

The aim is not to employ technology-based solutions as an end in themselves, but rather as the means to achieving desired development outcomes.

- Read review (MobileActive)
- Executive summary
- Download report

14 March 2012

M-Government – Mobile technologies for responsive governments and connected societies

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This report by Hani Eskandar (ITU), Barbara- Chiara Ubaldi (OECD) and Vyacheslav Cherkasov (UN-DESA) highlights the critical potential of mobile technologies for improved public governance, as well as for economic and social progress in achieving the internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The September 2011 report also provides an in-depth analysis of the prerequisites for m-government, its main benefits and challenges, the value-chain and key stakeholders, and the checklist of concrete actions to sustain policy makers in monitoring and updating their knowledge on m-government.

Chapters:
1. Toward the next generation of public services
2. Benefits and outcomes of m-government
3. Understanding m-government adoption
4. Prerequisites for agility and ubiquity
5. Technology options for mobile solutions
6. M-Vision and a call to action

The report was drafted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

Download report

(via MobileActive)

14 March 2012

It’s cooperation, stupid

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The argument of this pamphlet, written by Charles Leadbeater for IPPR (the Institute for Public Policy Research, the UK’s leading progressive thinktank) is that we should jettison the assumption that humans are selfish, first and foremost. Instead, we should start from the assumption that most of the time, most people want to be cooperative.

Download pamphlet (free)

10 March 2012

In praise of lost time

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Facebook Timeline is an exemplary bit of interaction design that does little to advance the timeline formally. Yet it might alter the nature of human memory itself. A Domus Magazine design report from Palo Alto by Dan Hill.

“It’s a simple design, with a deftness of touch in its elements, and as a form of flexible composition — the art of web design layout — it just works. As Timeline expands, the content unfurls before your eyes, not like the ‘res up’ of a video game, but with a sudden ‘pop’ of images, text and other people. [...]

Given this easy orchestration of media, apps, games, services, places, objects, people, and relationships — the core social objects of this world — we might even see Timeline as a sketch of an entirely new operating system interface, in which your data, and its semantic containers, is organised over time, rather than by the pseudo-spatial layouts of desktops.”

- Read article
- Leggi articolo (versione Italiana)

Accompanying the review of Facebook Timeline, Domus has also published an interview with lead designer Nicholas Felton about filtering the noise of social media and mirroring personal memory.

- Read interview
- Leggi intervista (versione Italiana)

10 March 2012

Striving and Surviving: exploring the lives of women at the Base of the Pyramid

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On International Women’s Day, the GSMA mWomen Programme released a study called “Striving and Surviving – Exploring the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid,” reports MobileActive.org.

Drawn from 2,500 interviews with women (aged 16-64 in both rural and urban areas) living on less that $2 a day in Egypt, India, Papua New Guinea, and Uganda, the report looks at how mobile technology influences the way women approach health, economic development, and family relationships, and what mobile operators can do to reach more low-income women.

The report is divided into three parts; part one looks at the social, cultural, and economic factors that women at the base of the economic pyramid face in their daily lives, part two looks at the role of mobile technology in their lives, and part three looks at how technology can be used to further reach low-income women.

Some of the statistics pulled from the report show that when asked what the key benefits of mobile would be: [quoted from report]

  • 80% reported being connected to friends and family
  • 58% said it would be useful in an emergency
  • 40% said it would cut down on travel time
  • 15% believed it would help them feel secure
  • 93% reported that mobile phones made them feel safer, while the same proportion particularly valued being connected to friends and family.
  • 41% reported that owning a mobile had helped them increase their income or their professional prospects
  • 85% of mobile owners reported a greater feeling of independence

The study found that despite general positive feelings toward mobile technology, there are many challenges to getting mobile technology into the hands of low-income women. Gender imbalances were a major issue, as although some women had access to mobile phones through friends or family, few owned their own mobile phone. Another major issue was technical ability, as “while 77% of BoP women have made a mobile phone call, only 37% have sent an SMS, regardless of literacy levels.” Among women who were surveyed, 22% who reported not wanting a mobile phone said their reason was because they would not know how to use it.

Other concerns women listed for using mobile phones were a lack of regular access to electricity to keep the phone charged, concerns about theft, and concerns about ownership and usage costs. Furthermore, family pressure was a large influence on women’s view of technology as the report states: “In addition to doubts about the cost/benefit analysis of mobile ownership, 64% of married women who do not wish to own handsets cited the disapproval of their husbands as a principle reason for not wanting to own a phone.”

“Striving and Surviving” also examines how mobile operators can increase their outreach to women at the base of the pyramid by addressing women’s concerns. By developing family plans and reaching out to male and female customers by highlighting security and family connectivity available through mobile technology, mobile operators can broaden their customer base while getting technology into the hands of women who need it.

An interesting aspect of the report is the Portraits series, a fictionalized account of eight women from the base of the pyramid who use mobile technology and explain how that technology fits into their everyday lives. The stories are interspersed throughout the final report, but are also collected in a separate paper called “Portraits: A Glimpse into the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid.”

Although the accounts are fictionalized, they are drawn from the research that went into creating “Striving and Surviving – Exploring the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid.” The reports look at the lives of everyday women and how they use and view mobile technology.

Because the data for the report is drawn from only four countries, the GSMA mWomen Programme has made all of the research tools used to create this report publicly available at www.mwomen.org to inspire further research.

- Executive summary
- Report download
- Portrait series
- Research tools

10 March 2012

Health and ethnography: don’t just ask, watch

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When it comes to health, consumers’ complex and contradictory behaviour makes observational research highly valuable, says Ipsos Mori director Oliver Sweet.

“Observation allows researchers to look at healthy behaviours that are often hard to articulate, such as the emotion attached to food, or when we are most likely to make changes to our lives. These emotional aspects of health have their roots in a mesh of social and cultural norms, influenced by friends, family and society. These can’t really be accessed by people telling you – you really need to see them. Through observation, for instance, we have understood how buying local produce in Australia is part of a healthy routine, how collagen cream in Brazil offers a pseudo-medical answer to the quest for beautiful skin, and how praying to ancestors in Japan sets people on a positive mental path for the day. None of these activities is inherently ‘healthy’, but they are certainly part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Read article

5 March 2012

Low2No featured in ARUP Design Yearbook 2011

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The Design Yearbook 2011 of ARUP — the global firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists that Experientia collaborated with on the Low2No project in Helsinki — is a gorgeous overview of the power of (sustainable) design in the firm’s recent work.

Pages 70-71 of the book (38 in the pdf download) feature the Low2No project, which is now called Airut. The striking visual is by Lamosca.

Below is the text that accompanies it:

Leading by example

Our approach to the design of the Helsinki’s first carbon-neutral district – formerly known as the Low2No project – encourages residents to make more informed choices about energy, transport, food and consumer goods, with the goal or reducing energy demands in the district by more than 40% compared with the Finnish average.

We are pioneering a new model of urban design on this 22,000 m2-mixed-use project that demonstrates how design can empower people to live a healthier, creative and more sustainable lifestyle. We are showing how every lifestyle choice has an impact upon their carbon and ecological footprints.

We have undertaken a broader carbon assessment that takes into consideration the site’s likely total consumption of carbon. This enabled our client to chart an achievable and replicable course from the low-carbon norms of Finnish society to a fully decarbonised model.

More than 15% of the project’s electricity will be sourced from photovoltaic sources and heat from a biomass heat network. The seven-storey office is a pioneering all-timber building and the carbon impact of in situ concrete will be cut by 20% compared to conventional specifications.

Download ARUP Design Yearbook 2011

5 March 2012

How to manufacture desire

desireengine

Nir Eyal continues his article series on Techcrunch (see also “Habits are the new viral“) with a short essay on manufacturing desire.

“Companies increasingly find that their economic value is a function of the strength of the habits they create. But as some companies are just waking up to this new reality, others are already cashing in. [...]

But how do companies create the internal triggers needed to form habits? The answer: they manufacture desire. While fans of Mad Men are familiar with how the ad industry once created consumer desire during Madison Avenue’s golden era, those days are long gone. A multi-screen world, with ad-wary consumers and a lack of ROI metrics, has rendered Don Draper’s big budget brainwashing useless to all but the biggest brands. Instead, startups manufacture desire by guiding users through a series of experiences designed to create habits. I call these experiences “desire engines,” and the more often users run through them, the more likely they are to self-trigger. [...]

Like it or not, habit-forming technology is already here. The fact that we have greater access to the web through our various devices also gives companies greater access to us. As companies combine this greater access with the ability to collect and process our data at higher speeds than ever before, we’re faced with a future where everything becomes more addictive. This trinity of access, data, and speed creates new opportunities for habit-forming technologies to hook users. Companies need to know how to harness the power of the desire engine to improve peoples’ lives, while consumers need to understand the mechanics of behavior engineering to protect themselves from manipulation.”

Read article

5 March 2012

Book: The Transition Companion

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The Transition Companion: making your community more resilient in uncertain times
by Rob Hopkins
Chelsea Green Pub Co, November 2011
320 pages

Abstract

In 2008, the bestselling The Transition Handbook suggested a model for a community-led response to peak oil and climate change. Since then, the Transition idea has gone viral across the globe, from universities and London neighbourhoods to Italian villages and Brazilian favelas. There are now hundreds of Transition towns and Transition initiatives around the world. In contrast to the ever-worsening stream of information about climate change, the economy and resource depletion, the Transition movement focuses on solutions, on community-scale projects and on positive results.

The Transition Companion picks up the story today, describing one of the most fascinating experiments now under way in the world. It answers the question ‘What is Transition?’ and shows how communities are working for a future where local enterprises are valued and nurtured; where lower energy use is seen as a benefit; and where cooperation, creativity and the building of resilience are the cornerstones of a new economy.

In the first part of the book author and Transition movement co-founder Rob Hopkins discusses where we are now in terms of resilience to the problems of rising oil prices, climate change and economic uncertainty. He presents a vision of how the future might look if we succeed in addressing these issues. Rob Hopkins then looks in detail at the process a community in transition goes through, drawing on the experience of those who have already embarked on this journey. These examples show how much can be achieved when people harness energy and imagination to create projects that will make their communities more resilient. The Transition Companion combines practical advice – the tools needed to start and maintain a Transition initiative – with numerous inspiring stories from local groups worldwide.

Review by John Thackara

“One of the many virtues of this awesome and joysome book is that the word “strategic” does not appear until page 272; a section on “policies” has to wait until page 281. It’s not that the book is hostile to high altitude thinking; on the contrary, its pages are scattered with philosophical asides on everything from Buddhist thinking and backcasting, to time banking and thermodynamics. But the rational and the abstract are given their proper, modest, place.

The book is filled with incredibly handy short texts about issues that confuse many of us. What, for example, are we to think of Community Supported Agriculture? Is it enough to sign up to a vegetable box scheme – and find the resulting service inflexible and irritating? Maybe yes and maybe no, writes Hopkins. For him, our relationship with the people who grow our food should be shaped by four key principles (page 268): “shared risk; transparency; community benefits; and building resilience”. Within that framework, the details are down to us.”

5 March 2012

Book: The Power of Habit

powerhabit

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
by Charles Duhigg
Random House, February 2012
400 pages

Abstract

In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.

Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.

Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

New York Times review by David Brooks

“Researchers have come to understand the structure of habits — cue, routine, reward. Duhigg’s book is about people who have learned to instill habits in other people or replace bad habits with good habits.”

5 March 2012

Life 2.0 supporting elderly people’s independent life

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The Life 2.0 project is a EU funded project that aims at supporting elderly people’s independent life through a platform of geographical positioning and social networking services.

The project, which involves 13 core partners in 5 European member states, started in November 2010 and is now starting a pilot phase in which such applications will be tested in 4 pilot locations in Denmark, Italy, Spain and Finland.

The project is also involving elderly people in training centers (such as Kastanjegaarden in Aalborg, Denmark) community centers (such as Agora in Barcelona) and local libraries (as in Joensuu, Finland and Milano, Italy).

On his blog Nicola Morelli extracted a synthesis of the first results of the ethnographic analysis, the scenarios and the use cases.

The full deliverables and more information about the project are available at www.life2project.eu.

5 March 2012

That Windows 8 experience? Confusing. Confusing as hell

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Trying out Windows 8 on the desktop gives a strange feeling, writes Matthew Baxter-Reynolds on The Guardian’s Technology Blog. There’s a solid update to Windows 7, and then there’s a strange interface which jumps context. Plus you can’t join a device to a domain? Whose idea was that?

“Thing is, we have the same thing over with Metro on the desktop. We’re told it’s all going to be fine and dandy but yet sit anyone with any experience down at that thing and the “BLAM! … SWOOSH!” aspects of running classic and Metro-style make this crazy to use on a PC. Yet we’re being told to believe in Sinofsky that is all fine, and all logical (although now I think about it, we’re being told that by Sinofsky), despite the fact that you can touch Metro on the desktop at it and just feel it doesn’t work. It feels like it’s haunted by the ghost of Microsoft Bob.”

Read article

3 March 2012

Do m-health tools really work? Testing the impact of mobile technology on maternal and child healthcare

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MobileActive has posted an in-depth new case study that focuses on evaluating mobile health interventions.

Written by Kate Otto, the case study looks at testing the efficacy of using mobile phones in health care in Ethiopia. A team of researchers from The World Bank and Addis Ababa University developed a mobile tool that enables rural community health workers to improve antenatal care and delivery services, improve vaccination coverage, and facilitate emergency referrals. The team is taking the evaluation process beyond the usual survey method and are instead rigorously testing the mobile phone effects through more rigorous research.

The researchers randomly selected three Ethiopian districts and applied the tool in three ways:

  • Treatment 1: All Health Extension Workers (HEW) received mobile phones equipped to perform the three use cases (improving antenal care/delivery, vaccination coverage, and emergency referrals).
  • Treatment 2: All HEWs and two Volunteer Community Health Workers (VCHW) within each district received mobile phones; HEW phones are software-equipped for the three use cases, while VCHWs received dumbphones intended to make missed calls only.
  • Control: No mobile phones distributed.

The test is on-going, but the results will be applicable to organizations that are considering deploying mobile tools into their work. The research is not looking at developing a scalable mobile tool, but is rather examining how mobile tools are used and how they compare to existing methods

Read case study

2 March 2012

Book: Wicked Problems – Problems Worth Solving

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Austin Center for Design today published a new book focused on the role of design in social entrepreneurship. Titled Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving, the book is presented as a handbook for teaching, learning, and doing meaningful disruptive design work. The book includes an introduction to wicked problems, describing some of the challenges and opportunities of design-led entrepreneurial activities. The text describes the skills necessary for successful entrepreneurship, and offers both methods and curricula for learning how to engage with large scale humanitarian problems.

The book is available for free in its entirety online, at wickedproblems.com, and is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, which allows anyone to use the contents for their own non-commercial purposes.

Author Jon Kolko described the book as both “a call to action and a granting of permission. I’ve found that many designers desperately seek meaning in their work, but for any number of reasons, don’t feel empowered to act as an entrepreneur. Instead, they find themselves in high-paying jobs at famous corporations and consultancies, but doing work that they find boring or, worse, harmful. This book says to those designers, ‘It’s OK to start your own company. It’s OK to do meaningful work. It’s OK to expect more from your life.”

Kolko, formerly a director and principle at global innovation firm frog design, is now the founder of Austin Center for Design (AC4D), a non-profit school in Austin. AC4D teaches interaction design and social entrepreneurship, and graduates from the program go on to form their own double-bottom line companies. Kolko explained that “This book is a glimpse of what we’re thinking about at AC4D. It’s about working on problems that matter; it’s about problems worth solving. We’ve made the full text of the book available online for free in order to help advance the discussion of design-led social entrepreneurship.”

See also: Core77 book review

2 March 2012

The landscape of UX design in Asia

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Daniel Szuc and Josephine Wong describe the current state of UX design in Asia:

“As businesses in Asia in various domains look to how they can mature, differentiate and compete globally in their respective products and services, User Experience (UX) is gaining significant momentum. Management are curious as to what UX means and how it can be applied to not just improve experiences but towards real customer delight. They are looking for people and professional communities to help them understand.”

Read article

2 March 2012

Connected Learning

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Together with a committed group of colleagues and partners, cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito has been engaged in the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative to address the challenge of how new media can support highly engaged, geeked out, and self-directed forms of learning, but also how it can make this kind of learning available to all young people.

They have been seeking to enlist a diverse constituency of educators, parents, technology makers, and young people in a new vision of learning in the digital age.

Yesterday she announced Connected Learning, a community site and a set of learning and design principles, as well as a research network that together seek to promote dialog and experimentation around a model we are calling “connected learning.”

“In a nutshell, connected learning is learning that is socially connected, interest-driven, and oriented towards educational and economic opportunity. Connected learning is when you’re pursuing knowledge and expertise around something you care deeply about, and you’re supported by friends and institutions who share and recognize this common passion or purpose.”

Read announcement (with video)

1 March 2012

German divide between “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” is vast

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The divide between “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” is vast, and a new study of Internet use in the land of Gutenberg finds that twice the number previously believed barely go online at all.

“According to the study, so-called “Digital Natives” – mainly the young – feel safe on the Internet and assume responsibility for their personal data. “I surf, therefore I am,” is the way [Matthias] Kammer [director of DIVSI, the German Institute for Trust and Safety on the Internet that published the study] describes the approach of Digital Natives, paraphrasing French philosopher René Descartes’s famous line “I think, therefore I am.”

By contrast, those dubbed “Digital Immigrants” who regularly — but mostly unwillingly — use the Internet, feel strongly that it puts them at risk, and that politicians should come up with strict new data protection regulations.

And then there are the “Digital Outsiders,” who are so fearful of losing control over their personal data that they don’t go online at all. Fears, as Kammer jokingly explained, include “deleting the Internet” if they make an inadvertent wrong move.”

- Read article (English translation of Die Welt article)
- Original article (in German)
- Press release (in German)
- Download study (in German)