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ACT4D: Appropriate Computing Technologies for Development

The ACT4D research group at IIT Delhi designs and builds information and communication technologies focused towards emerging/developing/bottom-of-the-pyramid regions of the world.

 

Why are we doing this? Many reasons. First, these regions are poor and hence often remain untouched with technology, even though technology could prove extremely useful to them. Second, working in these regions present technical challenges very different from those encountered in typical CS research problems. A careful understanding of the capabilities of people, social dynamics, and infrastructure problems imply that solutions have to be designed keeping many unconventional constraints in mind. Third, it presents an avenue of working on very hands-on problems that involve field work and significant people interaction. This is much to the taste of outdoorsy people like us who love to see their hard work put to use in front of their eyes. Fourth, we feel good to bring smiles on the faces of people :)

 

 

Browse through our projects to know more about what we do, and also take a look at fantastic work in this area being done by other research groups in the world.

 

In case you are wondering what the word appropriate means, it goes back to Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, a book by E. F. Schumacher. Schumacher says that technologies should be designed keeping the social context in mind -- what material is available locally, how are tools to be repaired, who is going to use them and how -- hence, the need for an appropriate design suited to the context. This is the underlying philosophy behind all our work -- we do not hesitate to unlearn what we know, cross disciplinary boundaries from computer science into sociology and economics, go back to the drawing board, and redesign from scratch, if that is what is necessary to solve the problems.

 

We would like to give a special thanks to Milenne Tanganelli from UK, whom we've never met, for designing our wonderful logo. She did it without even us asking for it, originally for a discussion forum on social entrepreneurism! According to her, "The use of colour signifies that such work brings hope and future. They represent the land (brown), the environment (green), the sky and vision (blue with the eye), and the fertility (purple). At the same time the figure with their arms open inside the globe represent the human aspect, that we are part of this world, we care about and are are open to good ideas.  It is the idea of growth". This is also what we believe in. Thanks also to Amit Nanavati from IBM Research for helping us connect ICTD with Schumacher.