Citizens of the developed world recognize that they live in an age of growing globalization, but tend to overlook the fact that over 80% of this world lives in conditions very different from theirs. Half the human population lives on less than USD 2.50 per day – a monthly income of less than USD 75. In this course, students will be encouraged to examine the interplay between technological systems, economic activities, social structures, and cultural practices in the lives of ‘the poor’. One of the goals of this course is to challenge the ways in which students think about how ‘technology’, ‘poverty’, and ‘development’ are defined and what these terms cover. We will focus on the roles played by individuals and societies as active agents of technology adoption and use, in the context of constrained socio-economic conditions and development concerns.
We will look at several phases of the application of technology towards poverty alleviation globally. We will begin by contrasting ‘thinking big’ – infrastructure and industrialization projects – and ‘thinking small’ – the appropriate technologies movement – approaches to development, looking at past and present projects. We will then focus on the recent upsurge in information and communication technologies (ICTs), and through discussions of case studies from across the world, we will study specific application areas such as food, money, health, among others, examining the design, deployment, and adoption of different ICTs in these domains. We will discuss questions like: How do ICTs affect the lives of those living in poverty and what role can ICTs play in development? How might digital technologies and applications differ between developed and developing countries? What are examples of ways in which entrepreneurs use ICT to combat poverty? What works, what doesn’t, and what are the costs? And finally: what can we do about it?