Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for Developing Regions

G22.3033-004 and G63.2851, Fall 2007

Wed 7:10-9:00 PM, CIWW 102

Instructor: Prof. Lakshminarayanan Subramanian

Office Hours: Thurs 5-6 PM or by appointment


                                        [Project Topics]              [Lecture Schedule]                [Readings]                   [Blog]


Motivation and Course Overview


Over the past several decades, computer science research and development has largely centered around issues in the developed world while very little focus has been given to problems in the developing world. A majority of people in the developing parts of the world do not have access to basic communications without which the "digital divide" in the world is bound to significantly grow over the years.


The premise of this course is that the development of appropriate Information and Communication Technologies, often referred to as ICT, can play a substantial role in addressing many of the pressing problems in developing regions especially in rural areas. ICT is not a solution by itself - it can primarily act as an enabler to improve the state of affairs in developing regions. In this course, we will study how ICT can be used to address problems in the following areas (to name the important ones and the focus areas for this class):


- Healthcare

- Education

- Micro-finance and Rural Banking

- Supply Chain Management

- Agriculture

- Traffic Control

- E-Governance


Applying ICT to address problems in these areas is not an easy task and involves addressing several challenges including research, development, deployment and social challenges.  The research and development challenges cover several areas of computer science including networking, systems databases, security, user interfaces, HCI and architecture. In this course, we will review some of the ongoing efforts in this space and discuss in detail the challenges that arise in the above mentioned seven focus areas.


Course Details and Grading


This course is a projects oriented course with the project forming about 75% of the grade. 25% of the grade will be based on class discussion and a presentation. For the class, a pre-specified set of project topics related to ongoing research efforts will be suggested and each student will work in one of these projects. Students will be asked to make presentations during regular lecture schedules.


The suggested project topics are as follows:

- Low-cost zero maintenance wireless mesh networks

- Cellphone based healthcare record system

- Cellphone based micro-finance transaction system

- Low cost paper watermarking for securing paper-based transactions in financial transactions and E-governance

- Medical Education modules for prevalent healthcare problems (eg.malaria, obstetrics and gynecology)

- Video streaming in low-bandwidth environments for distance learning applications

- Traffic Signaling system for improving road capacity in chaotic urban environments

- User interface design for semi-literate and illiterate users

- Content distribution in intermittent environments for education, healthcare purposes


More details along with project pages will be posted soon. Motivated students can suggest their own project topics.


Who can take the course?


The course is accessible to students from a variety of backgrounds including computer science students, ITP students,

MSIS students and students in specific application domains (healthcare, finance, education). It is important that any student taking this class have basic exposure to IT courses. In any project group, it is very important that atleast a few if not all the students have some coding experience in languages such as C/C++/Java. Most of the projects do not require hacking skills but definitely require reasonable amount of coding. Application specific exposure/expertise is a huge plus in any project.


If you are interested in this space, I would strongly encourage you to drop by for the first class and check it out.



Lecture Schedule (tentative)


The readings for the classes will be posted soon. For the first class, no readings are essential.


Lecture 1: Role of ICT in Developing Regions

Overview of Suggested Projects


Lecture 2: ICT, Development and Economics


Lecture 3: Low-cost Network Communications


Lecture 4: Role of Cellphones in ICT


Lecture 5: Role of Kiosks and Low-cost computing infrastructure


Lecture 6: ICT for Telemedicine and Healthcare Delivery


Lecture 7: ICT for Education, Distance Learning and Continuing Medical Education


Lecture 8: ICT for Microfinance and Rural Banking


Lecture 9: Role of the Web in Developing Regions


Lecture 10: ICT and Supply Chain Management


Lecture 11:  ICT and Agriculture


Lecture 12: Traffic Control


Lecture 13: User Interface and HCI Challenges


Lecture 14:  ICT and E-Governance


Lecture 15:  Project Presentations, Demos