MSR Social Computing: Beth Kolko, U of Washington

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Roads to Nowhere: Government Blockades to Data Streams/Designer Blockades to Data Streams

lots of money has been spent on ICTs in developing world -- governments, corporations
excitement about "informaticization" and the creation of new technology
ie, Frontline SMS -- tool to help people build SMS-based services
today focusing on clash between top-down initiatives and lack of effectiveness of some bottom-up initiatives
the problem: governments throw a ton of money at building internet access...then end up blocking parts of it through filtering
- ie, Iran, Burma,
easier to cut off access during "acute episodes," but what about everyday filtering and blockage
- the cat and mouse game of connectivity between governments and citizens
blocking pornography perhaps means blocking innovation
regular surveys of government websites
struggled with "lack of absolute excitement" over locative services...perhaps ambivalence?
- the lack of data for central Asian cities like Bishkek or Tashkent
- "mute information landscapes" [lovely phrase!] - maps without labels or signage
a design wishlist
- more and easier tools for bottom-up data aggregation initiatives ... it's not a cellphone penetration issue, ie places with 76% cellphone penetration still don't have labelled maps
- a story: a deploying in Bishkek the GPS in the minibus that talks to a server and sends location via SMS so that people can text next bus and route requests -- in a country with no route maps and unpredictable times. but it didn't work! the problem was a power issue: the box was low power, but the towers in Bishkek transmitted at a lower power, so the antenna didn't have enough power to connect to them - so designing specific devices requires specific creativity
- designing UIs -- maybe we need cuteness, like lolcats

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