Computing for Global Development

Kentaro Toyama, University of California at Berkeley

How do you design user interfaces for an illiterate migrant worker? Can you keep five rural schoolchildren from fighting over one PC? What value is computing technology to a farmer earning a dollar a day? These kinds of questions are asked by the technical side of an multidisciplinary field called “information and communication technology for development” (ICT4D), in the expectation that computing and communication technologies can contribute to the socio-economic development of the world’s poorest communities.

In this talk, I’ll discuss the potential, as well as the limitations, of computer science as a research field to contribute to global development. The context will be MultiPoint, where multiple mice plugged into a single PC allows multiple children to interact, thus reducing the per-child cost of PCs in schools.

Speaker Biography

Kentaro Toyama ( is a visiting researcher in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. Until 2009, Kentaro was assistant managing director of Microsoft Research India, which he co-founded in 2005. At MSR India, he started the Technology for Emerging Markets research group, which conducts interdisciplinary research to understand how the world’s poorest communities interact with electronic technology and to invent new ways for technology to support their socio-economic development. In 2006, he co-founded the IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD) to provide a global platform for rigorous academic research in this field, and he remains active on its advisory board. Prior to his time in India, Kentaro did computer vision and multimedia research at Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA, USA and Cambridge, UK, and taught mathematics at Ashesi University in Accra, Ghana. Kentaro graduated from Yale with a PhD in Computer Science and from Harvard with a bachelors degree in Physics.