Welcome to I181: Technology & Poverty

Time: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 2-4.30
Place: 210 South Hall
Instructors: Neha Kumar & Elisa Oreglia

In this course, we encourage students to examine the interplay between technological systems, economic activities, social structures and practices in the lives of ‘the poor’. Our goal is to challenge the ways in which students think about how ‘technology’ is defined and what this term covers. Similarly, we will discuss how the term ‘poverty’ is understood and measured. Students will come to understand poverty ground-up as ‘the poor’ experience and describe it, not only in terms of high-level indicators. Through the course, we will focus on the roles played by individuals and societies as active agents of technology adoption and use, in the context of their constrained socio-economic conditions.

We will look at several phases of the application of technology towards poverty alleviation in both developing and developed countries. We begin the class by taking a close look at the concepts of poverty, development, and technology. We then contrast ‘thinking big’ – infrastructure and industrialization projects – and ‘thinking small’ – the appropriate technologies movement – approaches to development, looking at past and present projects in both areas. We look at the effect of the upsurge in digital technologies on gender and on the digital divide, and through discussions of case studies from different parts of the world, we focus on specific application areas such as agriculture, financial services, health care, education, entrepreneurship, and entertainment, and examine the impact of different technologies in these domains.