10 March 2006

The role of ethnographic research in driving technology innovation – Lessons from Inside Asia

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In a story in Pakistan’s Daily Times, Bill Siu (whom I presume to be an Intel Vice-President), shares some of the insights gained from Intel’s ethnographic research in Asia.

The Inside Asia project team, led by Dr Genevieve Bell [which is part of the People and Practices Research Team of Intel] spent two years conducting ethnographic research among 100 households in seven Asian countries, including India, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Korea, and Australia.

The article then continues with a focus on such uniquely Asian issues such as the emphasis on community, the sharing of technology, the difficulty of accessing electrical power in rural regions, the technological infrastructural delivery in cities (to buildings, rather than to apartments), the religious and spiritual resistance to the Western concept of being ‘always on’, and Asia’s fairly large internet cafés with up to 50 PC’s.

Intel has already begun to translate the findings of the field research conducted in Asia into new technology products and has introduced two innovations for Chinese consumers: the China Home Learning PC and the iCafé platform.

The China Home Learning PC supports educational experiences and development through a unique combination of hard-key switching between “educational” and “general” mode and a novel use of touch screens and voicematching to coach children in Mandarin and English.

Intel’s iCafé platform is a major new computing platform customized for the nearly 200,000 Internet cafes (or “iCafés”) in China, where people socialize, send e-mail, watch movies, and play online games. Intel’s new platform technology is expected to transform the way iCafés do business.

The writer suggests that more is to come. Because the PC as we know it was built from the ground up with a Western set of values and constraints, how might a PC look if it were built from the ground up in Malaysia or India or Kenya or Egypt?

Read full story (Pakistan Daily Times)
– A longer version of the same article can also be found on the Intel web site

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