1 March 2009

Ramesh Srinivasan and Juliana Rotich on the power of local innovation at LIFT09

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LIFT 2009
Solidarity was the first afternoon theme of the LIFT conference.

One of the subtle change in the last fifteen years revolves around how collective action and solidarity have changed. Ramesh Srinivasan and Juliana Rotich, two speakers from different parts of the world, showrf how technologies such as mobile devices reshape the rule of living together.

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Ramesh Srinivasan

Ramesh Srinivasan (personal page) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Studies and Design|Media Arts at the University of California Los Angeles. His research interests and doctoral seminars build on his interdisciplinary background as an engineer, designer, social scientist, and ethnographer. His research focuses on convergent questions between new media technologies and global cultures and communities; the use of design and social-science perspectives to analyze the impacts of information technology.

Ramesh started out with a few core questions:
– How is an understanding of how different cultures see the world in different ways fundamental for how technology is conceived and how would a culturally diverse web look like?
– How are technologies, which are themselves cultural artefacts, impacting other cultural worlds in different ways?

He then followed up with a number of stories and observation that illustrate cultural appropriation, and the power of people innovation – people are good at adapting technologies to the uses that benefit them best, based on their own ontologies.

To really make technology matter, we need to reflect upon how policy makers and decision makers view the world. What is their ontology vs the ontology of someone in a village? And how can this gap be bridged?

Juliana Rotich

Juliana Rotich (blog | profile) comes from Kenya and is an author, blogger and digital activist with Global Voices Online. She has a particular focus on the environment. She is also a programme director of Ushahidi, a non-profit web platform for the crowd sourcing and mapping of crisis information. Recently she was selected as one of the TED Fellows.

Juliana’s talk was entitled “Globalism, Mobiles and The Cloud”, and started off with highlighting the work done done by Global Voices, which gives space to events that are not covered by the global media.

One of the important issues in Africa is language translation. That’s why Global Voices started the Lingua project, with a translation in over 18 languages, through the help of volunteer translators.

The mobile phone has now become the platform for development in Africa. Good examples of mobile applications that are relevant in Africa are Mobinfo (developed by a Kenyan for Kenyans), Google SMS Search (launched in Kenya), MXit instant messaging on mobile phones, LiveQuotes (Nairobi stock exchange information), m-Pesa (money transfer via mobile), and health information on “please call me” text messages.

She ends her talk with information on the websites of Sokwanele.com (mashups of maps and political news) and Ushahidi.com (which aggregates and localises).

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