Aditya Vashistha is a Ph.D. candidate in the Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington (UW).  He builds inclusive and appropriate computing technologies to address information and instrumental needs of people living in low-resource communities. His research spans human-computer interaction (HCI), computing for development, and accessibility technology. His research has been recognized by global development organizations, human rights groups, and social computing organizations in the form of USAID Seed Grant, Facebook Access Innovation Prize, and Facebook Graduate Fellowship. He is also a recipient of the UW’s College of Engineering Student Research award as well as several best paper awards and nominations at premier HCI venues. His research has transitioned into large-scale, real-world products that have reached an estimated 220,000 people in Africa and South Asia.

Talk: Social Computing for Social Good in Low-Resource Environments

Abstract: Mainstream social computing technologies—like social media platforms, online discussion forums, or crowdsourcing marketplaces—have revolutionized how literate people with access to smartphones and the Internet participate in the information ecology and digital economy. However, these technologies currently exclude billions of those who are illiterate, who speak low-resource languages, who live in poverty, or who do not have access to Internet-connected devices. 

In this talk, I will present three systems that I designed, built, and deployed for people who face literacy, language, socioeconomic, and connectivity barriers: (1) Sangeet Swara is a voice-based, community-moderated social media service that enables people in low-resource environments to produce, consume, and moderate audio content in their local language, (2)  Respeak is a voice-based crowdsourcing marketplace that enables people in low-resource environments to vocally transcribe audio files in exchange for free airtime and additional earning opportunities, and (3) IVR Junction is a  free and open source toolkit that enables global development organizations to build and maintain voice-based social computing services and facilitate  information exchange between local and global communities. Together, these systems fulfill my vision of building scalable, sustainable, and replicable voice-based social computing services that enable people without literacy, smartphones, or the Internet to participate in informative dialogues at both community and global scales. I will also discuss how these social computing technologies achieve social good by improving people’s access to health information, employment opportunities, and entertainment.