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SAI Symposium April 2014 Mobile Technology

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Mobile Technology

Thursday, April 24, 2014, 8:30 am – 11:00 am

Kennedy Room, Charles Hotel1 Bennett St, Cambridge, MA 02138

Faculty leads: Tarun KhannaDirector of the South Asia Institute & Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School
JP Onnela, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health

The use of mobile phones has become ubiquitous in South Asia – not only as a tool to close the information gap, but a powerful device to promote economic growth in emerging markets. This project hopes to broaden the understanding of mobile technology and how it can enable economic and social mobility particularly for those most in need. Our collective efforts can increase knowledge of, and provide better access to services in areas of healthcare, education, financial services, and thereby improve livelihoods.

Our workshop will consist of a short introduction, followed by two halves and a debrief as detailed below.   We hope to set the stage for a longer two-day workshop sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute on the Use of Mobile Phones in Developing Countries in the Fall.


Introduction (10 minutes)

We will frame our workshop as an engagement with the promise of mobile phones, and the promise for researchers of the data that these devices generate, and some of the tricky questions that are raised by these promises.

First Half: The Data (1 hour)

Here we will raise issues related to the data and their manipulation. This will include the tension between data privacy and the analytic promise of large datasets, the variation in ways in which societies have adjudicated (or ignored) such tensions, and some of the methodological issues that large datasets have raised. One of the major challenges is the tension between data privacy and the sharing of data to promote scientific research for practical insights.

Break (10 minutes)

Second Half: The Uses (1 hour)

Mobile phones have made ‘visible’ to researchers networks that probably already existed.  They’ve also facilitated the creation of broader and deeper networks than were feasible prior to the ubiquity of such devices.  Of course, this ubiquity affects the delivery of all manner of public goods, and affects the functioning of markets for all sorts of goods and services.  We hope to spend the second half of the workshop identifying themes that emerge from the use of mobile phones to deliver health, education and financial services in South Asia.

Concluding Debrief (10 minutes)


Click here to register for this workshop.




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