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  1. Apr 2015
    1. the impact was so small. By Brian Bergstein on April 15, 2015 Kentaro Toyama Kentaro Toyama calls himself “a recovering technoholic”—someone who once was “addicted to a technological way of solving problems.” Five years in India changed him. After getting his PhD in computer science and working on machine vision technologies at Microsoft, Toyama moved to Bangalore in 2004 to help lead the company’s new research center there. He and his colleagues launched dozens of projects that sought to use computers and Internet connectivity to improve education and reduce poverty. But early successes in pilot projects often couldn’t be replicated; in some schools, computers made things worse. In a book being released this spring, Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology, Toyama argues that technologists undermine efforts at social progress by promoting “packaged interventions” at the expense of more difficult reforms. Toyama, who is now an associate professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, spoke to MIT Technology Review’s deputy editor, Brian Bergstein. When you went to India, technological optimism was flourishing there. Bangalore was being described as the next great tech hub. Yes, absolutely. We [reasoned] that here’s this technology sector, which is incredibly successful. Isn’t there some way that we can take the sheen of this sector and spread it around not just to people who are well educated and middle class, but also to people who are poorer and who don’t have the same kind of educational advantages—basically, to the 80 percent of the country that really is considered poor by any standard? At that time, there were barely even mobile phones. It was mostly Internet-connected PCs. I thought there was some way to use them in a way that we could support the health-care system, agriculture, or education. What was your success rate? I ultimately took stock of 50-odd projects that I had either been directly involved with or supervised. Very few were the kind where we felt, “This is working so well that we should really expand it.” Very often, it was because there were just limits to the human and institutional capacity on the ground that could take advantage of the technology. For example, in education, one of the most difficult things to overcome is the way in which education is done—everything from how the public school system is managed to how it’s administered to how the government interacts with it. In India, we found instances where teachers were often called away by the government. The government feels that they’re government employees and, therefore, can be called upon to help with other government tasks. Another example is the health-care system. If you go to a typical rural clinic, it’s not the kind of place that anybody from the United States would think of as a decent place to get health care. Bringing along a laptop, connecting it to wireless, and providing Internet so you can do telemedicine is just an incredibly thin cover. It’s a thin, superficial change.

      technology being insufficient

    1. Why is it that Putin has no problem getting his message out? The reason, of course, is that most of what Russians see and hear is Putin’s point of view and Putin’s point of view only.

      Although a blant exaggaration, it's well said