Information technologies are essential tools for the representation and communication of human knowledge. However, many groups are still inadequately represented on the Internet. My research group developed Avaaj Otalo, a phone-based voice message board allowing small farmers in rural India to ask, answer and browse agricultural questions and answers. Avaaj Otalo was deployed for over four years, receiving hundreds of calls every week. I report on some empirical results from this deployment, including impact on farmer livelihoods and decision-making, through a randomized controlled trial (RCT). While Avaaj Otalo illustrates the importance of designing appropriate user interfaces for collecting and sharing knowledge from underrepresented groups, knowledge must still be translated to structured, quantitative forms for aggregation and decision-making. Local Ground is a data collection, mapping and information visualization tool that helps youth develop data skills by making connections between different representations of empirical phenomena. Students begin by collecting open-ended qualitative data, in the form of free-hand drawings, pictures and audio interviews.
Based on these observations, students can design structured data collection instruments for more systematic inquiry and analysis.

Various forms of data are combined into narratives that can articulate youth perspectives to a variety of stakeholders. Local Ground has been used to involve youth in the planning of a public park, ground-truth civic data about food access, and document air quality issues across the BART transportation system. Within these projects, I explore several themes in my work, including the design of more accessible interaction techniques allowing new populations to author content, the importance of bottom-up data for planning and evaluating development projects, and how we can employ social computing technologies to improve learning and human agency.

Tapan Parikh is an associate professor at Cornell Tech. His research includes HCI and the design and evaluation of information technologies for education, governance and international development. Tapan’s students have started several tech companies based on his research and teaching. He holds a Sc.B. degree in Molecular Modeling with Honors from Brown University and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from the University of Washington, where his dissertation won the William Chan Memorial award. Tapan has received the NSF CAREER award, a Sloan Fellowship and was named TR35 Humanitarian of the Year.