Sunday, March 29, 2015

Poster Presentation @ CSCW2015

The 18th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2015) was held at the Westin Bayshore hotel in Vancouver, BC, Canada from 14th -18th March 2015. We presented our poster titled Technology Stewardship, Text Messaging, and Collaboration in Agricultural Work: Preliminary Results from an Action Research Study in Sri Lanka on 16th March on this conference. 

Many conference participants were interested in our work carried out in this project. Some  of them were very keen on our technology use and the concept of technology stewardship. They were surprised as to how this much of collaborations was possible in this project.  (because several Canadian Universities, Sri Lankan Institutes and University and NGOs involvement) we described them how this was possible. Another question they had was on how the Sri Lankan partners collaborate and how they run the campaigns. We elaborated the process from end-to-end. 
  1. Held a National Workshop - conducted in Peradeniya and invited all the agricultural institute and NGOs )
  2. Community Rapid Prototyping - We identified several potential Sponsors from the workshop to follow up with Community Rapid Prototyping
  3. Technology Stewardship Training - Tech-savvy individuals from communities were given hands-on experience on the technologies practiced in the campaign
  4. A series of field experiment termed as " Campaign"- this was short duration (2-3 months) activity specifically-designed to characterize the geography and communities belong to agriculture

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Brainstorming the Proportional Actor Influence Metric

2015 March 12, meeting at the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension
The campaigns carried out in Sri Lanka revealed to be worthy and the model for stewarding technology to be further examined. A question the ICTRaP [1] Research Team found was a need for a simple and easy to use evaluation metric that the Actors: Sponsor, Technology Steward, and Community could use in determining their strengths and weakness. Those factors would decide whether or not they should re-assess and re-design or simply continue on. It is ideal if the minimal set of inputs to the evaluation model would result in a simple green, amber, red output signal.

Gordon Gow arranged for us to meeting with Jason Daniels (Associate Director) and Stanley Varnhagen (Academic Director) from the Evaluation and Research Services, Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta. A challenge during the meeting was with breaking down the problem in a mathematically comprehensible way and second with arriving at a set recommnedations to pursue towards developing the stewarding technology evaluation metric.

ICTRaP team agreed on a plan based on the recommendations to pursue with a set of activities towards confirming the model:
  1. Verify the currently perceived metric with campaign actors and identify good examples of those that are representative; Identify differences between the four quadrants, then develop characteristics for each of the quadrants; document case studies relating to the quadrant 
  2. Formulate a structural equation model to confirm the theoretical model; develop the data collection and analysis procedures for testing the model
  3. Simplify the model to such that 20% of the model would provide 80% of the evaluation requirements: a simplified decision metric.
hypothetical dependencies between the actors

There are certain dependencies between the four Actors, illustrated by the nodes in the graph to the left. It may be possible to identify common dependencies such as campaign is coherent between the Community, Technology Steward, and the Technology. There may be unique dependencies with making the Community  trust facilitating technology stewarding for knowledge mobilization. Treating the edges between the Actor nodes would result in a set of independent variables.

A team of Researchers in the United Kingdom [2] are beginning to quantify the term "effort"; more specifically additional effort and interpersonal communication. One may relate to the amount of "work", in the mechanical sense. However, effort is more related to human related collaborative work but taking in to consideration the efforts related to evading distractions. In that sense, perhaps simply considering the time put in might the simplest and effective way to consider the individual effort in each of the variables such as campaign, training, facilitation, so on and so forth.

[1] ICTRaP - Information Communication Technology Rapid Prototyping
[2] Ryan Kelly, Daniel Gooch, and Leon Watts. (2015). Is ‘Additional’ Effort Always Negative? Understanding Discretionary Work in Interpersonal Communications, Proceedings of the Computing-supported Collaborative Works (CSCW2015), Association of Computing Machinery.

Friday, March 20, 2015

SSHRC PDG project now featured on SANCOM website

The South Asia Network for Community Media (SANCOM) have connected to the 'Mobilizing Knowledge for Sustainable Development' blog. See the Resources section of the SANCOM website. What a great opportunity for our SSHRC PDG project to share our results with this regional network!

SANCOM ( was launched on February 13, 2015 at the World Radio Day event in New Delhi, India, organized jointly by UNESCO and the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre in Asia (CEMCA). SANCOM emerged from an international initiative round table entitled ‘Towards a South Asia Network for Community Media’ receiving support from UNESCO and the University of Hyderabad, India. Currently, the eight SAARC countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) are involved with the SANCOM initiative.

The South Asia Network for Community Media (SANCOM) identifies seven objectives for the network. Firstly, SANCOM advocates for a more free and open policy environment for community media to flourish in the region. Secondly, SANCOM uses the network for exchange of information regarding community media related initiatives and activities in the region. Thirdly, it encourages the building or sharing of capacities for community media production and management across national boundaries. Fourthly, it documents and disseminates best practices and explores possibilities of replicating success stories. Fifthly, SANCOM encourages comparative research that could help gain greater awareness and deeper understanding of community media in different national contexts in the region. Sixthly, their networking promotes peer learning and self-evaluation. Lastly, SANCOM builds alliances with other national, regional and global networks, both of community media as well as of broader social movements.

We hope you will also join SANCOM and share your experiences with our networks! 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Digital Technology for Community Engagement: A talk at the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension

University of Alberta, Faculty of Extension, Engagement Talks

On Thursday, March 12 the project Research Team was pleased to present our preliminary findings at the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension Engagement Talks. The audience comprised researchers and students interested in the use of text messaging for mobilizing knowledge in communities of practice.

The speakers were challenged to a discussion on the choice of using text messaging over other technologies. The pre-campaign survey results on the Farmers' choice of technology use is illustrated in the bargraph in the image below. It clearly shows that voice calls and radio are the technologies used mostly for seeking agriculture information. The question was, "why did the campaigns chose FrontlineSMS to serve in the preliminary activities of the campaign?"

Ken Banks, Kiwanja Foundation, illustrates in his social mobile's long tail graph that simple + low cost implementations are probabilistically higher to replicate. Therefore, the participatory approach to the campaign design along with the rapid prototyping exercises realized that the simple to use FrontlineSMS text-messaging would foster an immediate win and confidence building for the Community, Technology Stewards, and the Sponsors. Freedom Fone Interactive Voice Response system was perceived to be relatively complex and the chances of replication proved cumbersome. However, now that the primary campaign activities are complete and have proven success, the Department of Export Agriculture and Rangiri Radio Station are moving in to IVR supported implementations.
Farmers' choice of technology and preliminary campaign's choice of technology
  Other discussions were on the stratification of gender and age in realizing the disparities in the survey results. However, out analysis shows that there were no noticeable difference between the two genders in their choice of answer. The farmers interviewed were all between the age of 35-50 and the surveys did not capture youth farmers, for example.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

KULE Institute: the Springboard to this Project

Going forward with this 'stewarding technology and agriculture knowledge mobilization project', the research team is exploring ways of a joint education and training initiative in technology stewardship with University Wayamba and University of Alberta, University of Guelph, and other partners. We met with Geoffrey Rockwell (Director, KIAS) and Oliver Rossier (Senior Officer) at the Kule Institute for Advance Studies (KIAS) to explore these ideas with an intent to discuss ways for funding such an initiative.

ICT Rapid Prototyping Research Team at KIAS
The intial KIAS funding lead to this SSHRC grant. Therefore, it was important that we shared the research findings, face-to-face, with them (Left-to-Right: Chandana Jayathilake, Nuwan Waidyanatha, Geoffrey Rockwell, Helen Hambley, Gordon Gow, and Oliver Rossier); especially, the success of the KIAS seed funding leading to a SSHRC funded partnership development project and that in turn leading to new areas of research and development in Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D); i.e. successfully cultivating a strong research partnership through a participatory action research approach.

Sri Lanka Department of Export Agriculture (DOEA) is a keen sponsor who has realized the impact and efficiency gains of the technology steward model for knowledge mobilization. They have expressed their interest to scale the model within the Province spanning Kurunegala and Puttlam Districts. Therefore, there is a growing need to develop a Technology Steward training program. One that can potentially be advocated and managed through the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka ICT Center. The University of Alberta and the University of Wayamba would support developing such a joint education training initiative that requires a multidisciplinary approach.

The training would involve concepts evolving from Radio+, use of low-cost ICTs, user centric development, action research, short term limited duration campaigns, design, and evaluation methods. The Research Team is keen in exploring opportunities in developing such a program that can be leveraged by the ICT4D and Community Informatics Researchers and Practitioners.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Presentation at University of Alberta Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences

Today the research team had an opportunity to present findings from our work at a research colloquium hosted by the Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Alberta.  

Here, Chandana Jayathilake is describing the campaigns conducted as part of the project.

Colloquium at University of Calgary

Members of the research team were pleased to be able share some of our preliminary results with faculty and students in the Department of Communication, Media and Film at the University of Calgary on March 10.