Mobile Collaboration in the Developing World

Workshop at the 2011 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work
March 20, 2011  -  Hangzhou, China



Content presented or generated at the workshop now available!

Overview

With the ever increasing use of mobile devices,  especially in developing countries like China and India,  we envision a new generation of applications that will change the ways that we work and live. In this workshop, we are interested in exploring  how mobile devices and technologies are re-shaping collaboration among people in the developing world. For example, mobile collaboration technologies might help knowledge sharing among farmers, sales coordination among small commodity vendors, and family-based health care monitoring for the elderly.  This forum will bring together researchers and practitioners in the areas of mobile computing, social collaboration, and technology for the developing world, as well as subject matter experts (e.g., experts in small commodity trading and family-based health care) to brainstorm and identify  opportunities and test beds where we can develop and deploy new mobile collaboration applications in the developing world.

Motivation

The use of mobile devices has penetrated almost every corner of our world. Many citizens of developing countries like China and India may have never used, let alone owned a personal computer, however now they are using mobile phones in their daily life to conduct businesses and communicate with their co-workers and family members. We envision the unique characteristics of mobile computing (e.g., location-based services) driving a new generation of applications that will change the ways that we work and live today.

One broad class of mobile applications is those that facilitate collaboration, and we imagine that such applications will have a large impact on the developing world. For example, in the developing world mobile collaboration technologies might help knowledge sharing among farmers, sales coordination among small commodity vendors, collaborative learning among village youth, and family-based health care monitoring for the elderly. As most users are not IT experts and they vary in many respects, such as language and technology literacy, one of the challenges is to design and develop consumable collaboration services that can be easily leveraged by the masses (e.g., illiterate users, farmers, and migrant workers alike). If we believe that voice communication and text messaging are the two most used mobile collaboration services today, one interesting question is what would be the next mass-consumable “killer” mobile collaboration service(s) and what factors (e.g., mobile technologies and national culture) would influence the development of such applications/services.

In addition to aiding collaboration between people who already know that they want to collaborate, another interesting area would be to leverage mobile devices to facilitate opportunistic collaboration, which is to help people identify collaboration opportunities unknown in advance. In many situations, people may not have sufficient knowledge about others whom they would like to connect and collaborate with. For example, an orange farmer may want to know about the side effect of applying a pest control substance to her orange grove; or a migrant worker may want to find a new employer to suit his preferred working schedule. However, they may not know where or whom they could get information from, especially when the information provided by a generic service is inadequate. Although researchers in the area of social recommender systems have started to tackle this problem, none of the existing efforts has taken into account the characteristics of mobile devices that would most likely used by people in such situations. For example, it would be interesting to explore whether one’s location information provided by mobile devices could facilitate opportunistic collaboration, and determine which other information provided by mobile devices could help but without sacrificing one’s privacy.

Not only do citizens of the developing world use mobile phones to connect with their fellow citizens, but they may also use mobile devices to communicate with people in the rest of the world. For example, a Chinese businessman in the fashion business may negotiate a contract with a U.S. retailer via mobile phone; and an African farmer may talk to a Chinese farming equipment supplier to arrange a shipment. However, cultural differences, including communication styles and language barriers, may prevent an effective collaboration between them. It would be interesting to examine the barriers systematically and explore innovative way to facilitate such cross-cultural collaboration via mobile devices.

Objectives

Taking advantage of the CSCW community and its conference setting, our workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners in the areas of mobile computing, social collaboration, and technology for the developing world, as well as subject matter experts (e.g., experts in small commodity trading and family-based health care) to brainstorm and identify opportunities and test beds where we can develop and deploy new mobile collaboration applications in the developing world.

Overall, we would like to achieve three goals: (1) brainstorm and identify next-generation mobile collaboration applications and services for people in the developing world, (2) identify key research challenges in creating such applications or services, and (3) identify new cross-topic collaboration opportunities as well as test beds to develop and deploy research ideas. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

Next-generation Mobile Collaboration Applications
  • Characteristics of mobile collaboration in developing countries
  • Mobile collaboration for the masses (e.g., farmers and migrant workers)
  • Culture-specific mobile collaboration
  • Cross-culture mobile collaboration
  • Family-based mobile collaboration
  • Mobile collaboration for small businesses (e.g., family-oriented manufacturers and retailers)
  • Mobile collaboration between groups
  • Design principles and methods
Enabling Mobile Collaboration Technologies
  • Accessibility
  • Adaption and personalization in mobile collaboration
  • Mobile-based opportunistic collaboration
  • Social awareness and visualization in mobile collaboration
Evaluation
  • Evaluation methods and evaluations of mobile collaboration applications
  • User studies

Organizers

Michelle X. Zhou, Jeffrey Nichols
IBM Research - Almaden
San Jose, California  USA
{mzhou, jwnichols}@us.ibm.com

Gopal Pingali
IBM Research - India
Bangalore, India
gpingali@in.ibm.com

Ying Liu
Nokia Research Center, China
Beijing, China
ying.y.liu@nokia.com
Bios