Aaditeshwar Seth


I am an associate professor at IIT Delhi and run the ACT4D (Appropriate Computing Technologies for Development) research group. My areas of interest are:

- Analysis of factors impeding socio-economic development
- Participatory information sharing on social networks
- Low-cost computer networks and ICT systems for rural areas
Office Address:
Room 103, Khosla School of Information Technology
IIT Delhi
New Delhi
India - 110 016


I joined IIT Delhi in 2009, before which I did my PhD under Prof. S. Keshav and Prof. R. Cohen from the University of Waterloo. In 2009 I co-founded Gram Vaani, a social entrepreneurial venture to enable development through community media in rural areas of India. In 2019, my students and I have released a website to monitor biases in policy making in India: Giant Economy Monitor. I am also trying to write a book on the need for a new paradigm for technology design and management to prevent disempowerment effects that technology often brings. An early version is available: Overcoming Paradigms that Produce Disempowering Technologies: A Call to Technologists, feedback will be greatly appreciated. A short introduction to what the book is about, is here.

Email: aseth -at- cse -dot- iitd -dot- ernet -dot- in



Project openings: We have a number of openings for students and research associates. We are specifically looking for PhD students in the following areas:
Please apply! We are also keen to have students from a non-CS background apply to the School of IT: Some research topics are mentioned here. .

As part of the IIT Delhi and University of Queensland research collaboration programme, Prof. Dhaval Vyas and I are looking for a PhD student for research on storytelling methods for behavior change communication. Application instructions are here.

Publications
Book draft
PhD thesis
Current work
PhD students
Teaching
General stuff

Current work

I started work in the ICTs for development space with a strong belief that enabling people to create and share information on their own can set many things right in the world. My students at IIT, the amazing Gram Vaani team, and my colleagues from back in Waterloo have over the years built several technology platforms and enabling processes towards this goal. This includes some leading work on providing rural Internet connectivity, enabling less-literate people to create and share content using IVR (Interactive Voice Response) and community radio systems, and some amazing processes on content development and community mobilization for participatory media. All put together, we have worked with over 150 organizations in India, South Africa, Tanzania, Mali, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. We have influenced the adoption of ICTs in government bodies for greater accountability, including work with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the Ministry of Rural Development, and the Information and Broadcast Ministry. And we have attracted support directly and indirectly for the use of ICTs in development from funding agencies such as UNFPA, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Knight Foundation, UNDP, Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, DEITy, DST, Google, and Intel India. Our additional work on measuring 2G/3G network performance has been tabled in front of TRAI towards strengthening policies for QoS regulation in the country.

I have however started to realize that policy support and capital requirements in the social development space often come in the way of taking successful programs to scale. Significant exploitation of the poor due to existing inequalities, and corruption and mis-allocation of resources by public and private bodies, makes the fight against poverty even harder to win. Lack of transparency in public budgeting, inadequate data collection and analysis for policy formulation, wage inequalities, political and corporate linkages, etc are big problems that can systematically suppress and erode developmental efforts in progress. I am now increasingly interested and educating myself on these topics to bring transparency in economic policies and outcomes through open data for equitable development. We have already started some exciting projects on time series analysis of onion commodity prices to detect plausible cases of illegal hoarding, analysis of the interlock between government and corporate networks, detecting media bias, understanding socio-economic development at spatial scales as fine as at the village level, and relating macroeconomic trends with social and community media content expressed by the people. I hope some of this work combined with the media outreach by Gram Vaani and other social networking systems we are building, can lead to a citizenry more informed of economic policies and aware enough to then demand appropriate action from their political representatives, rather than be swayed by manipulative electoral politics which does not end up challenging economic policies.

At the same time, while building ICT systems for some of the above ideas, and observing that many other similar efforts are also underway by commercial enterprises and government departments, I have become concerned with vested interests of the designers and managers of these systems. ICT systems can lead to both desirable and undesirable outcomes, and I feel that only strong underlying ethical values can provide the necessary moral compass for these systems. I have therefore also been thinking actively about how ethics can form a core part of the design and management of ICT projects, and what kind of ethical values may be more appropriate than others in the current context of the world.

Information about most of my work can be found on the ACT4D website. Some current projects are around the ethical design and deployment management of ICT projects, the design of IVR systems and mobile apps for community media in rural settings, theorizing the role of community media for development, and analysis and presentation of economic data to detect biases in policy making. In the past, I have also worked extensively on delay tolerant networks and recommendation systems using social networks. I am always looking for bright and dynamic students to work with me on these projects.


Teaching

COL100 Introduction to Computer Science (2020-21 sem 2): [external here]

SIL861 Ethics in Applied Computer Science (2019-20 sem 2): [external here]

SIL802 Special Topics in Data Science for Development (2016-17 sem 2): [external link]

COL100 - Introduction to Computer Science (2016-17 sem 1): Class notes and schedule for my section can be found here. Main course website with policies and TA contacts is here. And the link to Piazza forum for discussions is here.

SIL801 Special Topics in Media Analysis (2015-16 sem 2): [external link]

SIL802 Special Topics in Information and Communication Technologies for Development (2014-15 sem 2): [external link]

SIL769 Internet traffic - measurement, modeling and analysis (2013-14 sem 2): [external link]

CSP301 Design Practices in Computer Science - Information Visualization (2012-13 sem 1): [external link]

CSL867 Special Topics in Computer Networks - Internet Edge Optimization (2011-12 sem 2): [external link]

CSL858 Advanced Computer Networks (2010-11 sem 1): [external link]

SIV861 ICTD (2010-11 sem 1): Short module on Information and Communication Technologies for Development.

CSL374 Computer Networks (2009-10 sem 2): The first course I taught! I put together an interesting assignment around molecular communication. I have taught the course many times since then. A few other Internet-related assignments 1, 2, and new assignments related to bandwidth measurements from mobile devices, and P2P Bluetooth content sharing.


PhD students

Zahir Koradia, co-supervised with Prof. Bhaskaran Raman (IIT Bombay), Exploring the Role of Information and Communication Technologies in Community Radio Stations in India, graduated 2015, now Head of Engineering at Up Learn, UK.

Amit Ruhela, Analysis of the Spread of Information on Twitter and its Application to Internet Content Distribution, graduated 2016, now Research Associate at Texas Advanced Computing Center, UT Austin.

Dipanjan Chakraborty, Improving Citizen-Government Engagement in the Implementation of Welfare Schemes, graduated 2018, now Assistant Professor at BITS Pilani Hyderabad Campus.

Aparna Moitra, co-supervised with Prof. Archna Kumar (Delhi University), Mobile-based Community Media for Development: The Case of Jharkhand Mobile Vaani, graduated 2018, now post-doctoral researcher at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Anirban Sen, A Computer-based Approach to Building a Political Economy Monitor for India, work in progress

Chahat Bansal, Making Big-Data Actionable Through Bottom-up Contextual Information, work in progress


In the news

Mobile Internet QoS in India: Telegraph, News Laundry, Deccan Chronicle

Net neutrality: Economic Times, Economic Times

Social media analysis: Telegraph

Social accountability: Times of India

Gram Vaani: Amazing Indians, Home Grown, Take Part, Home Grown, Impact Alpha, Digital Hound, Hindu, Tech camp, MDIF, DFID, Yahoo News, Deccan Herald, Zee News, Civil Society, Telegraph, WCRC, Trust, Hindu, Alternative, Citizen Media, Digital FC, Mint, Alternative, Hindu, Media Nama, Media Nama, Economic Times, Pioneer, Tehelka, Crikey, Open, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Global Hub, Hindustan Times

Startups: Economic Times, Smart CEO, Fast Company

Reports: Dasra, Dasra, GSMA


Some awesome books I've read

Non-fiction: Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, McLuhan's Understanding Media, Hayek's The Road to Serfdom,
Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel,
Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, Habermas's The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere,
Ian Smille's Mastering the Machine, Sainath's Everybody Loves a Good Drought,
Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen's An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions, Donella Meadows' Thinking in Systems,
C Wright Mill's The Power Elite, Hernando de Soto's Mystery of Capital, Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Fiction (authors): Steinbeck, Orwell, Huxley, Antony Burgess, Harper Lee, Camus, JD Salinger, Kafka, Faulkner,
DBC Pierre, JM Coetzee, Douglas Adams, Scott Fitzgerald, Marquez, Maugham, Ian McEvan, Cormac McCarthy,
Ralph Ellison, Kim Stanley Robinson

If you get the track of what I like reading, feel free to recommend other books and authors to me.

Last updated March 2019