Technology for Women

Technology is not made for women. Women are supposed to adapt to the male world and use male tools for themselves. For example, my calendar is not just my calendar. It is my family’s calendar. As a house manager, mother, daughter, wife, businesswoman, engineer, I record things like medicine schedules of my family members, homework and school events for my son, immunization schedule of my toddler, even vaccine schedule of my five pets. I have grocery reminders, bill reminders, and small loans and leaves of domestic help and office staff. I also have work deadlines, meetings scheduled in between.  As a small business owner, you will find reminders and notes of thousand kinds in memos. But alongside, you will see recipes for tiffin box, craft ideas, dieting goals, yoga routines. I am sure lot of women juggle these familiar roles and have forced technology not made for them to work for them.

So at Pink Rickshaw Design, we wanted to make technology for women. Where should we begin?  Should we design a new phone or a smart watch? Should we make completely new devices– hitherto unseen– meant for women only.

Then Pink Rickshaw Design received orders to make technology for rural women.

Our first task was the field visit. I knew this bit. During my PhD I had conducted studies to measure creativity across R&D labs in USA. I armed myself with the observation sheets, camera, interview questions. I was expecting listless bored participants and I was determined to ‘extract’ the needed information like I did in USA. I couldn’t be more wrong. We were welcomed by empowered positive women from our heartland. I may have been subconsciously projecting the narrative of “upliftment” supported by our urban biases. Nothing could be further from the truth. These women have surmounted numerous obstacles and found themselves an empowering narrative. A narrative of comradeship, of cooperation, and above all of initiative. They know what they want. They are not afraid of the unfamiliar. I realized how beautiful empowerment is and as engineers we must be able to create technology that augments their narrative. The experience was overwhelmingly positive. We came back with an agenda and renewed motivation to make something useful for women.

As a PhD student, I was part of an effort in my university called women in computer science. We would go to schools to talk about computer science and even to my undergraduate students as TA and instructor I would try and extol the virtues of computer science.

But I see now what I could not see then. I was holding the stick from the wrong end. Why would a young girl want to invest in the field that says “only for men” at the entry gate. All the clamor on women in tech focusses on getting women into tech and hardly so much for getting tech to women. Why would women try and make things that they don’t see themselves in? Where are the studies that tell us design needs of women for devices? The world is about to repeat this mistake with Internet of Things(IoT). Smart homes or smart offices without women users in mind is a disaster waiting to happen.

So Pink Rickshaw Design has a vision of making technology for women. We are committed to supporting their busy lives. And the beginning of this vision are these three products for education, collaboration, and communication among rural women:

1)MagicCarpet: This is an Internet of Things carpet which allows rural women sitting around it to participate in a meeting and exchange information.

2)MeetingMediator: Coupled with the Magic Carpet this portable computer has custom software that allows the group of participants to run a meeting and discuss finance, education, health and agriculture. The mediator also couples with the carpet to ascertain which women are engaged in the meeting and which aren’t and then take necessary actions to improve engagement. It is designed to be completely run in any native language.

3)EngagementBookTab: This is a flip book combined with a tablet in a seamless manner to allow delivering messages of health, finance, education to a group of women. It is coupled with a custom designed 1000W public announcement system that runs on mobile batteries. This is a device used to propagate messages across communities.

The journey so far has been rewarding. The quest to make technology for women continues. At the core, we keep asking ourselves: How can technology augment multiple roles and help in the task of breaking new grounds by women?

Grandma and introducing her to Computers

I remember when i bought my first computer I went to cottage Emporium in Delhi and bought a CD about Indian Mythology. I did so to show my grandmother the value of computers which my middle class parents had invested in after saving a lot of money. My grand mom saw the CD with me with suspended animation. She saw a picture of goddess of knowledge (Saraswati) and asked me to print it. I did so and she had that picture till she passed away. I made a special effort to make computers accessible to her in her language and she understood it. For rural populations we need a similar compassionate approach to technology design. We can’t just tell them here is a device use it.. we need to make it accessible and relevant to them. Then the uptake would be phenomenal.

Kanav

Back to Meghalaya

Dr Kahol has the immense pleasure to work with Meghalaya State on a novel project that will enable the next generation of agripreneurs through technology. Based on transport as a service (TAAS) model, this approach is sure to be revolutionary and first of its kind. It will be launched shortly and we are excited to help!

Symbiotic AI versus Parasitic AI

In my past life as a professor in Arizona State University I used to run a lab called Human Machine Symbiosis Lab. The idea was to develop technologies that don’t replace humans or their intellectual capacity but enhances it. AI I believe should nudge humans to make right decisions and not replace them. All this talk of AI replacing humans makes me think how relevant the term symbiosis is and why we should focus on technologies meant to make humans and machine symbiotic rather than parasitic. We under-anticipate what social unrest such parasitism can cause.

Dinner and Talk at Deliotte Australia

we had dinner with Katerina Andronis from Deloitte Health and Life Sciences Practice in Australia. great discussions on how Indian innovation can be applied to healthcare organizations in Australia and how our work on medical errors may help improve organizational processes in and across Australia. A talk at Deliotte offices followed where we discussed the approach of healthcare angels being implemented in Australia to propagate the usage of digital data.

Dr Kahol gives Grand Rounds at Australian Digital Health Agency Sydney 2017

what fun it was to be at the Australian digital health agency. transformative work being done there. we discussed the concepts of how to engage with Australian population from the get go so they can see and benefit from this effort. strategies on information dissemination privacy maximization with innovation maximization (yes it’s possible!) and creating sustainable models for maximum benefit from digitization were discussed. I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the continuous evolution of the notion of digital records. more to be done but the path is correct and happy and humbled to be witness to this effort

Smart Mirror Launched At Health Informatics Conference in Brisbane Australia

Pink Rickshaw Designs just launched in Brisbane its newest product Smart Mirror. We are all very happy to announce that at the HISA 2017 conference in Brisbane, Australia, Pink Rickshaw Designs proudly launched its Smart Mirror Product. Smart Mirror is an innovative device that displays important information right on your mirror. From News, Weather to identifying you and reminding you of important medication..Smart Mirror does it all. The product will launch commercially soon so keep in touch. Send us a mail at pia@pinkrickshawdesign.com and we will keep you posted.

Pink Rickshaw Designs launches Smart Mirror

We are all very happy to announce that at the HISA 2017 conference in Brisbane, Australia, Pink Rickshaw Designs proudly launched its Smart Mirror Product. Smart Mirror is an innovative device that displays important information right on your mirror. From News, Weather to identifying you and reminding you of important medication..Smart Mirror does it all. The product will launch commercially soon so keep in touch. Send us a mail at pia@pinkrickshawdesign.com and we will keep you posted.!