Nicki Dell: Designing Mobile Technologies for Underserved CommunitiesPhoto
Segal Seminar Series

Nicki Dell: Designing Mobile Technologies for Underserved Communities

February 21, 2017,4: 00 - 5: 00p.m.

Tech L324

2145 Sheridan Road

Evanston, IL, 60208


The goal of my research is to design, build, and evaluate novel computing systems that improve the lives of underserved populations in low-income regions. As computing technologies become affordable and accessible to diverse populations across the globe, it is critical that we broaden the scope of HCI research to study the social, technical, and infrastructural challenges faced by these diverse communities and build systems that address problems in critical domains such as health care and education. In this talk, I describe my general approach to building technologies for underserved communities, including identifying opportunities for technology, conducting formative research to fully understand the space, developing novel technologies, iteratively testing and deploying, evaluating with target populations, and handing off to global development organizations for long-term sustainability. I focus on two examples of systems that I built to address challenges faced by rural health workers: one that automatically digitizes data from paper forms, and another that automatically interprets diagnostic tests for infectious diseases. Both these systems run on cheap, commercially available mobile devices and use computer vision and machine-learning techniques to automate tasks that were previously tedious or error prone. Through extensive evaluations with target populations in Sub-Saharan Africa, I highlight the potential for novel technological solutions to help new and diverse populations address global challenges.


Nicki Dell is an Assistant Professor in Information Science at Cornell Tech in New York City. Her research spans Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICTD) with a focus on designing, building, and evaluating novel computing systems that improve the lives of underserved populations in low-income regions. Nicki’s research and outreach activities have been recognized through numerous paper awards and fellowships, including a Graduate Facebook Fellowship and a Google Anita Borg Scholarship. Nicki was born and raised in Zimbabwe and received a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of East Anglia (UK) in 2004, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Washington in 2011 and 2015 respectively.

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