Building rural renaissance and suburban development with interactive technology solutions in India – a research agenda

Research summary

Emerging technologies such as affordable smart phones with 4G access, broadband internet, and interactive interfaces employing gestures or speech, are revolutionizing the ways we access information, learn new skills and interact with the world around us. However, developing world communities - who stand to benefit from such technologies - were, until recently, largely neglected. Interactive technologies provide a means to address learning challenges such as functional illiteracy and information access barriers, and can improve learning and education, health and wellbeing, and agricultural practices.


When introduced in public spaces, such as schools, or community health centers, technology not only provides individual learning solutions and access to information but also encourages and enhances social collaboration and group learning. This potentially brings an overall improvement in people’s quality of life, especially to the most vulnerable of these communities, such as rural women, children with special needs, and underprivileged children. Understanding these important user groups and designing for their needs requires a multidisciplinary and multicultural approach towards technology; an approach taken by the ICT4D 2.0 (ICT for Development, Heeks 2008) oriented research and Human Computer Interaction for Development research community at the University of Tampere.

The University of Tampere (UTA) is a multi-discipline university known internationally for its research perspectives into the various phenomena of society, health and welfare. The research center TAUCHI (Tampere Unit for Human-Computer Interaction) and research group CIRCMI (Research on Information, Customer and Innovation Management) at UTA carry out a wide range of ICT4D research into technology-mediated novel solutions. TAUCHI’s expertise of multimodal interaction with devices, environments, and people respond to many of the future challenges. Our expertise covers new technologies such as smart objects and environments, gestural interfaces, gaze tracking, haptics, mixed reality, computer vision, speech-, context- or emotion-based interaction, virtual avatars, user experience and usability, and beyond. CIRCMI has conducted over 10 years Asia, and especially India related information society research with interest in creating impact in the developing countries context. We have extensive collaboration with multiple partners across India, from both the industry and academia, for designing, developing, deploying and evaluating novel interaction techniques for education, healthcare, and agriculture.

Those projects in education include CityCompass, an embodied navigational game for learning English as a foreign language for underprivileged children, who have limited access to technology, and GiDAC, interactive gesture-based learning applications for children with Autism. Projects in healthcare and agriculture include Gill, an interactive gesture-based health information system for rural Assamese women, and RuralVoice, a voice-based agricultural information system for Karnatakan farmers operated through mobile phones. The last two projects were collaborative efforts with IBM Research Labs Delhi and local universities – Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati, Assam and University of Agricultural Sciences in Dharwad, Karnataka. All projects – CityCompass, GiDAC, Gill and RuralVoice – strove to create meaningful user experiences and increase social impact, in addition to increasing technology access and utilization. In this research agenda paper, we present the key findings from our projects in India, which focused on improving information access in education, healthcare and agriculture. We begin with a brief overview of our research methodology, and end the article with a list of publication for further reading.

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Research publication

Research info

Research title
Building rural renaissance and suburban development with interactive technology solutions in India – a research agenda

Research timeline
1.1.2018 - 1.12.2000

India interactive technology rural renaissance unprivileged people



Tampere University
Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences

Funding instrument
Other, Business Finland

Project budget
200,000 - 500,000 euros

Head of research
Markku Turunen/ Mikko Ruohonen

Research team
Markku Turunen, Jaakko Hakulinen, Mikko Ruohonen, Sumita Sharma, Pekka Kallioniemi, Juhani Linna

Contact information
Mikko Ruohonen

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