This is an ongoing research project in Central Asia studying how culture, policy, and infrastructure affect people’s usage of information and communication technologies. The goal of this research is to inform hardware, software, and services design for Internet, mobile phones, and related technologies. The research site of Central Asia has been chosen because it is emblematic of emerging markets generally with respect to policy and infrastructure constraints on sector development. Findings from this project can inform both research approaches and technology design for users in underserved communities worldwide.
Several stages of the project have been completed to date. Professor Beth Kolko conducted background research from 1998 to 2000 in Uzbekistan, with short research trips to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. In 2002, the National Science Foundation funded a one-year project in Uzbekistan. During this period, IT professionals, Internet access points managers, and the general population were surveyed, and a series of in-depth exploratory interviews about information gathering were conducted.
In 2003, the project received a five-year National Science Foundation award to conduct a cross-domain longitudinal study of the effects of the Internet on society.
Ongoing Research Activities:
- Yearly national survey about information seeking, patterns of trust and confidence in media and institutions, and interaction with technology (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan)
- Interviews with education (Uzbekistan), medical (Kyrgyzstan), and business (Kazakhstan) professionals
- Tracking of national information and communication technology policy developments in the region
- Monthly data collected about public Internet access sites in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan to better understand the experience of accessing the Internet for average people.
- Quarterly archive of regional websites.
Short-term Research Projects:
- Design ethnography to explore mobile social software possibilities.
- Research on the Tulip Revolution, including a study of mobile phone usage during the uprising.
- Overview of international and cross-national design research processes for information and communication technology sectors.
- Exploratory study of mobile phone usage in Uzbekistan.
About Central Asia
The Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are located west of China. (map) They are newly independent states that are developing their own cultural, political, and economic identities following the collapse of the Soviet Union.