Kentaro Toyama is a computer scientist and international development researcher, who works on the relationship of technology and global development. He is W. K. Kellogg Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information and author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology.
Toyama was founding assistant director of Microsoft Research India, a Bangalore-based computer science laboratory, where he established the Technology for Emerging Markets group which conducts interdisciplinary research in the field of "information and communication technologies for development" (ICT4D). Together with AnnaLee Saxenian and Raj Reddy, he co-founded the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, a global platform for rigorous, academic, interdisciplinary research in ICT4D.
Toyama's research spans several disparate areas, including ICT4D, development studies, computer vision, human-computer interaction, geographic information systems, and multimedia. He is best known for his research in ICT4D, which includes technology projects such as MultiPoint, Text-Free User Interfaces, Warana Unwired, and Digital_Green, as well as observational studies of rural telecenters, mobile phones in developing countries, and the limits of technology for international development.
He is an outspoken critic of the "technological utopianism" that he sees in initiatives such as One Laptop Per Child, and argues that technology only magnifies existing human intent and capacity. A two-part essay making this point appears in a Boston Review forum. The argument is expanded upon and extended further in Geek Heresy.
Toyama's research in computer vision involves automated tracking of objects in video. A paper he co-authored with Andrew Blake was awarded the Marr Prize at the 2001 International Conference on Computer Vision. That work was a precursor to some of the technology in Microsoft's Kinect product.
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- Smyth, T. N., Kumar, S., Medhi, I., and Toyama, K. (2010) "Where there's a will there's a way: mobile media sharing in urban india". In Proceedings of the 28th international Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. CHI '10. ACM, New York, NY, 753-762.
- Toyama, Kentaro. (2010) "The Myth of Scale". TEDxTokyo. May 15, 2010.
- Toyama, Kentaro. (2010) "Can Technology End Poverty". Boston Review, Nov/Dec 2010.
- Toyama, Kentaro. (2010) "Response". Boston Review, Nov/Dec 2010.
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