Happy Ada Lovelace Day, Indrani Medhi!

Indrani Mehdi is worthy of an Ada Lovelace Day tribute.

On 8 March 2010 at EmTech India 2010, the Emerging Technologies Conference held in Bengaluru, India, she was honored as a "technological trendsetter". March 8th is, incidentally, International Women's Day, and Medhi was the only woman to be honored with inclusion in the India TR35 roll of honors. This is "a list of 20 promising young innovators under 35 handpicked by an eminent jury selected by Technology Review India."

Why did Medhi, an Associate Researcher at Microsoft Research India, receive this award? She received it for her work "in helping those who cannot read use mobile phones and PCs easily."

Here is an appetizer from a news article about Mehdi entitled Rewriting human-computer interaction handbook:

A student of design, Medhi has developed text-free user interfaces (UIs) to allow any illiterate or semi-literate person on first contact with a computer, to immediately know how to proceed with minimal or no assistance. As Medhi points out, in text-based conventional information architecture found in mobile phones and PCs, there are a number of usability challenges that semi literate people face. By using a combination of voice, video and graphics in an innovative way, Medhi has overcome this challenge. Medhi discovered the kind of barriers that illiterate populations face in using technology through an ethnographic design process involving more than 400 women from low-income, low-literate communities across India, the Philippines, and South Africa.

That article has more information about additional factors revealed in Mehdi's research such as cognitive issues and cultural etiquette. Do read it for a quick introduction.

Download a copy of Mehdi's paper entitled "A Comparison of Mobile Money-Transfer UIs for Non-Literate and Semi-Literate Users" (495 Kb .pdf).

Here is a brief slideshow of Mehdi's project (requires the Flash Player).

This slide show is also available on the EmTech site.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day 2010, Indrani Medhi! Namaste!

(PS Thank you to @PerBusch who discovered this news on @mobileactive and shared the tip on Twitter.)

Ada Lovelace Day 2009 – who should we write about?

I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.

Suw Charman-Anderson

And Ada Lovelace Day was born. (More about what we expect from you, dear reader, but first, a little background.)

Suw Charman-Anderson set up a pledge site to find those one thousand other people. She described the purpose of the day as follows:

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women's contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.

To refresh your memory about Ada Lovelace or to learn about her for the first time, start with a visit to her page on Wikipedia (hint: she is consider the first programmer).

The Ada Lovelace blog mentions an interesting article "Women need female role models" about how women need to see more female role models than men need at see mail role models. Many of these stories are not being told, but now we have a chance!

When Suw Charman-Anderson launched this pledge, she hoped to get 1000 participants by March 24th, the day chosen for Ada Lovelace Day, which, by the way, was just a day that was clear on her calendar, having missed other relevant dates related to Lovelace! She managed the task in only 7 days, not 77 days. Pledging is still open and will remain open until March 24th.

If you would like to participate, go to the registration site for Ada Lovelace Day and register. Participate and pledge to publish a post on Tuesday, March 24, 2009. Remember that many blog tools allow you to set a future publication date, so you can write it now and publish on the 24th.

You can also follow the development of this blogging event by following the Twitter account called @findingada. In fact, the AccessAbility SIG first announced this event on its Twitter account, @stcaccess!

Why do we have a question in the title of this post, and what would we like from you, dear reader? Suggestions! And something special about those suggestions.

We would like to write about women excelling in technology who just happen to have a disability. This blogging event will give us many stories about women in technology. We would like to focus on women who were not only dealing with gender issues, but also with disability issues. It would be a lovely way to demonstrate how we aim to take the "Dis" out of "Disability"! Lovelace herself did not have the best of health, according to the Wikipedia article, but that was not a barrier to her.

Add your suggestions in the comments. If you want to do the same, keep visiting this post to see what ideas others provide. We look forward to hearing from you. And thank you!