Resilient Communities Bangladesh: PROTIC PhD Scholarships

Expressions of Interest ( EOI ) are sought for the scholarship (PROTIC 5) below as part of the IT for Resilient Communities Flagship of the Centre for Community and Social Informatics ( COSI ) of the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University. Applications can only be made via the link and form available at http://monash.edu/it/protic-eoi

Expressions of Interest Open
Closing 28 August 2017

The duration of this Scholarship is three years and requires periods of residence in Australia and research in Bangladesh. The successful candidate should be available to travel to Melbourne and commence studies late November 2017.

PROTIC (Participatory Research and Ownership with Technology, Information and Change) works in rural Bangladesh trialling innovative information and communications strategies though participatory action research. PROTIC has a focus on empowering women though enhancing community well-being and livelihoods in poor agricultural communities.

The PROTIC project is a partnership between Oxfam in Bangladesh and its community partner organisations, Oxfam Australia, and the Faculty of IT, Monash University, supported by the Empowerment Charitable Trust. PROTIC is part of the overall REE-CALL program at Oxfam in Bangladesh.

The primary goal of PROTIC is to develop current, accurate, and trustworthy interactive information (primarily via mobile technologies) for women in agriculture in Bangladesh, to enable them to act to improve their well-being and livelihoods in one of the most densely populated and ecological fragile parts of the world. There is already a very high ownership of mobiles in Bangladesh with a good 3G network. The project also aims to innovate through mobile phone applications and other rural-relevant networked technologies, in conjunction with the establishment of information networks that contribute to strengthening of local, and particularly women’s, voices in the community development process.

The aims of PROTIC are as follows:

  • to develop and implement an inexpensive interactive Bengali language mobile phone information system and other technical innovations and responsive community ‘hub’ and skills base in Bangladesh, for isolated rural communities as a model for further uptake in that country and elsewhere in the developing world.
  • to engage farming women and their village communities, local NGOs, universities in Bangladesh, Oxfam and Monash University using Participatory Action Research (PAR).
  • to give agency to community voices via the interactive mobile phone information system (a localised and personalised 'community hub'), thus resulting in the meaningful change for people in poverty;
  • to affect change in communications and information system design and implementation;
  • to affect change in how other stakeholders work with and advocate on the part of these communities, and to give them a more effective voice with NGOs and government; and
  • to evaluate and demonstrate positive effects on community capacity; and to develop significant practical and theoretical insights about information and communications and PAR to share with the development and academic communities in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

Application Procedure

The following procedures must be followed.

  1. Only students who meet Monash’s entry requirements should apply. To apply, you should submit an Expression of Interest for the scholarship in which you are interested in. Use this form only.
  2. Please read the eligibility requirements (including English) carefully. Non-eligible Expressions of Interest will not be considered. The submission of the Expression of Interest does not constitute a formal application for a Research Degree or Scholarship (see below).
  3. A short list of candidates will be drawn up and contacted for a video interview within 4 weeks of the closing date.
  4. The selection interview is mandatory. The interview panel may choose not to make a scholarship award or alter its terms and conditions.
  5. The successful candidate will then be invited to make a formal application for the PhD and Scholarship by a specified date.
  6. An application received after this closing date will not be considered.
  7. If all criteria are formally met, a Scholarship offer will be made.
  8. The successful candidate will receive a full tuition scholarship and stipend ($AUD26,682 per annum) for a single person for the period of required research residency in Australia and fieldwork in Bangladesh. Health insurance costs for the student, return air-fares and some relocation costs will be covered. Note that spouse health-care insurance is NOT covered. It is intended that the PhD research project be completed within three years. The successful candidate should be available to travel to Melbourne and commence studies in late November 2017.
  9. For more information, consult the Postgraduate Course Guide or visit www.monash.edu.au/international. The guide contains important information on Australian Government requirements and conditions for study in Australia, living costs, course fees, health insurance, working while you study, work rights for your spouse and schooling for your children. Information on Australian visa applications may be obtained from www.immi.gov.au and www.dfat.gov.au/missions. Please be aware that visa conditions must be met for the scholarship to be awarded. For the structure of the PhD program at Monash, see this important information. The Monash PhD Handbook also contains important information.
  10. Expressions of Interest received after the closing date 28 August 2017 will not be considered.

Mandatory English Language Requirements

  1. Applications that DO NOT meet the following requirements will not be considered.
  2. If you have not completed Academic IELTS or TOEFEL in the last two years and you wish to apply for the scholarship, the latest date for which you can take a test in Dhaka and be considered is 26 August. Please see the relevant website to register and send the results to us as soon as they become available. Test results are valid for two years from the date of the test, and must be valid when you commence your program. Also refer to the EOI form.
  3. If you have not completed an appropriate English test within the past two years. If you have completed two years of tertiary study within the past five years at an accredited university where English is the language of instruction and assessment, and is an official language of that country (specify name of institution, dates of study and attach documentary evidence).
  4. Bangladesh is not included in the Monash list of countries for English as the official language. Please review the Monash University policy on English Language requirements.

Other Enquiries

Please direct enquiries to the following:

A/Prof Gillian Oliver, Centre for Community and Social Informatics, Monash University

Please do NOT direct enquiries to Oxfam in Bangladesh.

The PROTIC Scholarship Program

In recent years, Bangladesh community has experienced a dramatic growth in the adoption and usage of mobile phones. According to the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, the number of active mobile phone subscribers was at least 120 million by 2016 and shows no sign of abating.

PROTIC is a partnership between Monash and Oxfam, designed to be responsive to the needs of rural Bangladeshi communities. Furthermore, PROTIC is part of an overall interest in the Faculty in exploring issues of the place of technology in society and the grander challenges of climate change, food and human security and well-being of communities, particularly in the global south. From a skills and research perspective, this has important interdisciplinary implications for researchers and students, bringing together expertise from the technical and human sciences.

It is expected that successful candidates through their research and participation in training workshops and other events in the Faculty will contribute to the development of this new perspective.

Do not contact the supervisor at this time. If you have other questions, contact Drs Denison and Stillman.

PROTIC 5: Values-First Software Design in Rural Bangladesh

(Supervisors: Jon Whittle, TBA)

Research Topic

Designing new software technology for communities in rural Bangladesh should be carried out with a thorough understanding and consideration of the values of local end-users and other stakeholders. Human values – such as equality, diversity, respect for tradition, privacy, a sense of belonging, and freedom – are all too often ignored in the design of new software systems. And yet, any new technology impacts human values, either deliberately or unintentionally. Furthermore, values are highly context-dependent and so software design in rural Bangladesh should be inherently different than software design elsewhere. Whilst there are some existing methods for considering values in software design (values-sensitive design, value in design, etc.) there does not yet exist an end-to-end approach for ensuring that values are considered throughout the software lifecycle.

This PhD project will examine the role of values in software design for communities in rural Bangladesh particularly in the context of the PROTIC and REE-CALL projects at Oxfam.  Further information about PROTIC and REE-CALL can be found here.

The PhD student will carry out a review of existing values-based design approaches, evaluate their effectiveness in the Bangladeshi context, and develop new values-first software design approaches as necessary. The student will work closely with other students and project staff who are developing software applications, using these applications as case studies and driving examples.

Candidate Requirements

The ideal candidate will have a strong background both in software development methods and practices as well as knowledge and interest in the socio-technical aspects of new software systems, such as how to design systems that fit into existing practices.

The successful candidate will have knowledge of and/or be able to learn quickly about:

  • Participatory design methods
  • Human-computer interaction (from a socio-technical viewpoint)
  • Software development skills (including requirements engineering, software design methodologies – both agile and plan-driven, programming)
  • Qualitative research methods, e.g., observational studies, interviewing, ethnography

Advanced communication skills in English are critical to this project, as well as fluency in Bengali. Fieldwork in Bangladesh will be required.