Jigya Khabar

Jigya Khabar

Jigya Khabar

  • Student type: International
  • Degree type: Graduate Research
  • Year commenced: 2018
  • Degree(s): Doctor of Philosophy
  • Department: Human-Centred Computing, Digital Equity and Digital Transformation

Enriching the information age

I read this book once by Polish-American computer scientist Andrew Targowski and came across this intriguing quote: ‘Communication without information is idle, and uncommunicated information is “dead”’.

Despite being a Master of Communications graduate, I never considered the terminologies ‘communicating’ and ‘communicating information’ separately. I wanted to understand how sharing information with one another impacts the information culture of society and the richness of our everyday lives – so that’s where I began my IT journey.

The perfect fit

I chose Monash University to pursue my PhD because it has a unique research alliance with Oxfam known as Participatory Research and Ownership with Technology Information and Change (PROTIC).

This partnership gives higher degree research students access to an international network of development workers and the communities they work with, which would be highly beneficial to my research.

Further, Oxfam was interested in my research proposal, so Monash offered me this platform to accelerate my research. It was a perfect fit!

Connecting the dots

We’re often told that ‘sharing is caring’. If this is true, then I’d argue that sharing information with each other should also be considered an act of caring for one another.

So now a new question arises: how do you share information with people who live in isolation? This is the area that I was interested in tackling for my graduate research project.

I conducted my research with Oxfam. As an international NGO, I wanted to understand how its information ecosystem functioned in connecting its volunteers with villagers, farmers and refugees living in inaccessible locations.

My project was designed as an ‘information ethnography’. I shadowed social workers as they went about their days completing developmental tasks for their communities. I also spent some time at the Rohingya refugee campsites managed by Oxfam where it provides aid and welfare to the refugees.

Through the observation and interviewing of over 39 employees, I have enhanced my knowledge on how information can be communicated to benefit every entity in the ecosystem, while also providing community welfare.

Breaking stereotypes

Before I joined the PhD program at Monash University, I studied arts. I remember I had colleagues who would tell me that I am not ‘fit’ for IT and that I should stick to arts because women are good at arts.

Needless to say I ignored their ‘advice’ and applied anyway. To my delight, the professor who supported my application from the start became my primary supervisor – Dr Gillian Oliver. I am incredibly inspired by her because she sets such a positive example in our discipline by being a woman in IT at the forefront of information research at Monash!

A wild ride

The highlight of my graduate research experience was developing a strong learning ethos and key research skills from my supervisors. When I began my graduate studies I presumed that it would be an isolating experience, but I was so wrong! My supervisors were extremely supportive. They stood by my decisions and guided me fiercely throughout my entire journey.

I remember the coolest thing I did at Monash by far was travelling over 8000km to reach Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh to conduct my research at the Rohingya refugee camps. I wanted to understand how to help the refugees who have fled Myanmar and provide economic development to the underdeveloped country of Bangladesh that is hosting these refugees.

The biggest challenge I encountered was keeping myself motivated everyday. PhDs take a long time to accomplish so it’s easy to lose sight of your goal.

Inspiring and empowering the next generation

I was a newbie researcher when I joined the PhD program, but went on to teach qualitative research methods to honours and master’s students. I am also the founding member of the FIT Graduate Research Student's network and previously upheld the role of student representative for the Faculty’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee in my first year.

Lastly, I have been the student's representative for the Department of Human-Centred Computing since 2020. These opportunities have helped me trust my abilities and confidence in my voice as a woman of colour in the field of IT.

Becoming a voice for others

After graduation, I wish to continue pursuing community-focused research.

My mother recently passed away from ovarian cancer and I am a cancer previvor myself. I hope to be a part of a cancer research project in the future, where both the clinical trials and the voices of cancer fighters are highlighted equally.

Further, every woman I have grown up with has been a victim of abuse, including me. My graduate research experience has taught me that my voice matters, so I hope to use my future research to lift up the voices of vulnerable communities.

Pearls of wisdom for future students

If you are passionate about your research area and determined to learn further, the Faculty of IT at Monash University is for you!