PROTIC Awarded Projects

PROTIC 1: Information Ecology for Sustainable Development - Awarded

(Supervisors: Gillian Oliver, Henry Linger, Frada Burstein)

Research Topic

The purpose of the proposed project is to explore and address the information and knowledge management (IKM) challenges faced by the international aid and developmental community (including non-governmental and private sector organisations) in the specific context of Bangladesh. The dimensions of such an information ecology are complex, involving diverse cultural influences. Successful IKM must be sensitive to this cultural diversity. The project will use relevant theories to assist in identifying the infrastructural features necessary to support decision making and knowledge transfer.

Sustainability and resilience are core objectives of aid agencies as it is imperative to ensure that the best possible use is made of the funding available. This project will contribute to achieving those objectives by focusing attention on the ways in which agencies can make the best possible use of information and knowledge and in so doing, to make a difference to people’s everyday lives.

Candidate Requirements

Candidates should:

  • ideally have a strong academic background in the information and/or social and business sciences equivalent to a first class Honours degree or equivalent and/or a Master's degree by thesis in a relevant field;
  • be able to demonstrate a high level of capacity to conduct engaged and sensitive research with different elements of the project, ranging from villages to the District NGO, Oxfam and other levels of government or business;
  • ideally have an understanding and experience of gender and cultural issues in Bangladesh;
  • be bilingual in English and Bengali. Fieldwork in Bangladesh will be a requirement;
  • have strong written and verbal communication skills; and
  • have research experience relevant to the research topic.

PROTIC 2: Interface Design for Bangladeshi Farmers - Awarded

(Supervisors: Pari Haghighi, Tom Denison)

Research Topic

Mobile technologies create an unprecedented opportunity to provide farmers with access to the right information at the right time using mobile applications such as disease detection Decision Support Systems (DSS) that can assist farmers to control the spread of illness and increase the productivity of their land.

One of the important aspects in developing mobile DSS applications is user interface design. Research shows in Bangladesh most farmers have low levels of literacy. Further, since they use mobile phones mainly for making calls, they are mobile illiterate or semi-literate as well. Therefore, it is paramount to design such mobile applications and their interfaces taking into consideration the needs, capabilities and behaviours of farmers, and to ensure that the user interface match the capabilities and fallibilities of the people for whom they are intended.

Candidate Requirements

Candidates should ideally have a background in interface design and can demonstrate a high level of capacity to conduct engaged and sensitive research with different elements of the project, ranging from villages to the District NGO, Oxfam and other levels of government or business. Candidates are expected to be bilingual in English and Bengali.

PROTIC 3: Advanced Satellite Data Analytics for Agricultural Applications in Rural Bangladesh - TBC

(Supervisors: Francois Petitjean, Chris Rudiger)

Research Topic

Women farmers in rural Bangladesh generally operate small scale fields for their own subsistence and trading. However, as a larger scale collective they would strongly benefit from regional information on agricultural factors, such as growing cycles, types of planted crops, and potential diseases affecting their future crop yield. The most efficient method is the use of high-resolution satellite data, through a combination of change detection algorithms and machine learning approaches, to merge a range of such satellite data.

Optical satellite data can provide a good level of information on the type of crop and its various crop stages, after a retrieval algorithm has been trained to distinguish between the different conditions. However, the abilities to retrieve data is limited to cloud-free periods, as optical signal do not penetrate clouds. Radar signals are available at the same resolution, and while they are limited in the classification of the crop types, they have the potential to provide information at the same resolution as high-resolution optical data that can be used via change-detection algorithms in conjunction with the irregularly acquired optical data.

In this project, the candidate will be developing a merging algorithm of optical and radar data by applying machine learning approaches to allow for a continuous (6-daily) information stream, including agricultural activity within a field, crop type classification, irrigation scheduling, and crop conditions monitoring.

Training the machine learning system requires ground data for the agricultural season. As a result, the project includes extensive field campaigns as well as training of local land holders (such that data can be collected by them).

Candidate Requirements

Candidates with a strong background in computer science, physics or mathematics are required for this project. The successful candidate will have to be willing to work in (and learn about):

  • Machine learning
  • Earth observation and GIS systems
  • Previous experience in the 2 skills above is a plus
  • Needs to be willing to perform field measurements, train the local land users, and be open-minded; preferably someone who can directly communicate with the local community;
  • Should have an appreciation of agricultural processes.
  • Advanced communication skills in English are critical to this project, as well as fluency in Bengali.

PROTIC 4: Gender, Small and Medium Enterprises, Microbusiness and Mobile Opportunities - Awarded

(Supervisors: Mahbubur Rahim, Larry Stillman)

Research Topic

Bangladesh represents a highly gendered society, yet research shows that rural women are also being affected by changes brought in through the use of mobile devices, despite literacy issues or late adoption. These changes also include how women are using mobile communications for their business activity.

A specific PhD topic and research program will be developed in conjunction with supervisors, in response to the following concerns:

What is the nature of the mobile-mediated SME or micro-enterprise in BD in poor rural communities, including supply chain relationships? Is it part of gendered relations of production and what are the opportunities and barriers? What are the opportunities and barriers for livelihoods? How do these enterprises create innovative business practices using mobile opportunities? Is access to the mobile phone and other mobile applications changing women's economic and social role within the family, kin, or village and how? Is mobile access creating independence, empowerment, or new forms of gendered dependency and exploitation? What are the policy implications of the research for both government and NGOs? What are the theoretical implications of such research?

The above is not intended to be prescriptive, and candidates may nominate other issues, or particular region/s or industry for study based on their particular experience.

Candidate Requirements

Candidates should ideally have a background in the human, social, economic, or information sciences and can demonstrate a high level of capacity to conduct engaged and sensitive research with different entities, ranging from villages to the District NGO, Oxfam and other levels of government or business. Candidates must have a developed understanding and experience of gender and cultural issues in Bangladesh, particularly in rural areas. Candidates are expected to be bilingual in English and Bengali, and have at least several years’ experience in working in NGOs in Bangladesh.

PROTIC 5: Values-First Software Design in Rural Bangladesh - Awarded

(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.