Payal Arora › Do the Next Billion Users Need More Innovation?

Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Centre for Law, Technology and Society  and the AI + Society Initiative present:


Do the Next Billion Users Need More Innovation?

Rethinking AI for the Common Good


Payal Arora 


Wednesday, June 17, 2020
at 12:00 ET


Watch the Video Now



The 21st century is marketed as the age of innovation. Sir John Chisholm, an expert on change management, declares that technology will change “the very future of the human race.” Ryan Allis—an angel investor in 25 companies including SpaceX, Elon Musk’s Mars project—provides a startup guide to ease us into this new era. All we need to do is reimagine “everything,” says Allis. With just “a laptop, a smartphone, and the cloud,” we can access any service anytime. While traditional institutions such as the educational system in low income countries is regarded as a “stunning market failure” according to the likes of Matt Keller, former Director of the Global Learning XPRIZE, the market “success” of new technology will step in and take its place. Smart technology will replace not-so-smart people. Humans, it seems, have become obstacles to their own betterment. Technology entrepreneurs today are busy making all- inclusive, self-contained autonomous apps for the next billion users—majority of whom are outside the West and live in countries with less liberal institutions. Centralized reform is being discarded for personalized solutionism. Automation of self-help is the foundation of the innovation age.

Join Payal Arora for a conversation around her recent book “The Next Billion User: Digital Life Beyond the West.” Her talk will argue against this popular narrative and bring to question this laboratory approach of using the next billion users as the guinea pigs for social progress – and why we have become more forgiving of technological failure than of human failure.


About the Speaker

Dr. Payal Arora is a digital anthropologist and author of the 2020 PROSE Award book “The Next Billion User: Digital Life Beyond the West”, published with Harvard University Press. She is a Professor and Chair in Technology, Values, and Global Media Cultures at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Founder of Catalyst Lab, a digital storytelling organization, and Co-PI for the Feminist Approaches to Labour Collectives initiative. Her expertise lies in digital experience and user values among low-income communities worldwide and comes with more than a decade of fieldwork experience in such contexts.

Forbes named her the “next billion champion” and the right kind of person to reform tech. Several international media outlets have covered her work including the BBC, The Economist, Quartz, Tech Crunch, The Boston Globe, F.A.Z, The Nation and CBC. She has consulted on tech innovation for diverse organizations such as UNESCO, KPMG, GE, and HP and has given about 200 talks in 52 countries including a TEDx talk on the future of the internet. She is Indian and American and currently lives in Amsterdam.


This event will be in English only.
This event will be recorded.

Back to top