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Sterling Named Microsoft Research Fellow


January 2007

Revital (Revi) Sterling, an Alliance for Technology, Learning, and Society PhD student, has been named a 2007 Microsoft Research Fellow. The two-year fellowships, which recognize outstanding PhD students in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Mathematics, were awarded to twelve recipients in 2007.

Revital (Revi) Sterling photo

Sterling's research focuses on the use of Information and Communication Technology to empower women in developing regions. The digital and gender divides present in these regions exacerbate the negative impact of each on women's lives. She is exploring these pronounced gender divides -- their cognitive and behavioral aspects, the policies and programs that have tried to close the gaps, and the range of gender and development theories that inform the research on this subject. Both research and practice demonstrate that women's empowerment and poverty alleviation go hand in hand. This underscores one of the major tenets in gender and development -- in order for development initiatives to be successful, they have to be appropriate and sustainable and equitable.

"Advancement through Interactive Radio", or AIR, links rural, disadvantaged women in Eastern Africa with their local community radio stations. Radio is the dominant mass media in sub-Saharan Africa, and community radio is rapidly growing as an alternative to commercial and government programming. In many areas, community radio is the only reliable source of public information. While community radio is gaining significant popularity with listeners and development agencies alike, the potential for community radio to serve as an agent of social and economic advancement is limited by its inherent unidirectionality and dearth of women's involvement in station management, participation, and programming. As part of her doctoral research, she is developing and evaluating a mechanism for asynchronous listener feedback that addresses these deficiencies. She is currently creating a simple, rugged, portable and inexpensive computing device that is capable of recording, storing and forwarding voice feedback from rural women listeners who currently have no other way to communicate with their community radio station, due to myriad resource and gender/societal challenges. AIR offers women the opportunity to participate in community radio broadcasts as "citizen journalists," who, by discussing issues of concern in the virtual space of radio, may gain both the information and status to affect positive change in the their actual communities.

Revi is advised by Professor John Bennett of Computer Science.

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Department of Computer Science
College of Engineering and Applied Science
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