Initial Prototyping

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 12 / Prototyping


As mentioned in the previous post, we had chosen the problem of representation to be our topic for the final project. The next step was to select a location. We decided to start locally and think of devising a solution for local communities, and thereafter think about other cities across the world.

NYC has been putting extensive effort into collection of data and making it open to public use (NYC OpenData). Our plan was to add another layer on top of data collection. The layer would comprise of data analysis, comparison and organization. The desired result is to develop a platform that can cater to community organizations and facilitate them in using data to prepare a research report so as to assist them in reaching out and making their concerns heard.

The online platform is generalized to study the many problems posed by urbanization. Poor communities remain in such dire conditions because they’re afflicted not by one or two clearly definable problems, but a tangled web of delicate issues that compound in ways that makes themselves visible (sometimes) only in big data.

Initial Prototype:

The platform shall be a combination of two things: an IDEO how-to manual on design research and TurboTax.

The platform will have informative guidance on how to approach need/problem finding, and then the platform will have guided input forms that will visualize the data inputed in real time in a way that simplifies a very complex and convoluted process.



The platform needs to do the following things:
1. Guide users in the research and data collection process
2. Provide options around quantitative and qualitative research
3. Supplement their data with government and city standards/thresholds
4. Visualize data and recommend designated people to reach out to


Representation : A Case Study on Brownsville

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 11 / Case Study and Ideation

The group is considering a tentative idea around which we are planning to construct a rough prototype. The problem we are tackling is representation of people living in low income neighborhoods in urbanized cities. Below is the project idea accompanied by a data driven case study of Brownsville, Brooklyn. We are starting with a area local to NYC but the eventual scope of the project would be to be able to cater to any neighborhood in any major city around the world.

Tentative Idea

An online tool that enables local communities or non-profit organizations to enter and organize data. The platform would generate graphs, and data maps for the data that is inserted into the system. It also facilitates the concerned user to directly reach out to the designated authority through the neighborhood details or zip code.


Community asset mapping :

Community asset mapping provides an illustration of both the needs of a community and available resources. Asset mapping can help community stakeholders, foundations and government leaders determine whether existing resources are— or are not—meeting a community’s needs so that strategies for community development can be implemented accordingly.

There are many different indicators across six domains of well-being – economic security, housing, health, education, youth, and family and community—to determine where risks to child well-being are concentrated.

Poverty rate :

High rates of poverty in Brownsville are driven by low rates of employment that result in very low household incomes. The median household income in Brownsville is just over $25,000, third lowest among Brooklyn neighborhoods and significantly lower than the borough wide median household income (nearly $47,000) and less than half of the citywide median household income (nearly $53,000).

Access to banking :

New York City households are more likely to be unbanked and underbanked than households nationwide, and households in Brownsville (PUMA) have the third highest unbanked rate and ninth highest underbanked rate out of 55 PUMAs in New York City. Nearly three out of ten households in Brownsville (PUMA) do not have a bank account, compared to just over one in ten citywide. Over half of households in Brownsville (PUMA) are either unbanked or underbanked.

Possible Emphasis Strategy: Banking development in Brownsville

In 2003, New York City adopted its own BDD program using city funds to help establish bank branches where they were most needed. The Banking Development Working Group, a partnership between the New York State Banking Department and several New York State and City agencies, was created in 2004 to promote the new city BDD program. The working group identified eleven communities, including Brownsville, which were lacking in mainstream banking institutions. These communities are eligible for ‘Enriched BDD’ status and banks that establish a presence in these neighborhoods through the BDD program are eligible for combined incentives from state and city agencies. The ‘Enriched BDD’ program has resulted in branch openings in six of the eleven identified communities, but not in Brownsville.

Vacant Lots :

Around half of the 730,810 square feet of vacant lot space in Brownsville is publicly held, adding up to 357,123 square feet, or the equivalent of 7.5 football fields.

LIH Housing Projects : The New York City Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) has been soliciting community input for plans to develop vacant lots in Brownsville.14 With the help of community stakeholders, HPD is holding public meetings and collecting input through an interactive online mapping tool. While HPD’s priorities include affordable housing and retail spaces, residents are also expressing the need for youth recreation centers, supermarkets, and community spaces.

Transportation :

The limited access and reliability of subways in Brownsville may contribute to Brownsville workers having among the longest commute times for workers living in Brooklyn. According to census data, 70 percent of Brownsville workers use public transportation to get to work, an even higher share than New York City (56 percent) and Brooklyn (62 percent) as a whole. Thirty-seven percent of Brownsville workers report a commute of an hour or more, the sixth highest figure of all Brooklyn neighborhoods. Brownsville residents report longer commutes than those in many neighborhoods that are just as reliant on public transportation and even further from the primary job centers in Manhattan. This includes East New York—Brownsville’s neighbor to the east—where 70 percent of workers report using public transportation, but only 27 percent report a commute of over one hour, despite being further from Manhattan than Brownsville.

Social Programs with a focus on Brownsville :

The Brownsville Partnership, Jobs-Plus, Ocean Hill and Brownsville Neighborhood Improvement Association

Source :
CCC From Strengths to Solutions document on meeting community needs in Brownsville

Fail Story : Liquid Traces

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 11 / Fail Story


For the fail story, I was conflicted between two topics. One was a fail story during my experience working at Amazon. The story involves working for a new workflow on a website that caters to millions of vendors globally, and making errors on it due to lack of customer interaction, hence delaying the launch. However, since the data around this project is supposed to be confidential I decided to present this other story that I came across during my visit to MoMA.

I wanted to present this incident which talks about a vessel carrying 72 Libyan migrants, and how they were stranded and left to die at sea.


Here’s a chronological outline of the story:

  • 72 Libyan migrants decide to sail in the Mediterranean north-bound towards the Italian island of Lampedusa. This was in consequence of the Libyan Civil War in 2011.
  • The boat went out of fuel midway and sent out a distress call to an Eritrean priest in Italy.
  • The boat’s position was determined and was found to be outside the search and rescue zones of Italy or Malta (see picture). Italy relayed the message to NATO.
  • During the entire time, the boat was in NATO surveilled waters and was identified and positioned by the NATO patrols.
  • NATO protocols dictate minimal assistance for migrants.
  • Resultantly, the boat was stranded in the sea. The passengers soon ran out of food and water. Subsequently, they started passing away one after the other.
  • For fourteen days, the boat was adrift at the mercy of the ocean currents and the wind.
  • On the fifteenth day, the boat washed away at the coast of Zlitan, Libya. With only 11 passengers still breathing.
  • Two passengers died while being rescued and held in prison. Only 9 out the 72 survived.

Talking Points:

Below are the talking points that I have identified:

1. What should’ve been a straightforward search and rescue operation turned into  a game of shifting responsibility. There were military vessels as close as within two hours of travel from the boat, yet there was no assistance offered to the dying people.
2. Negligence of human life. Just because the distressed boat was carrying refugees bears no justification for indifference. This one instance shows that 63 people died. In the year 2011, 1500 other deaths have been documented for the people fleeing Libya due to the conflict. 14,000 deaths have been documented in the past 20 years in the maritime borders of the EU.
3. Lack of communication. Although, certain parties were informed about the boat’s position and distress there was no follow-up by any of the concerned authorities.


My source of reference was the UN exhibition at MoMA which installed a screening of the short film Liquid Traces. You can watch the film here.

Final Project Idea Progress

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 9 / Systems

Group – Danni Huang, Jixuan Sun, Kenzo Nakamura, Utsav Chadha


The group, thus far, has spent majority of the time conducting thorough research on the topic of urbanization and the problems associated with it. We have familiarized ourselves with the different aspects of the urbanization problem, namely:

  • Infrastructure
  • Basic Services
  • Transportation
  • Violence and hazards
  • Connectivity

We have been looking up related articles and deriving ideas from them. Through this process, we have constantly referenced “Innovating for Children in an Urbanizing World” handbook, shared with us by Tanya. The handbook provides a comprehensive overview of urbanization and its many facets. After brainstorming and review, the group naturally gravitated towards the issue of connectivity, highlighted in the said handbook as a relevant concern, and used the article’s “statement of need” and “prompts” as a framework for our work going forward.



We are planning to focus on accurately representing slum-dwellers in data that is used to plan for the future and having them actively represented in the government so that they may participate in the planning of their cities and futures.

Related Articles

Street violence and exploitation in slums:

Poor disaster preparedness:

Indoor & outdoor air pollution:


Systems Diagram

Responses to Readings – Week 7

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 7 / Data Analysis Workshop


The article tries to take a resistant and unwilling stance on the concept of global basic income. I disagree with some of the points presented in the article and believe that such a model might be helpful in the long run. Simply seen, the money is being transferred from the rich to the people who need it. How they spend it is upon them, of course. Moreover, a foreign organization or a charity shouldn’t readily assume the immediate needs of a poverty stricken family in a remote village. I think their needs are best understood by them and their community. The article is titled The Future of Not Working, which sounds flawed. A basic income wouldn’t necessarily imply that people will stop working. There is a human tendency of wanting more, and to keep doing. Once a person is empowered with some money, he or she would be willing to explore the possibilities of what they could do with it besides satisfying their primal needs. And even if they don’t utilize it appropriately, they should have a means to get treatment for diseases or to help another community member. In terms of the greater good of the village, community or country, political economist Gar Alperovitz says

“Once people have the freedom to elect to work less, their capacity to engage in the work of rebuilding community and democracy can increase far beyond what is possible in today’s precariously overworked society.”

My understanding is that a basic income can empower the people to create jobs, to supply goods and to contribute to their surroundings. Of course, charities and other organizations still need to work with governments to look at issues at a larger scale. But I think that basic global income can be a divisive solution for addressing the immediate needs of families living under the reigns of poverty.


System diagrams are extremely helpful with planning anything. Systems thinking has thus far helped me with many projects regardless of their association with the arts or technology or both. The piece gives an instance of the same, which is useful.

Responses to Readings – Week 6

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 6 / Challenge Presentations


The reading tells us that Telefonica is working on a partnership with UNICEF. It also uses some trending terms such as big data, real-time data, social good et cetera. However, it’s unclear what they are doing exactly. The article does point out that they are working on creating a system that collects real time data using mobile services, so as to plan emergency response better in countries that are vulnerable to the consequences of global warming. But how? The article doesn’t go into details around the beta tests, and the operations of the service itself which left me with questions instead of answers.


It’s encouraging to read about prominent political leaders talking about blockchain and thinking about remediating problems of corruption around the world. Blockchain has a lot of potential to shift ways in which countries function, and to disrupt the way finance is handled across the world. The question is, how long can it take for it to take effect on a larger scale. True that blockchain is decentralized in many ways, but wouldn’t the infrastructure for establishing blockchain be centralized to certain countries? Also, the article mentions blockchain and banks in the same context. I’m not sure how that will work since I remember Prof Yermack talking elaborately about how blockchain can potentially disempower banks around the world.

Challenge – Emergency and Response

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 5 / Group Challenge


Danni Huang, Jaycee Holmes, Utsav Chadha

Problem Statement :

A natural disaster wiped out the entire infrastructure of the borough except your city block. You must figure out what resources you have access to. Then map out the areas of greatest need and who is most vulnerable and should be provided relief first. How would you prioritize where aid should be delivered? Document your process.


While discussing the problem, we realized that before prioritizing areas of relief or resources needed, it’s important to figure out a safe place with storage capacity for people as well as supplies. Next step is to organize all the individuals and divide them into teams with specific responsibilities. Thereafter, an assessment of the available resources and rescue operations can be made. Our model was a three part approach – Identify, Survive and Assess. We conducted an incremental study of the block in terms of the range. Starting with the NYU Tisch building itself, we moved on to the surrounding block and then to the city of NYC as a whole. The entire process has been documented in the following slides:
Link to the slides : Disaster Response

 Challenges Encountered:

1. One of the major challenges with disaster preparedness and response is the uncertainty associated with the time and intensity of the disaster. For disasters such as a blizzard or hurricanes, fortunately predictions can be made. However, for situations such as earthquakes and tsunamis it’s difficult to be prepared and respond accordingly. For our particular assignment, we stuck to the situation of a hurricane hitting Lower Manhattan.
2. Although Identify, Survive and Assess seem like logical order of steps. However, in the situation of an emergency people would try to survive first and do everything else later. It’s important to keep in mind that there can be a widespread panic situation and one should be prepared to handle such a situation.
3. There are many different resources with a similar listed process when it comes to disaster management and relief. There is not one centralized system that is in place and is responsible for emergency situations.

 Lessons Learned:

1. Initially, while starting on the problem we were inclined to look at it as a problem of disaster preparedness and not disaster response. Because prevention is always better than cure. However, Benedetta and Tanya pointed this out in time that a first hand experience of the situation always helps in evaluating the kind of preparations that need to be in order. This also brought us back to the design thinking workshop, wherein to put oneself in the user’s shoes as the first step of assessing a problem and developing a solution. In terms of a disaster, the user is the responder. It was a helpful exercise to view ourselves as the responders first and then thinking about preparedness. There were many things that we were missing out and overall, it gave us a very good perspective into how we should approach a solution.
2. Don’t think big. It’s always better to tackle the problem at a smaller scale before going for bigger and university-wide or city-wide solutions.
3. Keep in mind the panic a disaster can create. Perhaps, survive, identify and survive should be the starting steps for disaster response.

Responses to Readings – Week 4

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 4 / Logistics for the Social Good


The reading was very interesting because it points to how technological intervention can work towards a social issue. More so, because it utilizes technology to do something that it wasn’t designed to do in the first place. Plus, it’s doing good instead of doing bad. Generally, new methods and technologies are susceptible to corruption and utilization for individualistic purposes. However, blockchain offers a way to change how charities operate whilst being foolproof, transparent and effective.

Some questions that I have are: How does blockchain actually work technologically? This is something that I need to find out myself. Another question is that if this technology possesses the capability to replace third party systems and middlemen, isn’t it facing threats or opposition from the said parties? And since it is operated by the users themselves, what kind of impact can it have on employment opportunities for people already working for these third parties or non-profit organizations?


The recent demonetization effort by the Indian Government was a disaster. Extreme lack of preparation by the government, shortage of currency in the market and people generally struggling to gain access to bank accounts or bank officials were some of the consequences that this ill-managed effort brought. However, mobile money intervened in this situation and helped out many people to find an easier way to transfer money. It also elevated India’s leading mobile money company PayTM into the limelight. Over time PayTM has evolved into a medium to pay telephone bills, electricity bills and even lending friends money and is not solely a transaction system anymore.

This reading helps me affirm to this idea that how technological innovation can help a developing country become independent and stand on it’s feet. Cheaper transfer charges, more widespread accessibility and dissociation from the corrupt banking systems are some of the benefits that the mobile market has introduced. It’s definitely pleasing to see the effect that this market has had on the Kenyan economy. My question is, if the market has become so accessible by every faction of the population in a developing country, can it be used for the redistribution of wealth in that economy? Can the rich be charged higher rates compared to people living below the poverty line, who should be able to use it for free? Another question is that if this system expands into a place where one can open accounts and get loans sanctioned, how can one avoid corruption, hoarding of money and reliability?


Continuing from my previous question around the redistribution of wealth to help places or people in actual need, this article provides a good example.

Question is, that the bitcoin payment maybe powered the school for three weeks  but how to sustain that payment system? How does one ensure that the a person/party/organization is accountable if the payment isn’t made and the power goes out again? How can the government utilize this payment system and make it more accessible to the public sector in order to supplement education, telecom and electricity?


Continuing from the earlier reading on bitcoin and the death of charities, this reading was insightful. The other reading is speculative and doesn’t dive into the specifics of the conception and implementation of blockchain technology. This experiment puts across an extensive effort towards collaborating with the first mile, producers, manufacturers and testing in the market. It’s a great example of beta testing a product, so that one can realize the challenges, loopholes and understand the associated parties better.

My questions are, how easily can this be adopted into the everyday setting? Will the people welcome such a change? Will they be willing to check the fair trade policies while making such transactions? What are some of the challenges that third party organizations such as PayPal etc cause? Will it be possible to get these organizations onboard and if so, can they reap profits out of this effort as well, can this be misused despite the transparency and trust ?

Response to Readings – Week 3

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 3 / Data Science and Research

Designing Field Trial Protocols in Ethiopia for Pneumonia Diagnostic Devices

The reading was informative to give me a general sense of what UNICEF has planned to do for tackling pneumonia deaths in Ethiopia (and other countries). The idea of ‘timely and accurate diagnosis being critical to preventing pneumonia deaths’ was insightful. The reading does provide an overview on what UNICEF plans to do, however, I could gain no sense of how they are going to do it. I visited their website and gained an understanding of the devices and protocols surrounding ARIDA. There are some questions that I have:
1. Diagnosis is the first step, true. But are all families aware about the condition of pneumonia? Is this knowledge commonplace? If not, is UNICEF taking any measures to advertise the hazards of pneumonia and informing them about the associated symptoms?
2. My understanding is that the diagnosis, advice and care provided by community healthcare workers is free. Is it? Do they also equip families with the necessary information about the contagious nature of the condition, the kind of care that should be provided after recovery et cetera?

The Economics of Drone Delivery

The reading raises many interesting points regarding the complications involved with drone deliveries, backed by quotes and data. The comparison between drone deliveries in a consumerist setting versus drone deliveries in an underserved remote setting was intriguing. While, I think that investments should be made towards drone deliveries in places inaccessible regions for medical purposes or emergency use cases, the world is also seeing drones being used to exercise control in a region (also taking lives in the process – link ). So, it’s tricky to acknowledge that legitimizing drones would only be beneficial, and not harmful.

In terms of the big corporates targeting drone deliveries, I believe that the drones will indeed see the daylight soon. Such companies put a lot of study to figure out the economics associated with such undertakings, and I don’t think economics is something that they’re worried about. The only thing obstructing them would be to reach negotiations and formulation of regulations with the Government and other involved parties.

Aerial Assessments After Sandy

The link is not working.

What is Driving Uber’s Global Impact?

Uber’s impact across the world is undeniable. My personal experiences from India resonate what the article emphasizes i.e. how Uber is changing the way transportation was once construed. Back in India, auto-rickshaws or taxis were two popular modes of transportation. Singular companies/organizations which were running these services across cities had monopolized the business, with bad infrastructure, no reliability and a steady unaccounted increase in their pricing each year. There was mistreatment of the customer, hooliganism and also cases of sexual harassment towards women. People were gradually forfeiting the idea of resorting to these modes of transportation and were striving to put together enough money to be able to buy a vehicle of their own. Uber changed the game. Not only did they provide a dependable means of transportation, they also provided vehicles in good condition and at much lower prices. More than the economic impact, the cultural impact of the company amazes me.

The article gives a nice outlook into how Uber has been making waves across the globe, and also raises a few questions that I ask myself. Data collection is central to the way Uber works. The question is, how are they going to leverage this data to solve bigger issues such as pollution and road congestion? (UberPool is there of course, and as Chris mentioned they are also putting in a lot of research towards flying cars which is befuddling!). So far, Uber has been a private initiative wherever it has operated. How can the company work with the Government to address issues in the public sector and issues being faced by the poor, rather than only catering to those with smart phones in their pockets?