homes—from a massive mansion
with sprawling gardens, to a four-room home in which seven people
shared a single 3GB monthly connection—and to a variety of situations in between. We are struck by
how almost everyone we spoke to
was aware of the bandwidth constraint, adopting similar strategies
to manage this limited resource,
regardless of income level. In this
way our research illustrates a way
to blur the boundaries between the
traditional dichotomies of studies
of “household” use in developed
markets versus those of “resource
constrained” users in the developing world, the focal point of many
ICT4D and HCI4D studies.
Moving forward, we suggest
the HCI community should con-
sider the implications of metered
bandwidth situations on matters
of inclusion, usability, and useful-
ness. Specifically, we need to bet-
ter understand how a cap affects
Internet use, what tools and infor-
mation people need to help them
deal with metered usage, and how
existing websites and tools can be
more accommodating of people
who are on usage-based band-
width plans. Whether via landlines
or, increasingly, mobile phones,
metered bandwidth may challenge
the freewheeling metaphors that
we have allowed to become syn-
onymous with Internet use, such as
“browsing” and “surfing.” By exam-
ining Internet use under this form
of constraint, we will broaden the
HCI4D discourse by opening up con-
versations and avenues for research
along a continuum of users, beyond
the easy dichotomies of developed
and developing. In doing so, we
may improve the ways in which we
design and build experiences for the
next billion Internet users.
[ 1] Chetty, M., Banks, R., Harper, R., Regan, T.,
Sellen, A., Gkantsidis, C., Karagiannis, T. and Key, P.
Who’s Hogging the Bandwidth?: The consequences
of revealing the invisible in the home. Proc. of the
28th International Conference on Human Factors
in Computing Systems. (Atlanta, GA, April 10-15).
ACM, New York, 2010.
[ 2] Max Planck Institute for Software Systems.
Glasnost: Bringing Transparency to the Internet;
[ 3] Measurement Lab; http://www.measurement
[ 4] Wyche, S.P., Smyth, T.N., Chetty, M., Aoki,
P.M. and Grinter, R.E. Deliberate interactions:
Characterizing technology use in Nairobi, Kenya.
Proc. of the 28th International Conference on Human
Factors in Computing Systems. (Atlanta, GA, April
10-15). ACM, New York, 2010.
[ 5] CIA World Fact Book; https://www.cia.gov/
[ 6] The Broadband Bible; http://www.the-broadbandbible.co.za/wordpress/wp-content/
About thE Authors
Marshini Chetty is a Ph.D. candidate in the Human-Centered
Computing program at Georgia
Tech. Her research focus is on
home computing in resource-rich
and resource-constrained settings.
Richard Banks is a senior interaction designer at Microsoft
Research in Cambridge, UK. He
spent a decade working on the
interface design of a broad set of
Microsoft’s products before joining the research division in 2006.
A.J. Bernheim Brush is a
researcher at Microsoft
Research in Redmond, WA. Her
research area is HCI with a
focus on ubiquitous computing
in the home and continuous
sensing on mobile devices.
Jonathan Donner is a researcher
in the Technology for Emerging
Markets Group at Microsoft
Research India. His research is
focused on the spread of mobile
telephony in the developing
Rebecca E. Grinter is an associate
professor in the School of
Interactive Computing at the
Georgia Institute of Technology. Her
research interests include human-computer interaction and computer
supported collaborative work.
March + April 2011
• A storefront in Jijiga,
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