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Technical challenges are big—but so are social ones. As an anthropologist in a technology company, my job is to understand global social changes that affect our business. Here I present three major areas of rapid social change, each of which poses its own set of challenges and opportunities. These are areas where technology could truly make a difference. They are also areas where robust social and institutional creativity are necessary alongside technological ingenuity.
Dawn Nafus is an anthropologist at Intel, where she conducts social science research to inspire new products and strategies. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Cambridge University, and was previously a research fellow at University of Essex. She has published widely on communication technology and society in academic journals, and worked with both public policy makers and industry leaders on issues such as widening participation in open source communities, and knowledge transfer policies for local economic development. Her recent work has focused on how patterns of mobility and their social meanings affect technology usage. She is also working on an interdisciplinary project combining statistical modeling and social theory to explain cases of accelerated adoption rates at the national level. Her areas of regional expertise are Russia and the UK.