Kentaro Toyama is W.K. Kellogg Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan School of Information, a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, and author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology.
In his research, Kentaro studies social change and international development, especially as it is impacted by digital technology. Recent projects include an application of critical race theory to human-computer interaction, digital storytelling to support global maternal health, and a study of technology use by undocumented US immigrants.
Based on his research, Kentaro promotes the theory that for the most part, technology amplifies underlying human forces -- improving things where individuals and institutions are well-intentioned and capable, but having little or negative impact where human forces are indifferent, dysfunctional, or corrupt. Often, technology amplifies the impact of good, bad, left, right, optimistic, and pessimistic human inclinations simultaneously, leading to society's deeply ambivalent relationship with technology. Amplification offers a more balanced, but often predictive, alternative to theories that suggest that technology's impact on society is always good, or always bad, or always too complex to capture concisely.
Previously, Kentaro was a researcher at UC Berkeley and assistant managing director of Microsoft Research India, which he co-founded in 2005. At MSR India, he started the Technology for Emerging Markets research group, which conducts interdisciplinary research to understand how the world's poorer communities interact with electronic technology and to invent new ways for technology to support their socio-economic development. The award-winning group is known for projects such as MultiPoint, Text-Free User Interfaces, and Digital Green. Kentaro co-founded the IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD) to provide a global platform for rigorous academic research in this field. From 2012 through 2020, he was co-editor-in-chief of the journal Information Technologies and International Development.
Prior to his time in India, Kentaro did computer vision and multimedia research at Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA, USA and Cambridge, UK, and taught mathematics at Ashesi University in Accra, Ghana.
Kentaro graduated from Yale with a PhD in Computer Science and from Harvard with a bachelors degree in Physics. He was born in Tokyo, raised in both Japan and the United States, and now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.