Ethnographic Research Internship (approx. 3 months) in UNICEF Project on Child Development Based on Wearable Technologies in Malawi

We are looking for a highly motivated anthropology master student (or an advanced BA student who plans to start his/her MA at ISEK in the near future) to conduct ethnographic research within an ongoing project of the Center for Child Well-being and Development (CCWD) at the University of Zurich, in collaboration with UNICEF Switzerland. The focus of the ethnographic exploration is the use of wearable technologies in interventions that aim to improve child welfare and development.

Project Description

The CCWD project aims at evaluating innovative approaches for collecting data on child development in low-income countries, at much lower cost and at higher frequency than alternative data collection methods typically used by UNICEF and other international organizations. The project hopes to improve the data-base for decision-makers to make informed decisions. Disease prevention, detection, and epidemiologic control remain major challenges for the Malawian health system. The study plans to tackle this problem with the help of wearable technologies, devices that will track children and youth’s biomarkers on a weekly basis. Such non-invasive technologies generate data that will feed prediction models, which can then be used to trigger warnings to families and community health-workers (known in Malawi as Health Surveillance Assistants, or HSAs). The technologies, so the project hopes, also enable fine-tuning child and youth development interventions that can be adjusted at high frequency, according to machine learning predictions of child health and development fed by the data on children’s biomarkers.

Your Research

While the main project is quantitative in nature, it also seeks to develop an understanding of everyday experiences of the children and youth who participate in this study. What life do these wearable technologies lead after they leave the health centre and enter the everyday lives of children in Malawi? How do the children experience having to wear watches that measure their heartbeat, or having to come to the clinic on a weekly basis to measure their brainwaves? What interactions between people and technology take place that had not been envisioned in the outline of the project? How is technology perceived by the people in the chosen villages and how has this changed through the introduction of the project? These are only a few of the questions that might lead an ethnographic exploration of the use of wearable technologies in interventions that aim to improve child welfare and development.

The chosen student will be encouraged to develop an independent research project within the framework of the project on child development. This research would ideally culminate in their master’s thesis in social and cultural anthropology (Ethnologie) at the University of Zurich.

Research will be partly funded by the project and access will be facilitated by the local partners in the project. Supervision will be provided by ISEK-Social Anthropology.

If you are interested in applying for this research internship please send a short CV and a letter outlining your motivation and a preliminary research idea to annuska.derks@uzh.ch.