Retelling the Education Story: Bringing "Cool" to School Using Progressivism (SIT 2017)

by Faisal Lalani

Nepal’s education system is littered with flaws: teachers are underpaid and untrained, development of the curriculum is neglected, and the number of students failing examinations is higher than the number of those who pass. These problems are consistent throughout the country and as a result, the system that supposedly aims to produce future scientists, engineers, and leaders instead churns out citizens and leaders that repeat the mistakes of past generations. In the past, there has been no movement or reform planned for the low quality of schooling. However, different schools and organizations scattered throughout the country are attempting to do something about the problem by adopting new pedagogies; in one of Nepal’s poorest and most remote districts is the Modern Model Residential School (MMRS), which has adopted a progressive approach to teaching students. The school aims to avoid the traditional form of education commonly found in Nepal and use different technology in combination with hands-on learning to develop skills. This paper dives into how schools like MMRS use progressivism to attempt to change the system that has been characterized as problematic for over half-a-century now.


Lalani, F. (2017). Retelling the Education Story: Bringing "Cool" to School Using Progressivism. Capstone Collection. 3047.


Information & Communication Technologies for Development


Design of an IOT-based water flow monitoring system (ModiCom 2020)

by Zill Ullah Khan, M Umair Anwar, Sabah Pirani, Faisal Lalani, Babatunde Adegoke, Tauseef Tauqeer, & Mustafa Naseem

In this paper, we present the design of a low-cost IoT based approach to monitor the amount of water dispensed at communal clean water collection nodes called Water Filtration Plants. The design of our system caters to the limitations of low-resource settings, such as brown-outs, power surges, data connectivity issues, while our data processing methodology caters to the limitations inherent in the use of low-cost hardware installed in our deployment. Our actionable insights help the water utility of a dense Urban city in Pakistan improve the quality of service of providing clean drinking water to its residents.


Khan, Z. U., Anwar, M. U., Pirani, S., Lalani, F., Adegoke, B., Tauqeer, T., & Naseem, M. (2020). Design of an IOT-based water flow monitoring system. Proceedings of the 26th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking.

DISMISS: Database of Indian Social Media Influencers on Twitter (AAAI 2022)

by Arshia Arya, Soham De, Dibyendu Mishra, Gazal Shekhawat, Ankur Sharma, Anmol Panda, Faisal Lalani, Parantak Singh, Ramaravind Kommiya Mothilal, Rynaa Grover, Sachita Nishal, Saloni Dash, Shehla Shora, Syeda Zainab Akbar, & Joyojeet Pal

Databases of highly networked individuals have been indispensable in studying narratives and influence on social media. To support studies on Twitter in India, we present a systematically categorised database of accounts of influence on Twitter in India, identified and annotated through an iterative process of friends, networks, and self-described profile information, verified manually. We built an initial set of accounts based on the friend network of a seed set of accounts based on real-world renown in various fields, and then snowballed "friends of friends" multiple times, and rank ordered individuals based on the number of in-group connections, and overall followers. We then manually classified identified accounts under the categories of entertainment, sports, business, government, institutions, journalism, civil society accounts that have independent standing outside of social media, as well as a category of "digital first" referring to accounts that derive their primary influence from online activity. Overall, we annotated 11580 unique accounts across all categories. The database is useful studying various questions related to the role of influencers in polarisation, misinformation, extreme speech, political discourse etc.


Arya, A., De, S., Mishra, D., Shekhawat, G., Sharma, A., Panda, A., Lalani, F., Singh, P., Mothilal, R. K., Grover, R., Nishal, S., Dash, S., Shora, S., Akbar, S. Z., & Pal, J. (2022). DISMISS: Database of Indian Social Media Influencers on Twitter. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media16(1), 1201-1207.

“Like Shock Absorbers”: Understanding the Human Infrastructures of Technology-Mediated Mental Health Support (CHI 2020)

by Sachin R Pendse, Faisal M Lalani, Munmun De Choudhury, Amit Sharma, Neha Kumar

Significant research in HCI and beyond has sought to understand end-user needs in formal and informal technology-mediated mental health support (TMMHS) systems. However, little work has been done to understand the experiences and needs of the individuals who power or support these systems, particularly in the Global South. We present a qualitative study of one of the most accessible forms of mental health care in India — helplines. Through in-depth interviews conducted with 12 helpline volunteers, we research the human infrastructure responsible for the functioning of helplines. We foreground the often invisible labor involved in erecting and maintaining the institutional, interpersonal, and individual boundaries that are critical to realizing the goals of these helplines. Finally, we discuss the implications of our research for future work examining human infrastructures, particularly in mental health settings, and for the design of future TMMHS systems that deliver on-demand care to diverse, underserved, and stigmatized populations.


Pendse, S. R., Lalani, F. M., De Choudhury, M., Sharma, A., & Kumar, N. (2020). “Like Shock Absorbers”: Understanding the Human Infrastructures of Technology-Mediated Mental Health Support. Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.



Voting with the Stars: Analyzing Partisan Engagement between Celebrities and Politicians in India (CSCW 2022)

by Ramaravind Kommiya Mothilal, Dibyendu Mishra, Sachita Nishal, Faisal M Lalani, & Joyojeet Pal

Celebrity influencers are increasingly central to political discourse as they engage in, and get engaged with, on matters of electoral importance. In this paper, using Twitter data from 1432 sportspersons and entertainers and their engagement with the 1000 of the most followed ruling party and opposition politicians from India, we propose a new method to measure partisanship of celebrities along different modes of engagement. Our examination of polarization, through topical and retweet analyses, shows patterns related to both party incumbency and the level of internal organization. We find that the ruling BJP has been more effective than the opposition, the INC, in organized outreach to celebrities, by eschewing explicit party-based partisanship, and instead employing non-partisan narrative techniques, such as maintaining nationalism as the central theme in tweets. We find that while entertainers are equally engaged by both the ruling and opposition parties, sportspersons, who often enjoy a nationalist appeal by virtue of representing the country, tend to have a much more partisan relationship with the incumbent party.


Kommiya Mothilal, R., Mishra, D., Nishal, S., Lalani, F. M., & Pal, J. (2022). Voting with the Stars: Analyzing Partisan Engagement Between Celebrities and Politicians in India. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction6(CSCW1), 1–29.

The Appeal of Influencers to the Social Media Outreach of Indian Politicians (CSCW 2019)

by Faisal Lalani, Ramaravind Kommiya Mothilal, & Joyojeet Pal

Democracies around the world have different levels of dependence on influencers outside of mainstream politics in their outreach efforts. In this study, we examine the case of India, specifically the relationship between politicians in power and "influencers'', such as celebrities and media accounts, they follow on Twitter. We find that while politicians engage with these accounts to the same degree to which they follow them, the media accounts at the highest levels of engagement share the same ideology as the politicians who follow them. No similar alignment exists between celebrities and politicians, which requires future work of analyzing the content of engaging tweets in order to define the extent to which these accounts have political influence.


Lalani, F. M., Kommiya Mothilal, R., & Pal, J. (2019). The Appeal of Influencers to the Social Media Outreach of Indian Politicians. Companion Publication of the 2019 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing.

Social Change


A Legacy of Social Change in South Asia
A Legacy of Social Change in South Asia is a book comprising a collection of 21st century documents of hope, resistance, peace, and unity throughout South Asia. Influenced by Voices of a People’s History centred on acts of activism in the United States, this project aims to challenge normative

Tech & Democracy


Predicting the Direction of Digital Sovereignty in Post-Election India
Faisal M. Lalani evaluates the pursuit of ultimate digital sovereignty in India & what that may mean for the country’s post-election future.
A Spotlight on Tech & Democracy in the Global Majority — All Tech Is Human
All Tech Is Human Affiliate Faisal Lalani highlights Tech & Democracy in the Global Majority for a special livestream recap with key insights and takeaways.
The Sri Lanka Model: The Impact of Civil Advocacy on Tech Policy | TechPolicy.Press
Sri Lanka’s proposed Online Safety Bill requires improvements to protect civil liberties, write Faisal M. Lalani and Saritha Irugalbandara.
A vision for lasting change
In one of the most seminal stories in recent history, Lewis Carroll wrote the following response when Alice,