Nithya Sambasivan, PhD.

I am a research scientist focused on solving hard, socially-important design and ethics problems impacting the Global South. My current research critically re-imagines AI fundamentals to work for marginalized communities.

My work has been widely covered in venues like VentureBeat, ZDnet,, O’Reilly, New Scientist, State of AI report, HackerNews and more, while influencing public policy like the Indian government’s strategy for responsible AI and motivating the NeurIPS Datasets track. As a former Research Scientist at Google, I pioneered several original, award-winning research initiatives such as responsible AI in the Global South, human-data interaction, gender equity online, constrained Internet access, and next billion users, which fundamentally shaped Google’s strategy for emerging markets, besides productionizing as new products and features affecting millions of users including in Station, Search, YouTube, Maps, & more. I founded and managed a blueprint HCI team in Google Research Bangalore, and set up the Accra team, in contexts with limited existing HCI infrastructure. Simultaneously, my research has received several best paper awards at top-tier computing conferences. [at] gmail [dot] com

Myopia of Model Centrism:


Ramesh, D., Kameswaran, V., Wang, D., Sambasivan, N.
How Platform-User Power Relations Shape Algorithmic Accountability: A Case Study of Instant Loan Platforms and Financially-Stressed Users in India
FAccT 2022 [PDF]

Meena, A., Veeraraghavan, R., Kapania, S., Srinivasan, V., Prabhakaran, V., Sambasivan, N.
Inheriting Discrimination: Datafication Encounters of Marginalized Workers
ICTD 2022 [PDF]

Sambasivan, N.
All Equation, No Human: The Myopia of Model Centrism
ACM interactions, 29(2) (March 2022) [PDF]

Sambasivan, N., Veeraraghavan, R.
The Deskilling of Domain Expertise in AI Development
CHI 2022 [PDF] [Talk]

Kapania, S., Siy, O., Clapper, G., SP, A., Sambasivan, N.
“Because AI is 100% right and safe”: User Vulnerabilities and Sources of AI Authority in India
CHI 2022 [PDF]

Wang, D., Prabhat, S., Sambasivan, N.
Whose AI Dream? In search of the aspiration in data annotation
CHI 2022 [PDF]

Thakkar, D.*, Ismail, A.*, Hanna, A., Kumar, P., Sambasivan, N., Kumar, N.
When is ML Data Good? Datafication in Public Health in India
CHI 2022 [PDF]

Sambasivan, N.
Seeing like a Dataset from the Global South
ACM interactions 28(4) (July 2021). [PDF]

Sambasivan, N., Kapania, S., Highfill, H., Akrong, D., Paritosh, P., Aroyo, L.
“Everyone wants to do the model work, not the data work”: Data Cascades in High-stakes AI
CHI 2021. [PDF] [Blog] [Talk]
[Best of CHI]

Sambasivan, N., Arnesen, E., Hutchinson, B., Doshi, T., Prabhakaran, V.
Re-imagining Algorithmic Fairness in India and Beyond.
FaccT 2021 [PDF] [Talk].

Sambasivan, N., Arnesen, E., Hutchinson, B., Prabhakaran, V.
Non-portability of Algorithmic Fairness in India
Navigating the Broader Impacts of AI Research, NeurIPS 2020 workshop. [PDF] [Talk]

Thakkar, D., Kumar. N., Sambasivan, N.
Beyond the Portal: Re-imagining the Post-pandemic Future of Work.
ACM interactions 27(6) (November 2020) [HTML].

Thakkar, D., Kumar. N., Sambasivan, N.
Towards an AI-powered Future that Works for Vocational Workers.
CHI 2020 [PDF].

Toward Gender Equity Online.
April 2019. [PDF] | [Blog] | [Sample Talk]

Sambasivan, N., Batool, A., Ahmed, N., Matthews, T., Thomas, K., Gaytán-Lugo, L., Nemer, D., Bursztein, E., Churchill, E. and Consolvo, S.
Toward Gender-Equitable Privacy and Security in South Asia. [PDF]
IEEE Security & Privacy. 17. (2019). 71-77.

Sambasivan, N.
The Remarkable Illusions of Technology for Social Good
ACM interactions 26(3) (July 2019), 64-67. [PDF]

Sambasivan, N., Batool, A., Ahmed, N., Matthews, T., Thomas, K., Gaytán-Lugo, L., Nemer, D., Bursztein, E., Churchill, E. and Consolvo, S.
“They Don’t Leave Us Alone Anywhere We Go”: Gender and Digital Abuse in South Asia
CHI 2019 [PDF]
[Best of CHI]

Sambasivan, N. and Holbrook, J.
Towards Responsible AI for the Next Billion Users. [PDF]
ACM interactions 26(1) (January 2019), 68-71.

Sambasivan, N., Checkley, G., Batool, A., Ahmed, N., Nemer, D., Gaytán-Lugo, L., Matthews, T., Consolvo, S., and Churchill, E.
“Privacy is not for me, it’s for those rich women”: Performative Privacy Practices on Mobile Phones by Women in South Asia
SOUPS 2018 [PDF]
[IAPP Privacy Award]

Thakkar, D.*, Sambasivan, N.*, Yardi, P., Sudarshan, P., and Toyama, K.
The Unexpected Entry and Exodus of Indian Women in CS and HCI
CHI 2018. [PDF | Google blog post | Indian scientist role model videos (with Divy Thakkar)]

Sambasivan, N., Checkley, G., Ahmed, N., and Batool, A.
Gender equity in technologies. [PDF]
ACM interactions 25, 1 (December 2017), 58-61.

Sambasivan, N. and Aoki, P.M.
Imagined Connectivities: Synthesized Conceptions of Public Wi-Fi in Urban India.
CHI 2017. [PDF]

Dye, M., Nemer, D., Pina, L., Sambasivan, N., Bruckman, A. and Kumar, N.
Locating the Internet in the Parks of Havana.
CHI 2017 [PDF]
[Best of CHI honourable mention]

Sambasivan, N., Jain, N., Checkley G., Baki, A. and Herr, T.
A framework for technology design in emerging markets. [PDF]
ACM interactions 24, 3 (April 2017), 70-73.

Sambasivan, N., Lee, P., Hecht, G., Aoki, P.M., Carrera, M.-I., Chen, J.,  Youssefmir, M., Cohn, D.P.,  Kruskall, P.,  Wetchler,  E. and Larssen, A.T.
SmartBrowse: Design and Evaluation of a Mobile Data Price Transparency Tool for Mobile Web Use.
ITID 11 (1), Spring 2015, 21-40. [PDF]
[“Best of ICTD” special issue paper]

Sambasivan, N., Azad, G., Aoki, P.M. and Mitra, S.S.
“We call it Hi-Fi”: Exposing Indian Households to High Speed Broadband Wireless Internet.
ICTD 2016. [PDF]

Sambasivan, N., Lee, P., Hecht, G., Aoki, P.M., Carrera, M.-I., Chen, J.,  Youssefmir, M., Cohn, D.P.,  Kruskall, P.,  Wetchler,  E. and Larssen, A.T.
Chale, How Much it Cost to Browse? Results from a Mobile Data Price Transparency Trial in Ghana.
ICTD 2013. [PDF]

Sambasivan, N. and Cutrell, E.
Understanding Negotiation in Airtime Sharing in Low-income Microenterprises.
CHI 2012. [PDF]
[Best of CHI honourable mention]

Dray, S. M., Light, A. E., Evers, V., Dearden, A., Densmore, M., Kam, M., Marsden, G., Ramachandran, D., Sambasivan, N., Smyth, T., Gruenen, D., and Winters, N.
Human Computer Interaction for Development: Changing HCI to Change the World.
Jacko, J. A. (Ed.). Human computer interaction handbook: Fundamentals, evolving technologies, and emerging applications. 2012. CRC press. [preprint PDF]

Sambasivan, N., Cutrell, E., and Weber, J. S.
Designing a Phone Broadcasting System for Urban Sex Workers in India.
CHI 2011. [PDF]
[Best of CHI honourable mention]

Cervantes, R., Warschauer, M., Nardi, B. and Sambasivan, N.
Infrastructures for Low-cost Laptop use in Mexican Schools.
CHI 2011. [PDF]

Sambasivan. N. and Rangaswamy, N.
Cutting Chai, Jugaad, and Here Pheri: towards UbiComp for a global community.
Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. Special issue on the Digital Divide. 15 (6), 2011. pp. 553-564. [PDF]

Sambasivan, N., Cutrell, E., Toyama, K. and Nardi, B.
Intermediated Technology Use in Developing Communities.
CHI 2010. [PDF]
[Best of CHI honourable mention]

Sambasivan, N. and Smyth, T.
The Human Infrastructure in ICTD.
ICTD 2010. [PDF]

Light, A., Ladeira, I., Roberson, J., Bidwell, N. J., Rangaswamy, N., Sambasivan, N. and Gitau, S.
Gender Matters: Female Perspectives in ICT4D Research.
ICTD 2010. [PDF]

Sambasivan, N., Cutrell, E. and Toyama, K.
ViralVCD: Tracing Information-Diffusion Paths with Low Cost Media in Developing Communities.
CHI 2010. [PDF]

Sambasivan, N., Rangaswamy, N., Toyama, K., and Nardi, B.
Encountering Development Ethnographically.
ACM Interactions. XVI.6. 2009, pp. 20-23 [PDF]

Sambasivan, N., Rangaswamy, N., Cutrell, E. and Nardi, B.
Ubicomp4D: Interaction and Infrastructure for International Development-The Case of Urban Indian Slums.
UbiComp 2009 [PDF]

Sambasivan, N., Ventä, L., Mäntyjärvi, J., Isomursu, M., Häkkilä, J.
Designing for Social Context of Mobility: Mobile Applications for Always-on Users.
OzCHI 2009

Production of Use: Reconceptualizing “the User” in Low-income Communities in Urban India, 2012. [Link]
University of California, Irvine