Photo of Cauam Cardoso standing with a group of young Indian women.

MIT PhD student Cauam Cardoso led focus group discussions in low-income communities in Delhi and other cities in India. Women described how they use technology, who makes decisions on what to purchase for their work or home, and how they regard technology’s impact on their lives and self-reliance. At a session this winter in Delhi, pictured here, Cardoso met with young women who were taking a class to improve their skills at sewing. (Photo: Tom Gearty)

Cauam Cardoso was only 17 when he decided to break from family tradition and pursue engineering instead of the arts, a move that set him on a path to working with communities in need.

Over the past decade, Cardoso, a PhD student in international economic development at MIT, has helped communities on five continents overcome infrastructure issues such as a lack of sanitation, while always following the advice his dad gave him growing up: “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason, so listen more than you talk.”

Since coming to MIT, Cardoso has mainly been involved in a project called Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation, or CITE. OCW recently published a CITE Reports supplemental resource, featuring studies of solar lanterns in Uganda and water filters in India.

“The idea is one simple technology can have this huge impact on someone’s well-being,” explains Cardoso. “But today there are a lot of technologies out there such as solar lanterns or water filters, and there’s no way to systematically evaluate what works and what doesn’t work on the ground.”

With CITE, Cardoso and the project’s other team members are working to develop an objective methodology to assess the usefulness of various technologies. To assess a product, CITE focuses on three main categories: suitability (does the technology work properly?), scalability (can the technology actually reach the consumers?), and sustainability (will the technology create a long-lasting impact, and will the business model supporting it survive long-term?). For the past five years, Cardoso and the rest of the CITE team have been organizing pilot studies all over the world, from solar lanterns in Uganda to water filters in India, and now they are in the process of compiling their results and developing the best methodology.

Cardoso has also shared his global experience and perspective with MIT undergraduates, through his course 11.005 Introduction to International Development (also recently published in OCW). As MIT News reports:

Cardoso redesigned the course syllabus to reflect his background, and draws heavily on his own experiences in the field to engage his students. “Leading my own course and directing the students was probably one of the most rewarding experiences I had at MIT,” says Cardoso, who received his department’s 2016 Outstanding PhD Teaching Assistant award. “I love teaching, and I take it very seriously. You learn so much from the students — it’s really a gift.”

Read the complete MIT News profile of Cauam Cardoso.