Matthew Kam

Matthew Kam
Former Ph.D. candidate
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, and
Berkeley Institute of Design

I graduated with my Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 2008 and have joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University.

My new homepage at CMU is




"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."  


Sather Tower at the University of California, Berkeley campus.I am a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley.  My research advisor is Professor John Canny, who is founding the Berkeley Institute of Design. Starting January 2009, I will join the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University as an assistant professor.

I am interested in Human-Centered Computing, especially where economic development meets education and information technology. My research focuses on how computing and digital games can empower underserved communities in both the developing and industrialized world, particularly in the domain of language and literacy. My specific areas of interest include: computer-assisted language learning, computing & international development, mobile computing, and videogames in education.

In addition to my Computer Science background, I have formal training in Economics and Education. I double-majored in Economics when I was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. I have also completed graduate coursework in literacy theories, reading science and second language acquisition at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education.

Here is a list of my publications and talks.

Present Activities

MILLEE: Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies (Ph.D. dissertation). 

E-Learning games on cellphones that enable children in the villages and slums in the developing world to acquire language and literacy in immersive, game-like environments. These applications target localized language learning needs and aim to make literacy resources more accessible to underprivileged children, at times and places that are more convenient than government schools. Our design methodology is informed by studies of best practices in commercial learning learning packages and the traditional village games that children in the developing world play. 

International Development and Human-Computer Interaction (Workshops). 

Co-organizing a series of workshops on this topic at the ACM CHI 2008 and ACM DIS 2008 conferences. In particular, the latter conference represents a historic opportunity since it is arguably the first ACM SIGCHI conference to be held in Africa. Our goal is to build a community of HCI researchers and ground practitioners who are interested in making computing a more positive force throughout the world, as well as to identify challenges and opportunities for working in this area.

Previous Activities

Mainstreaming Microfinance in Uganda  (UCB-UNIDO Fellowship 2004-05). 

Third-party field evaluation on the Remote Transaction System, which was piloted in Uganda by a public-private sector consortium convened by Hewlett-Packard. We aimed to draw lessons that can inform how delivery channel systems could be more smoothly developed, implemented and deployed to support microfinance and other applications.

Universal Passbooks (Open design initiative).  

Record-keeping architecture that preserves privacy while enhancing transparency, shared control, auditability and responsive access to services. This architecture aims to be a toolkit that facilitates local software developers in building kiosk applications that conform to the above requirements. Such kiosk applications will provide community clinics, case workers, shelters and other community service providers with simple solutions for communicating and coordinating with their clients. 

Computer Science 160 (Human-Computer Interaction). 

Head Graduate Student Instructor for the Spring 2003 offering of this class. Covered the design, prototyping and evaluation of user interfaces for smart mobile phones and Personal Digital Assistants. 

Community-Based Design Methods (Workshops).  

How can we design as a community of users, designers and other stakeholders, in contrast to designing for an end-user community? Our objective is to advance design as a collaborative activity that involves multiple parties associated with a community of practice. Such a partnership will empower communities to build local capacity to meet local needs, and in the process, develop the means to be truly self-sustaining. 

Technology and Sustainable Economic Development (Reading group).  

Dialogue between technologists and social scientists on technology designs for sustainable development, situated within the broader societal contexts that influence their adoption.  Our objective is to advance the conceptual understanding of sustainable development, together with related methodologies for technology design and evaluation.

Economic Review Committee (Voluntary service). 

Started and coordinated the Education and R&D Working Groups of the ERC's Singapore Overseas Network in the USA.  Our recommendations for reforms were submitted to the ERC, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Singapore.  Our final report is online

The Clio handheld computer.Livenotes (B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Honors Degree Program). 

Practice and technology that aims to address the problem of the large lecture class by recreating the small-group learning experience.  Livenotes uses wirelessly-networked Tablet PCs to support real-time, collaborative note-taking and annotation of lecture slides by students in small groups, independent of the class size. 

Bridging the Digital Divide Through Computer Donations (B.A. in Economics senior honors thesis). 

Evaluated the impact of computer donations on low-income households, with assistance from non-profit organizations in Singapore and the USA.  The results indicate that this form of human capital investment benefits its recipients in several socioeconomic and educational terms.


Association for Computing Machinery
Bay Area International Development Professionals Network
Engineers for a Sustainable World, Berkeley chapter  (formerly Engineers Without Frontiers)
Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions research group, UC Berkeley

Personal Links

Photograph album
Singapore food in the San Francisco Bay Area

"Most people are more concerned with doing things right than with doing the right things. The secret is to focus on doing the right things right." -- Peter Drucker

Last updated: February 2009