Beth Kolko is a researcher, educator, and entrepreneur who blends disciplinary perspectives to identify hidden problems and craft innovative solutions. She began her career as a professor in the humanities, studying how diverse communities used a then text-based Internet to organize and enact change. After a decade of work on technology adoption, adaptation, and usage patterns in low resource communities around the world, she became a professor in engineering in order to collaborate on building better solutions to intransigent problems. Her current work focuses on the potential of non-experts to create disruptive solutions, and she builds programs that help people become functional engineers so they can solve problems in their communities.
She is currently a Professor of Human Centered Design & Engineering and co-directs the Tactical and Tactile Technology Lab (formerly the Design for Digital Inclusion lab) at the University of Washington. Her technology development projects have included work on a low-cost ultrasound system for midwives in Uganda and a grassroots public transportation information system in Kyrgyzstan. She is also a co-founder and CEO of Shift Labs, a for-profit company building low-cost medical devices for emerging markets leveraging global innovation networks.