School of Information Studies (iSchool) Professor Martha Garcia-Murillo has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant for the spring of 2017. The grant will allow Garcia-Murillo to conduct research at the Institut Barcelona d’EStudis Internacionals (IBEI) in Barcelona, Spain.

She will use the opportunity to take advantage of her background in economics, as the purpose of her research in Spain is to determine the effects of technological advances on unemployed individuals.

“This includes examining the coping mechanisms they use for their well-being, as well as the incentive systems that the government uses to motivate them to earn a sufficient income to make a living,” explains Garcia-Murillo. “Given my work in the field of information and communications technologies (ICTs), I also want determine the extent to which ICTs can be a mechanism, and source of, self-employment for these displaced workers.”

The current economic environment in Spain provides the perfect setting for this research, as the country has suffered from high employment rates for many years, wavering between 10 and 25% unemployment since the 1990s.

“Research about employment trends in Spain can provide insights in designing programs that can help alleviate this problem,” said Garcia-Murillo.

For most of her academic career Garcia-Murillo has focused her research on the impact of technology on development. This, in part, was driven by her desire to understand and possibly contribute to alleviating the pervasive economic challenges that prevail in developing economies.

“I have found that ICTs are able to reduce informal economies, but only if the population has access to broadband, as mobile phones tend to exacerbate the problem by reducing the coordination costs of the informal sector,” she explained. “I have also found links not only between ICTs and the creation of new businesses, but also how these same technologies are replacing jobs. The possibility of mass displacement became a great concern of mine as I became aware of the stagnation of middle and lower income incomes in recent decades as automation and robotics have changed industries.” 

The research that Garcia-Murillo will be conducting through the Fulbright program gives her the opportunity to better understand the global nature of labor markets at a time when technology is becoming much more pervasive and disruptive.

“I’m excited about this opportunity and believe that it can lead to insights that can benefit society,” she noted.

In addition to her research efforts, Garcia-Murillo will also teach a course entitled Information Technologies for Development during her time at the IBEI.