CS 671: ICT for Development - System Dynamics (Spring 2015)

Schedule: Lecture Slot 6 in SIC 301
Instructor: Om Damani

Moodle: Slides, Assignments, Solution, Newsgroup etc.

Technology is helpful but rarely sufficient in delivering development, because real-life systems are dynamic, nonlinear, multi-loop feedback driven, adaptive, and therefore change-resistant. In fact, many of the growth-oriented/growth-accelerating technical developments and government policies are making the world more unsustainable.

To analyze complex development situations, this course will introduce Control Theory based 'System Dynamics' - use of Computer Modeling and Simulation to specify and analyze complex social systems. The key insight of System Dynamics is that while due to bounded rationality, human intuition about working of social systems and their long term dynamics is often wrong, and analytical solutions to formal mathematical specifications of social systems are often intractable, use of Computer Modeling and Simulation can be a powerful tool in deciphering the complexity of social systems. The formal specification has to be a detailed simulation model explicating all assumptions. Given such a formal model, simulation can unravel long term dynamics in space and time. Policy interventions can be tested using sensitivity analysis and leverage points can be identified. This classic by Forrester will give a detailed idea of what the course is about.

Note that the course is not about developing or using gadgets and how they bring development. It is about using Computer Modeling and Simulation to analyze development situations.


1. Sterman, John D. Business Dynamics : Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, Indian Edition - Tata Mcgraw Hill : 2010.

2. Khalid Saeed. Development Planning and Policy Design, Out of Print. Relevant portions will be made available.

Pre-requisites: None

Audit Requirements: You have to do all the assignments. There will be at least one assignment per week.


Last Offerings Lecture Topics (Incomplete)

1) Introduction to Systems Thinking: What is Systems Dynamics. (lectures 1,2)

2) Feedback Systems Thinking/Causal Loop Diagrams: Causality, Causal Chains, Causal Loop Diagrams, meaning of links and polarities on links, loop polarities (lectures 3-4)

3) Stock and Flow: notion of stock, rate of change, conservation of stock, system boundary - sources and sinks for flows, tangible vs intangible stocks (lecture 5)

4) Example: Simple savings account, Population Dynamics in Detail (lectures 6-7)

5) Computer Simulation: Introduction to Vensim, savings account, population dynamics model (lectures 8-9)

6) Table Function (lecture 10)

7) Delay (lecture 11)

8) Midsem answer discussion (lecture 12)

9) Analyzing the UPA government advertizement (lecture 13)

10) Fundamental modes of dynamic behavior: Exponential growth, Goal seeking (lecture 14)

11) Fundamental modes of dynamic behavior: S-shaped growth (lecture 15)

12) S-I-R model (lecture 16)