Post-Doctoral Research Assistant vacancy

We are looking for a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant to contribute to the UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequalities and Development (MIDEQ) Hub. Specifically, the PDRA will support Professors G Hari Harindranath (School of Business & Management) and Tim Unwin (Department of Geography) on the development of research within the work package on digital technologies, inequalities and migration across the six migration ‘corridors’ in which the MIDEQ Hub is working but particularly focusing on their work in the following migration ‘corridors’: Nepal-Malaysia, Ghana-China, Ethiopia-South Africa, and Haiti-Brazil. The PDRA will be based in the School of Business and Management at Royal Holloway, University of London but will work across the School and the Department of Geography and within the UNESCO Chair for ICT4D. Occasional overseas travel will be an essential component of this role.  The post’s central focus will be on working with migrants and tech developers in partner countries to facilitate the development of digital technologies that will reduce inequalities identified by migrants. The successful candidate will have the ability to develop excellent working relationships with diverse and international team members and have technical expertise relating to the design and implementation of digital technology interventions.   

In return we offer a highly competitive rewards and benefits package including:

  • Generous annual leave entitlement 
  • Training and Development opportunities
  • Pension Scheme with generous employer contribution 
  • Various schemes including Cycle to Work, Season Ticket Loans and help with the cost of Eyesight testing. 
  • Free parking 

The post is based in Egham, Surrey where the College is situated in a beautiful, leafy campus near to Windsor Great Park and within commuting distance from London. However, the post-holder will be required to travel nationally and internationally to fulfil the responsibilities of this role. 

For an informal discussion about the post, please contact Prof G Hari Harindranath at G.Harindranath@rhul.ac.uk or Prof Tim Unwin at Tim.Unwin@rhul.ac.uk.

To view further details of this post and to apply please visit https://jobs.royalholloway.ac.uk. Please note the Job Description and Person Specification at the at the end of the advertisement. For queries on the application process the Human Resources Department can be contacted by email at: recruitment@rhul.ac.uk 

In addition to completion of the online application form applicants are also required to upload two references. Please ensure these documents are uploaded in order for your application to be considered.

Please quote the reference: 1020-215

Closing Date:   Midnight, Friday 6 November 2020 

Interview Date: Interviews will be held in the week commencing 16 November 2020

Challenging the rhetoric around migration and digital technologies: Virtual ICT4D Non-Conference 2020 Panel Discussion

The global COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted more than ever the double-edged sword that digital technologies represent for migrants. These technologies offer not only access to information and networking for migrants but also create new vulnerabilities and exacerbate inequalities in the context of increasing securitisation of borders and rising xenophobia online. These inequalities relate not only to digital divides in terms of access and use but also outcomes that all too often mirror existing structural inequalities. Against this backdrop, we convened a special panel session at the Virtual ICT4D Non-Conference on 16th September 2020 that sought to challenge the rhetoric around migration and digital technologies. The panel, which I chaired, was linked to our ongoing research and practice relating to migration and digital technologies, part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) funded MIDEQ Hub. MIDEQ, the South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub, brings together over 60 researchers and several partner organisations from around the world to examine the complex and multi-dimensional relationships between migration and inequality in the context of the Global South.

Migration has long been ‘appified’, and the recent digital responses to, and indeed the ‘appification’ of, COVID-19 highlights the opportunities as well as the risks associated with digital technologies for marginalised people, in particular migrants around the world. So, what are the key issues affecting digital migrants? What roles are international agencies and regional/local civil society organisations playing in this space? How do we ensure that digital technologies do not harm vulnerable people? These were some of the issues we addressed in the panel which brought together five distinguished speakers from around the world:

  • Tanja Dedovic – Senior Regional Thematic Specialist on Labour Mobility and Human Development for the Middle East and North Africa, International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Tanja spoke about the how IOM, the UN agency that advocates for migrants, is leveraging digital technologies to promote safe and orderly migration through its MigApp which provides information and humanitarian services to migrants and government agencies. She also highlighted new projects that are using blockchain technologies to prevent contract substitution which sees migrant workers being forced into work that they did not sign up for. Tanja further noted the importance of complementing such efforts with proactive communications strategies and conducting due diligence of employers.
  • Antonio Diaz-Andrade – Associate Professor, AUT University, Auckland. Antonio shared insights from his recent research into how refugees in New Zealand use digital technologies in their everyday social practices in unfamiliar information environments to exercise their agency. Refugees were seen to be using digital technologies to exercise their agency and to participate in their new host society while at the same time being socially connected to their friends and families in home countries and as well as in other parts of the world. A snapshot of his research is available here.
  • Evan Easton-Calabria – Senior Research Officer, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford. Evan’s talk centred around her recent study for UNDP, The Migrant Union – Digital Livelihoods for People on the Move, which examined the livelihoods opportunities and challenges from digital technologies, focusing particularly on digitally-mediated and remote work opportunities for refugees. She raised important questions in relation to refugee self-reliance and digital labour: are we truly training some of the most vulnerable people in the world for digital work or are we facilitating low-paid, low-skill work in the global gig economy which is subject to little or no regulation? Can we become more ambitious in the quality of work that is being offered to such workers? How can humanitarian agencies, intermediaries and employers ensure ethical safeguards for migrants in relation to digital work? How can the right to (or not to) work be protected? And how can the gender divide in relation to refugee digital workers and digital entrepreneurs be addressed?
  • William Gois – Regional Coordinator, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA). William spoke about the work of MFA, a regional network of NGOs, associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia that seeks to promote migrant rights. William cited several digital interventions that MFA has been part of including the Recruitment Advisor, which helps share recruitment experiences of migrants with a view to promoting fair recruitment practices and Hamsa, an online system for reporting migrant worker abuse. William challenged the rhetoric around the promise of digital technologies and their so-called pervasiveness by highlighting some of the structural and systemic barriers that prevent vulnerable groups such as migrants from accessing and benefitting from these technologies. He concluded that because digital technology is not an equaliser and they often increase inequalities, it is important to use both online and offline methods to connect with what are essentially a very diverse range of migrant groups.
  • Tim Unwin, Chairholder, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, Royal Holloway, University of London. Tim spoke about the work he and I are leading on digital technologies, inequalities and migration within the larger MIDEQ project. He highlighted the key stages of our intervention work package which puts migrants at its core: first, seek to understand from migrants the ways in which they use digital technologies; second, explore with them how they understand notions of inequality within the migration process, and how they think technologies might be able to reduce them; and ultimately, work with migrants and digital developers to develop one or more digital technology interventions that can be used to reduce such inequalities. He also introduced two key findings from our early work which shows that while in some countries migrants are afraid of using digital technologies due to the harsh political conditions affecting migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic, they rarely use apps designed specifically designed for them in many others. These findings highlight the need to protect migrant rights while developing digital technologies that addresses their needs and aspirations.

The interactive panel session led to thought-provoking conversations from both panellists and through the forum chat. A key take-away for me was that when it comes to digital technology and migration, we need to begin with the migrants and seek to understand their needs and priorities. Actors in this space need to work ‘with’ migrants and not ‘for’ them! The pandemic has laid bare digital inequalities both in terms of digital exclusion and the potentially disempowering impact of these technologies through securitisation and surveillance. We need a relentless focus on the potential risk to marginalised people from digital technologies both in terms of ethical use and in terms of how they intersect with existing structural inequalities.

G Hari Harindranath

Work Package Lead, Digital technologies and inequality, MIDEQ

The Virtual ICT4D Non-Conference 2020 Summary Report

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D was delighted to convene the first Virtual ICT4D Non-Conference on 16th September 2020 (#virtualict4d2020). COVID-19 had meant that it was impossible to hold the original ICT4D Non-Conference that had been scheduled for 15-17 September, and so we decided instead to bring together all those whose papers and demos had been accepted for a day long conversation – the Virtual ICT4D Non-Conference. All of the posters and demos were made available for participants to read before the event, and to have open on their own devices during the various sessions (these are still available for people to access at the Virtual ICT4D Non-Conference site).

The Programme

The full programme ran for eight hours live on Zoom from 09.00-17.00 UK time on 16th June. In line with the emphasis of the original non-conference, no presenters were permitted to use slide decks for their presentations. Fifteen posters and four demos were presented during the day, with there being more countries represented amongst the authors than there were presentations (because several papers had multiple authors from different countries). Eight were presented by women, and two of the six moderators were women.

Details and highlights of the day included:

  • Opening ceremony, with speeches by:
    • Tahir Naeem (COMSATS University, Islamabad, and Executive Director, Inter-Islamic Network on IT) on behalf of partner organisations, and
    • Jose Maria Diaz Batanero (Head, Project Support Division, ITU) on behalf of the ITU
    • And a moving musical interlude by Gameli Kodzo Tordzro while we reflected on all those whose lives had been transformed by COVID-19
  • Thematic sessions from:
    • Asia
      • Business perspectives, employment and health (Moderated by Vigneswara Ilavarasan)
      • Content, learning and the darker side of technology (Moderated by Akber Gardezi)
    • Africa and Europe
      • Government, security and indigenous perspective (Moderated by Azra Naseem)
      • Health (Moderated by Uduak Okon)
      • Education (Moderated by John Traxler)
    • The Americas (Moderated by Jose Maria Diaz Batanero)
  • Special session on migration and technology, moderated by Hari Harindranath, including five distinguished speakers from across the world.
  • Closing ceremony, with reflections by Revi Sterling, Hari Harindranath, Sallie Gregson, David Banes, and Lorenzo Cantoni

The awards

Emerald Publishing generously offered a £1000 award to be split between the top three posters presentations. A panel of reviewers read all of the posters in advance, and a subset of these reviewers also attended all of the sessions; 62.5% of the final score was derived from the poster itself, and 37.5% from the actual presentation and wider

The standards were high, and the three prize-winning posters and presentations were (in alphabetical order of first name):

Three poster presentations were also commended:

Participation and feedback

Approximately one hundred and fifty people had registered to participate in the Virtual ICT4D Non-Conference, and between 40 and 80 people participated at any one time during the day. The morning (UK time) sessions were scheduled for Asia, the middle of the day for Africa and Europe, and the afternoon for the Americas. This was so that the time zones were as convenient as possible for people to attend from across the world. We think that the country further east (from the UK) from which participants attended was New Zealand and the furthest west was the USA. Most participants came from South Asia and Africa.

The Virtual Non-Conference programme page received 600 views on the day (and 1331 views since 1st August; see map of September site views up to 19th below) with the posters submitted by Azra Naseem, Marcelo Fornazin, Djenana Jalovcic and Bushra Hassan each being downloaded more than 110 times.

We are delighted that participants also seemed to enjoy the event so much, not least as reflected in comments on Twitter (#virtualict4d2020):

  • “Thank you! Congratulations for the amazing Virtual ICT4D Non-Conference!
  • “It was an honor for me to discuss about my poster at #virtualict4d2020 along with all the panelists and being moderated by P. Vigneswara Ilavarasan”
  • “This was a milestone achievement during this COVID-19 pandemic. There were Great engaging and interesting debates all through. I was proud to have been part and parcel of the presenters and participants”
  • “Indeed a great success.Brilliant ideas were shared.Thanks so much for organising this wonderful and inspiring conference!!!”
  • “having a great interactive experience and the audience are so disciplined. #virtualict4d2020
  • “Feeling grateful for this #ICT4D community and events like the #virtualICT4D2020 to share, discuss and learn”
  • “A day full of discussions on what’s to me the most exciting subject in this world”
  • “This #VirtualICT4D2020 promises virtual walks together during breaks, sharing of music and other virtual treats. AMAZING!”

Looking to the future

Comments such as these inspire us to think about doing another Virtual ICT4D Non-Conference next year! We very much hope that we will indeed be able to meet up face to face before too long, but if not let’s plan to meet again in a year’s time for another virtual event! Thanks to everyone for making it such an enjoyable, interesting and exhausting day!

Inter Islamic Network on IT and COMSATS University workshop on ICT for Development: Mainstreaming the Marginalised

PostersThe UNESCO Chair in ICT4D was delighted to contribute to the 3rd ICT4D workshop convened by the Inter Islamic Network on IT (INIT) and COMSATS University in Islamabad, also supported by  the Ministry of IT and Telecom in Pakistan on the theme of Mainstreaming the Marginalised, which was held at the Ramada Hotel in Islamabad on 28th and 29th January 2020.  This was a very valuable opportunity for academics, government officials, companies, civil society organisations and donors in Pakistan to come together to discuss practical ways through which digital technologies can be used to support  economic, social and political changes that will benefit the poorest and most marginalised.  The event was remarkable for its diveristy of participants, not only across sectors but also in terms of the diversity of abilities, age, and gender represented.  It was a very real pleasure to participate in and support this workshop, which built on the previous ones that were held in Islamabd in 2016 and 2017.

The inaugural session included addresses by Prof Dr Raheel Qamar (President INIT and Rector COMSATS University, Islamabad), Mr. Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui (Federal Secretary Ministry of IT & Telecom) and Dr. Tahir Naeem (Executive Director, INIT), as well as a short keynote by our Chairholder Tim Unwin on Digital Technologies, Climate Change and Sustainability.  This was followed by six technical sessions spread over two days:

  • Future of learning and technology
  • Policy to practice: barriers and challenges
  • Awareness and inclusion: strategizing through technology
  • Accessibility and Technology: overcoming barriers
  • Reskilling the marginalised: understandng role reversals
  • Technical provisio: indigenisation for local needs.

These sessions included a wide diversity of activities, ranging from panel sessions, practical demonstrations, and mind-mapping exercises, and there were plenty of opportunities for detailed discussions and networking.

Highlights amongst the many excellent presentations included:

  • Recollections by Prof Abdful Mannan and Prof Ilyas Ahmed of the struggles faced by people with disabilities in getting their issues acknowledged by others in society, and of the work that they and many others have been doing to support those with a wide range of disabilities here in Pakistan
  • The inspirational presentations by Julius Sweetland of his freely available Open Source Optikey software enabling those with multiple disbilities to use only their eyes to write and control a keyboard
  • Meeting the young people with Shastia Kazmi (Vision 21 and Founder of Little Hands), who have gained confidence and expertise through her work and are such an inspiration to us all in continuing our work to help some of the pooorest and most marginalised to be empowered through digital technologies.
  • The very dynamic discussions around practical actiona that we can all take to enable more inclusive use of  digital technologies (mindmaps of these available below)

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Enormous thanks must go to Dr. Tahir Naeem (COMSATS University and Executive Director of INIT) and his team, especially Dr. Akber Gardezi (an Affilated Member of our UNESCO Chair) and Atiq-ur-Rehman, for all that they did to make this event such a success.

A shortened version of this workshop was also subsequently held on Monday 3rd February at the University of Sindh in Jamshoro, thanks to the support and facilitation of Dr. Mukesh Khatwani (Director of the Area Study Centre for Far East and Southeast Asia) and his colleagues.  This also focused on the practical ways through which some of the most marginalised can benefit from the appropriate use of digital technologies, and it was once again good to have the strong involvement of persons with disabilities.

Quick links to workshop materials and outputs:

 

Christmas greetings 2019

Friends and Colleagues

As we draw near to Christmas and the end of a politically traumatic few years here in the “United” Kingdom, everyone at the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a relaxed, peaceful and blessed Christmas.  We hope that you have had a successful past year, and that the decade ahead brings you great success and fulfilment in all of your endeavours.

We hope too that many of you will join us between 15th and 17th September next year at our exciting – and very different – ICT4D Non-Conference which we intend to make an inspiring opportunity to rethink how we can all do more to help shape safe and inclusive digital technology for all in the years ahead.

Tim Unwin (on behalf of members of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D)

Nativity
Nativity scene, Kitzbühel, Austra, 2019

Akber Gardezi awarded for his work for blind people in Pakistan

It is with great pleasure that we report that Dr. Akber Gardezi (Assistant Professor at COMSATS University, Pakistan, and the Inter Islamic Network on Information Technology) and an Affiliated Member of our UNESCO Chair in ICT4D has received this year’s Saima Ammar award for his work in using digital technologies to support people with disabilities in Pakistan.  The award is made annually by the Young Women Writers Forum (based in Islamabad) in association with Sightsavers, and this year it was made during a ceremony at Rawalpindi Women University.

The award was created in 2011 in memory of Saima Ammar, who had bAkber awardeen a very active member of the Young Women Writers Forum, and had recently passed away battling Multiple Sclerosis.  The Forum did not have any funding available and so they contacted Sightsavers with whom they had an existing MoU to help and support Blind Women Writers in Pakistan.  The first “award” (but not in a physical sense) was a small gathering of like minded people who supported the cause of empowering women and overall inclusion more generally. As the years passed by this gathering which always took place around the 15th of October began a regular feature to honour visually impaired people who had done substantial work within the community.  For the last 3-4 years they have also sought nominations from the wider community to include sighted people working for the service of visually impaired people.

Akber.GardeziAkber writes “I am deeply humbled and thankful to my vision impaired friends who recommended my name for this award. This is very special for me as it links me to the memory of the late Saima Ammar. She was a symbol of activism and defiance; she is someone who fought the cause for access to education for people with disabilities in Pakistan. She is someone who did not let blindness be a burden on her life, but rather used it as a motivation. She did not lead a very comfortable and luxurious life herself but played an immense role promoting educational culture among the visual impaired community of Pakistan. She founded Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness (PFFB) and initiated the Audio World Project in 1995 with the aim of providing education, information and entertainment to visually impaired persons through audio books. Let this be a reminder for us all to keep fighting the good fight and remember Saima in our thoughts and prayers”.

Working with, not for: migrants, technology and inequalities

CraftingMIDEQ provides an opportunity to do things differently. It has the potential to change our understandings and influence policy, but only if we truly listen to the voices of migrants in the many different contexts where they live and work.

Research led by colleagues in the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London, will focus on ways through which technologies can be used to reduce the many intersecting inequalities associated with migration.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), or “digital technologies”, have frequently been designed “for” some of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people, with the stated intention of reducing poverty or delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, this is one of the reasons why so many have failed to be sustainable, go to scale or even help to reduce poverty.

Digital technologies are almost always conceived in research labs or the Research and Development departments of global corporates and start-ups alike. But without a deep understanding of poor people’s or migrants’ knowledges and needs; they are designed for, rather than with, these people.

Prototypes are trialled with a sample group or through a pilot project, and then revised iteratively until they are good enough to go to market. They are, though, designed and produced by people who have particular interests (usually commercial or financial) for specific purposes. Those purposes are rarely truly emancipatory or empowering for the poor and marginalised.

Migrants know far more about migration than so-called “experts”, be they researchers or techies. Migrants are the experts in migration. For technologies to be crafted and used in ways that are truly emancipatory, they need to be created collaboratively “with” migrants not “for” them. Anything we design together must primarily serve their interests.

Our research has been designed in a threefold manner to try to live up to these aspirations. The first stage begins by listening to how migrants, as well as their families and employers, already use technologies and for what purposes. In the first two years we will focus on four of the six migration corridors to helping us better understand the interface between migrants and technology. Questions about technology use will also be asked in a survey being undertaken in all twelve countries in which MINEQ is working. This will give us a broad understanding of the many contexts and contrasting experiences that migrants have with digital technologies.

The second stage (years two-three) will build on this and involve more focused research, probably in two or three corridors, using qualitative methods to explore with migrants what they understand by inequalities and how digital technologies might be used to reduce these. This will take time, especially because we want to be led by the migrants, and better understand the diversity of ways through which they could help design technologies that do this.

The final stage (years three-five) will work carefully with migrants and local tech developers to co-create technological innovations that migrants can use to reduce the inequalities that they see as being associated with the migration process. We have no ideas yet about what these will be. Perhaps we may find similar issues across all of the migration corridors where we are working; perhaps we will need to focus on different issues in varying contexts.

We hope that this approach will enable those with whom we are working to change the balance of power that is usually associated with the use of digital technologies in development. Above all, we aspire to work “with”, rather than just “for” migrants so that they can lead lives they think are better.

UKRI copy  GCRFsmall  MIDEQ logo

 

[Originally posted on MIDEQ site on 14 October 2019]

Participating in MIDEQ’s Executive Group meeting and training programme, Nairobi, 22-30 September 2019

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D is leading the work package on the interface between digital technologies and migration within the UKRI-GCRF South-South Migration Hub, now known by the shortened name MIDEQ.  Hari Harindranath and Tim Unwin were therefore delighted to participate actively in the Hub’s Executive Group meeting on 23-24 September in Nairobi, followed by numerous meetings with the corridor leads and other work package teams, as well as participating in and leading some of the training sessions held from 26th September to 1st October.  As well as discussing important issues around our progress so far, communications strategy, governance, operations and migration survey, the evening of 24th September included a digital launch event followed by dinner and story telling, led by Tawona Sitholé, around a campfire.  The week of meetings provided an invaluable opportunity to get to know the many partners and new researchers in the Hub.  We are all now in a much better position to start engaging in field research together once the inception phase is over.  Hari and Tim are especially eager to get involved on the ground working with colleagues in the China-Ghana, Ethiopia-South Africa, Haiti-Brazil, and Nepal-Malaysia corridors.  The pictures below provide just a glimpse of the diversity and energy of the gathering…

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Many thanks are due to all of the colleagues who worked so hard to put the programme together and helped to ensure that it was a success.

The opportunity for Hari and Tim to be in Nairobi also provided a great chance to catch up with old friends in the city and make new contacts of wider interest to the work of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D.  We would like to say especial thanks to them for making the time to meet up and exchange ideas about the uses of digital technologies in Kenya and beyond.  We also spent a magical half-day escaping to the Natiional Park near the airport in Nairobi (see some of our pictures here)!

GCRFsmall     UKRI copy  MIDEQ logo

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at ITU’s Telecom World 2019 in Budapest

This year’s Telecom World event convened by the ITU and hosted by the Hungarian Government from 9th-12th September in Budapest was one of the most interesting and useful such events in recent years.  The Forum programme contained many thought provoking presentations and discussions, and the government’s hospitality was generous, featuring an inspiring musical evening and a drone display over the Danube.  There was also a very diverse exhibition, with particularly impressive displays from China about the Digital Silk Road.

David
David Banes speaking at ITU Telecom World

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D was delighted to participate in and contribute to several sessions.  In particular, David Banes was a speaker in an important session on Accessibility matters: dismantling the barriers of disability with technology on 12th September.  This session noted that technology can enable better access to health, education, government services and the job market for all those affected by disabilities, but also asked  what more can be done, in both emerging and developed markets? It explored how existing solutions can be scaled and adapted, and sought to identify whether there is  a business case for digital inclusion solutions?

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Tim Unwin moderating AI and gender session (Source: ITU)

Our Chairholder (Tim Unwin) also moderated two sessions, on Diversity by design: mitigating gender bias in AI and the launch of the ITU-CISCO Digital Transformation Center Initiative, as well as speaking in the Huawei sponsored session on Fixed wireless technology for affordable broadband development.  These provided a good opportunity to highlight the work of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D and also our TEQtogether initiative changing men’s attitudes to women in technology.

Why migrant technology research needs ‘values’ at its core

In a world where the fundamental human values of liberty, equality and fraternity are being challenged by digital technologies, research on how these technologies impact inequality and migration has never been more pressing.

Digital technologies are often implicated in stories around migration. Mobiles and mobile apps offer a lifeline for migrants in vulnerable situations; a means to connect with their past and to engage with their present.

But in many countries, digital technologies are also at the centre of state surveillance and anti-migrant propaganda. Access to technologies and capacity to use them effectively also vary across communities and individuals. Digital technologies create a kind of paradox: they empower but also create vulnerabilities and even inequalities.

How we use digital technologies to address the migration-inequality-development nexus matters. The values that underpin these efforts matter more. Migrant technology can only genuinely claim to address migrant concerns when it starts and ends with those affected by these technologies – the migrant themselves.

But this raises a couple of questions. How are the problems that migrants face being addressed by digital technologies? Will these technologies create other problems, vulnerabilities or inequalities? How can we fundamentally shift the focus of migrant technology research from the technologies that underpin it to the values that underpin their use?

Answers to these difficult questions aren’t easy. As we embark on a five-year project to understand the role Information Communication Technology (ICT) can play in addressing inequalities in the context of South-South migration, here are three key principles driving us:

  • There is nothing inherently good about digital technology. It can be used to do good or harm.
  • Digital development interventions are often technologically deterministic and have unintended social consequences. Both can lead to failure. Therefore, we must address not just the technological aspects, important as they are, but also the social processes that underpin their use in particular contexts. Different migration contexts may have different needs, and may likely need different kinds of technological interventions.
  • Development outcomes and meaningful user engagement are not inevitable in technology-related interventions. We must find ways to engage users in their context to ensure that interventions are both relevant and sustainable, while maximising positive outcomes and minimising negative social impacts.

Migrant technology research needs to put values at its core. It must reflect the values that we privilege, particularly when we are required to make difficult trade-offs.

When freedom of choice is constrained by the socio-political and legal context, when equality of access is constrained by the cultural context, or when fraternity is impeded by privacy concerns in risky and vulnerable contexts – these values will be integral.

Ultimately, recognising the multifaceted nature of the migrant context means being particularly mindful of the values we may seek to promote through technology interventions.

 

[Originally posted on MIDEQ site on 31 August 2019]

DFID-funded technology for education Hub Inception Phase consultation retreat hosted at Royal Holloway, University of London

It was great to have hosted the DFID-funded technology for education EdTech Hub three-day Inception Phase consultation retreat from the evening of  29th July through to 1st August at Royal Holloway, University of London.  This brought together some 30 members of the core team, funders and partners from the Overseas Development Institute, the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the University of Cambridge, Brink, Jigsaw Consult, Results for Development, Open Development and Education, AfriLabs, BRAC and eLearning Africa, and the World Bank, as well as members of the Intellectual Leadership Team from across the world, and representation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The meeting was designed to set in motion all of the activities and processes for the Inception Phase of the eight-year Hub, focusing especially on

  • The Hub’s overall vision
  • The work of our three main spheres of activity
    • Research
    • Innovation, and
    • Engagement
  • Our governance structure
  • Our theory of change
  • Our ethical and safeguarding frameworks
  • Our communication strategy, and
  • Our use of Agile and adaptive approaches

The Hub aims to work in partnership to “galvanise a global community in pursuit of catalytic impact, focusing on evidence so we can collectively abandon what does not work and reallocate funding and effort to what does”.  Moreover, it is “committed to using rigorous evidence and innovation to improve the lives of the most marginalised”.

Above all, as the pictures below indicate, this meeting formed an essential part in helping to build the trust and good working relationships that are so essential in ensuring that this initiative, launched in June 2019, will achieve the ambitious goals that it has set.

 

Members of UNESCO Chair in ICT4D to play leading roles in DFID’s multi-country directorate for research and innovation hub on technology for education

DFID AnnouncementRichard Clarke, Director General for Policy, Research and Humanitarian at the UK’s Department for International Aid (DFID) announced today that a consortium involving Dr. David Hollow and Tim Unwin, both from our UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, has been awarded the contract to lead its new £20 m research and innovation hub on technology for education.  This will explore how the world’s most marginalised children and young people can learn best through the use of new and innovative technologies.  The members of the consortium are the Overseas Development Institute, the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the University of Cambridge, Brink, Jigsaw Consult, Results for Development, Open Development and Education, AfriLabs, BRAC and eLearning Africa.  David will serve as Research Co-Director and Tim as Chair of the Intellectual Leadership Group.

The new Hub aims to undertake and promote the highest quality of comparative and longitudinal research at the interface between technology and education, and then share the findings widely so that everyone is better aware about how technology can best serve the learning interests of the poorest and most marginalised.  This builds in part on the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s long established experience on technology and learning, dating back to Tim’s leadership of the UK Prime Minister’s Imfundo initiative (2001-2004) creating partnerships for IT in education in Africa, our DelPHE and EDULINK funded collaboration with African universities, the wider work of the World Economic Forum and UNESCO Partnership for Education initiative between 2007 and 2011, and the cohort of PhD students doing research at the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D on technology and learning in Africa in the latter 2000s , including David Hollow and Marije Geldof.

We are all very excited to be a part of this new initiative, which will be the largest ever education and technology research and innovation programme designed specifically to improve teaching and learning, especially in poorer countries.  It is a clear example of the ways through which research undertaken within the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D is having real global impact, and is the second £20 m grant to have been awarded to consortia that include members of the Chair in the last six months, the other being the UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub.