Tim Unwin, our Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, was recently in Macau and Shenzhen, China, in his role as a member of the Advisory Board of the United Nations University Computing and Society Institute. During this visit, colleagues at the Institute had arranged for him to participate in Teledifusão de Macau (TDM)’s prime time Talk Show with Kelsey Wilhelm. This was a great opportunity to share some of his current thinking about the interface between digital technologies and humans!
The show is now available on YouTube, and begins with an overview of the current state of ICT for development, before going on to discuss
- ways through which people with disabilities can be empowered through the use of technology,
- the importance of new technologies being inclusive, because otherwise they lead to new inequalities,
- working “with” the poorest and most marginalised rather than for them,
- the role of new technologies such as AI and blockchain in serving the interests of the rich rather than the poor,
- cyborgs and the creation of machine-humans and human-machines, and finally
- some of the ethical issues that need to be discussed if we are to balance the benefits of new technologies whilst limiting their harm.
We need much wider public debate on these issues!
Members of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D were delighted to work with colleagues from UN ESCAP and INIT (The Inter-Islamic Network on IT) to moderate an expert meeting on inclusion and technology on 30th August 2018 on the margins of the ESCAP Regional Consultation on Inclusive Technology and Innovation Policies (28-29 August) which was held in the run-up to the ESCAP Committee on Information and Communications Technology and Science, Technology and Innovation, Second Session (29-31 August) in Bangkok. This provided a valuable forum for participants to discuss the main impediments preventing persons with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific from being empowered through technologies, and to identify priority policy actions to overcome these. It included a small number of short presentations, but most of the time was spend by participants in co-creating mind-maps around three key questions which are summarised below:
Main outputs co-created by participants
It was great to be invited to give a lecture in the Societat Catalana de Geografia in Barcelona on the subject of “Information and Communication Technologies: resolving inequalities?” on Tuesday 4th October in the Ciclo de Conferencias Programa Jean Monnet convened by my great friend Prof. Jordi Marti Henneberg on the theme of Los Desafîos de lintegración Europea. This was such an honour, especially since I had the privilege of following the former President of the European Union Josep Borrell’s excellent lecture earlier in the day on El Brexit y sus consequencias en la goberabilidad de la Unión Europea.
This was an opportunity for me to explore the relevance to the European context of some of my ideas about ICTs and inequality gleaned from research and practice in Africa and Asia. In essence, my argument was that we need to balance the economic growth agenda with much greater focus on using ICTs to reduce inequalities if we are truly to use ICTs to support greater European integration. To do this, I concluded by suggesting that we need to concentrate on seven key actions:
- working with the poor rather than for the poor
- pro-poor technological innovation – not the “next billion” but the “first” billion
- governments have a key role to play through the use of regulation as facilitation in the interests of the poor and marginalised
- crafting of appropriate multi-sector partnerships
- managing security and resilience against the dark side
- enhancing learning and understanding, both within governments and by individuals
- working with the most disadvantaged, people with disabilities, street children, and women in patriarchal societies
People with disabilities are amongst the most marginalised people in the world, especially in some of the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. Yet, those with greater disabilities can be empowered far more through the appropriate use of ICTs than can those who claim to have no disabilities. The global community needs to do very much more to develop appropriate policies and practices to ensure that people with disabilities are not further marginalised because they are unable to access and use ICTs effectively. To this end, I am developing a small website that provides information and useful links for all those working on ICTs and disabilities – do visit https://disabilityict4d.wordpress.com/ – and more importantly please share information about this hugely important agenda.