Uses of digital technologies by Nepali migrants and their families

Members of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D are leading Work Package 9 of the MIDEQ hub (funded by UKRI GCRF and Royal Holloway, University of London) and are exploring how digital tech can be used to reduce the inequalities associated with migration, especially in four corridors: Nepal-Malaysia, Ethiopia-South Africa, China-Ghana, and Haiti-Brazil. The second of our working papers presenting data on the uses of digital technologies by Nepali migrants and their families has just been published within the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s publication series. Key findings and abstract are as follows.


Key findings

1. Nepali migrants and their familes make extensive use of digital technologies – especially smart phones and the Internet for a wide range of purposes, and not just for audio and video calls2. Very few migrants make any use at all of apps  that have been developed specifically for migrants – and even those 8.7% that claim to do so may not have actually used such apps      
3. Migrant use of digital technologies increases through the migration journey – only 46.4% had used digital tech daily before migrating, whereas 85.4% used them daily while in the migration destinations.        

Abstract

This working paper forms part of the output of Work Package 9 on technology, inequality and migration within the MIDEQ Hub, a multi-disciplinary research project in 12 countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia, including the Nepal-Malaysia migration corridor.  It presents the results of an online survey of 266 respondents in and from Nepal, 58.5% of whom identified themselves as migrants, with 28.1% being family members of migrants, and 13.4% being returned migrants.  Following a summary of the methodology, which explains why an online survey was used to replace the originally planned interviews and focus groups, the paper provides an overview of the most important results and analysis, focusing on the potential influence of age, gender, countries of origin and destination, migration status, and occupational status on the ways in which respondents use digital technologies and for what purposes.  Three important conclusions for Phase Two of our research are: first, the vast majority of Nepali respondents have smart phones and access the internet very frequently for a wide range of purposes; second, simply designing another new app may not be particularly valuable; and third, it might well be wise to work with, or build on, technologies and apps already in existence, so as to improve them in ways that could increasingly empower migrants.


To read this paper in full (v.4 .pdf) please use this link.

Other UNESCO Chair in ICT4D Publications are available here.

Use of digital tech by Nepali migrants in Malaysia

Members of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D are leading Work Package 9 of the MIDEQ hub (funded by UKRI GCRF and Royal Holloway, University of London) and are exploring how digital tech can be used to reduce the inequalities associated with migration, especially in four corridors: Nepal-Malaysia, Ethiopia-South Africa, China-Ghana, and Haiti-Brazil. The first of our working papers presenting data on the use of digital tech by Nepali migrants in Malaysia has just been published within the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s publication series. Key findings and abstract are as follows.


Key findings

1. Digital technologies play an important part in the lives of Nepali migrants in Malaysia – especially mobile phones for personal communications, entertainment and games, as well as for gaining news updates 2. Very few migrants make any use at all of apps  that have been developed specifically for migrants – 97.3% made no use of such apps    3. Migrant use of digital technologies increases through the migration journey – 94% had not used digital tech before migrating, whereas 66.1% used them very often while in Malaysia

Abstract

This working paper forms part of the output of Work Package 9 on technology, inequality and migration within the MIDEQ Hub, a multi-disciplinary research project in 12 countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia, including the Nepal-Malaysia migrant corridor.  It presents the results of an online survey of 281 respondents in Malaysia, 98.2% of whom were migrants, with 1.8% being family members of migrants; 96.1% of the respondents had been born in Nepal.  Following a summary of the methodology, which explains why an online survey was used to replace the originally planned interviews and focus groups, the paper provides an overview of the most important results. Smart phones and the Internet are widely used by migrants, mainly for audio calls, video calls, news updates, text messages, and watching videos for entertainment.  Digital devices are liked mainly because they are easy to use and they help users network with others, but in contrast, they are disliked because of the costs of the devices and air-time.  An important finding is that migrants increasingly used digital technologies as their migration journeys progressed; only 3.2% used them very often in deciding to migrate, whereas 66.1% used them while in Malaysia.  Three pertinent conclusions for our future work with migrants and local tech developers on implementing a digital intervention to reduce the inequalities associated with migration are: simply designing another new app will not be particularly valuable; the widespread use of smartphones and access to the internet by migrants suggest that these might be appropriate areas on which to focus; and it might be wise to work with, or build on, technologies and apps already in existence, so as not to reinvent the wheel and add value in any interventions that we develop together.


Our next working paper (available in August) will be on the use of digital tech by migrants and their families in Nepal – preliminary results are interestingly different from those reported in this working paper!

To read this paper in full (v.4 .pdf) please use this link.

Other UNESCO Chair in ICT4D Publications are available here.

Get to know…GCRF and Professor G. Hari Harindranath and Professor Tim Unwin

This post was first published on the Royal Holloway, University of London Staff Intranet on 2nd March 2021, and is being reposted here since it provides a good overview of the work being done on migration, technology and development as part of the UKRI GCRF funded MIDEQ hub by Hari Harindranath and Tim Unwin from the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D.

Professor G. Hari Harindranath, School of Business and Management, and Professor Tim Unwin, Department of Geography, received GCRF funding for their project ‘South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub’. We recently caught up with Hari and Tim to ask more about the project and how they both got involved. 

1.  Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your roles at Royal Holloway?

Hari – I am a Professor of Information Systems in the Department of Digital Innovation and Management, School of Business and Management. I also serve as the Director of Internationalisation for the School.

Tim –  My role is Emeritus Professor of Geography (since 2011) and Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D (since 2007). I was Head of Geography (1999-2001) and then went on secondment to DFID (2001-2004) where I led the PM’s Imfundo initiative, creating partnerships for the use of technology in education in Africa. Subsequently, I was Chair of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and then Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (2011-2015).

2. GCRF funded the ‘GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub’ that you both work on, can you tell us more about the GCRF Hub?

The MIDEQ Hub (Migration for Development and Equality; 2019-2024) funded to the tune of £19,863,201 (FEC) by UKRI-GCRF and led by the PI Heaven Crawley (Coventry University) aims to understand the experiences of migrants in Africa, Asia and Latin America, focusing especially on six contrasting migration corridors (Haiti-Brazil, China-Ghana, Ethiopia-South Africa, Nepal-Malaysia, Burkino Faso-Côte d’Ivoire, and Jordan-Egypt).  MIDEQ involves some 40 organisations and includes 128 researchers, with eleven multi-disciplinary work packages cutting across these 12 countries, focusing on issues such as gender and childhood inequalities, migration intermediaries, resource flows and arts, creative resistance and wellbeing.

Hari contributing to research planning in Accra

Hari (in the pink shirt) contributing to the Hub’s research planning discussions in Accra (2019) (Photo by Tim).

3. Can you tell us about the parts you play in the Hub and the work package that you lead/are involved in?

We lead an “intervention” work package, focusing on the interface between digital technologies, inequalities and migration, but participate in all aspects of the Hub’s work and provide advice and support especially on the use of digital tech. Hari is also a member of the Hub’s Management Board and on the Data Management team, and Tim is one of the two safeguarding confidants. Our research is in three phases: understanding how migrants use digital technologies, understanding what inequalities they might like to change, and then working with migrants and tech developers to create some intervention that may help reduce inequalities.  We are in the first instance working in the first four of the corridors listed above, but may well only work in two of them for phase three, depending on logistics and the findings we make over the first three years.

4. The Hub award involved a number of universities and stakeholders working together, how did you collaborate and distribute the work?

Working together with so many partners has no doubt had its challenges! Overall, the matrix structure of having six corridors (each with two country leads) intersecting with 11 work packages (each with one or two CoIs) provides the basic framework for our work. The initial group of partners was brought together by the PI and we co-created the proposal to UKRI GCRF, but within the first year two of the country lead organisations had fallen by the wayside and had to be replaced. Two week-long face-to-face meetings of all partners in Ghana and Nairobi in 2019 were crucial to enabling us to get to know each other, and not least create some empathy and understanding of our varying skills and ambitions. This was important in helping us choose the priority corridors in which we would subsequently work. Challenges remain not least in relation to the difficulties of working on the ground with country teams due to the pandemic. 

Shaping empathy through storytelling

Shaping empathy through storytelling around the fire in Kenya (2019) (Photo by Tim).

5. Can you tell us about some of the difficulties faced by the migrants that you work with?

This is an enormous question, that has many different dimensions. COVID-19 has dominated everything over the last year, and has generally made the lives of migrants very much harder. For example, in Malaysia many migrants were rounded up in the early stages of the pandemic and put into camps so that they would not spread the disease to local citizens. Likewise, the lockdowns in South Africa have made life increasingly difficult, especially for migrants.  Across all of the corridors, legal movements of people have been drastically reduced, and this has made life very hard for migrants who were planning to return home. Interestingly, though, there is some evidence from Haiti that migrant remittances although hit significantly in the early days of the pandemic have now returned to levels similar to what they were before.

6. You were both looking at technological ways of improving the lives of migrants, can you give us an example of this?  

When we first joined the Hub our partners mostly thought that our role was to develop an app based largely on the research conducted in the early stages of MIDEQ. This is very far from our intention. Indeed, the early evidence of our research has shown that most apps developed “for” migrants are rarely if ever used by them! Instead, a key principle underlying our research and practice is that we should be the servants of the migrants, understanding how they would like to reduce inequalities, and then working with them and local tech developers to craft and implement some digital intervention. If we discover that one of the biggest fears of migrants is that tech will be used to track and control them, we might even suggest that alternative non-digital interventions might be wiser. Although that it is unlikely, we remain very open, and are working with international agencies such as the IOM, ILO and ICRC to explore how the apps that they are already developing might be improved. However, the pandemic has most certainly affected our work. It is not exactly easy to ask migrants about their digital technology use when migration and mobility have been the first to be impacted by COVID-19. 

7. What have we learnt most from working within the Hub?

Hari – I have found the experience of working in such a large multidisciplinary Hub both rewarding and challenging; rewarding because of the opportunities to work in such diverse contexts with some great colleagues and challenging because of the different assumptions people have about how that work should be done in the first place! I have learnt that perseverance is key to making any headway.

Tim – I have especially learnt to listen more! All of the partners come from very different backgrounds and have a wide range of experiences. This is an incredible opportunity for us to learn from each other – at least for those of us who realise that we still have much to learn! A project of this size has enormous challenges, and it is easy to criticize, but if we are going to be successful it is very important that we all try to pull together and be supportive of each other. We also come from very different cultures, and it is very easy to cause offence accidentally – so we must be willing to forgive others in the hope that they will also forgive us. However, none of us will ever get on with everyone, and so we need to recognise this and concentrate our efforts on working with those we like and respect.

Accra 2019

MIDEQ Hub soft launch (Accra, 2019).

8. Have you found ways to share experiences more widely within College? 

We have tried to be as open as possible in sharing our research practices and have also helped some colleagues across the College by providing advice about their own GCRF applications. We have collaborated in College workshops relating to GCRF activities, and Tim has also provided safeguarding training and advice to different groups of colleagues. We have also been able to secure College funds to bring some of our MIDEQ partners for wider networking on campus although this has had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

9. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Not really, other than having ensured we had enough funds to be able to do what we really wanted to! The budget for a project this size might seem a lot, but when broken down between the partners it is really insufficient to deliver what we would like. We have, though, been very flexible in our approach, and this has enabled us to act differently in order to ensure that we still deliver. Thus, in 2020 we had planned to spend much time in the field, especially in South Africa, Ghana, Nepal and Malaysia, where we had intended to undertake qualitative and hermeneutic research with migrants. COVID-19 prevented this, and so we had to rethink radically our approach. As a result we developed an online survey for migrants and their families in each of the countries with which we are working, and our partners (and many others) have helped share this widely. This has been more successful in some countries than in others, and the resultant quantitative data are very different from what we had intended, but this has at least enabled us to have evidence from the first phase of the research that we can then hopefully take with us into phase two when we are able to travel overseas again.

10. How do you both like to spend your time outside work?

  • Hari: The past year has been difficult as I have been shielding quite strictly. This has restricted possibilities but spending more time with the family has been a source of great comfort during the pandemic. Joining the RSPB and discovering the variety of avian life in our garden has been magical.  
  • Tim: I have always been lucky never to have drawn a real distinction between work and other aspects of my life.  I love my work-life, and the last year has been a great opportunity to write – including two 275-page reports!  However, I also enjoy wine – and have started writing a wine column again for a local magazine – and I am fortunate enough to have a garden where I grow some of the vegetables and fruit that we consume.  I also enjoy walking in the mountains, and exploring new places, but that’s not been something I have been able to do over the last year![1]

[1] This last section (10) from our draft response to the questions was not included in the originally published post, but we have added it here to provide a more rounded insight to our work – and play.

To find out more, do look at the MIDEQ site, and also the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s material on our work at the interface between digital technologies, migration and inequalities – this includes lots of resources (especially links to relevant materials) that we are making available through our research work. Do get in touch with us through our Contact Page.

Draft progamme for the launch of Education for the Most Marginalised

We are excited to release further details of the programme for the launch of the report on Education for the Most Marginalised post-COVID-19: Guidance for governments on the use of digital technologies in education which will be from 2pm-4pm GMT on Friday 18th December. Please register here to receive joining instructions. Further details about the initiative are available here.

  • Opening: Molly Jamieson Eberhardt (Program Director R4D, and Director EdTech Hub)
  • Welcome: Michael Trucano (Global Lead for Innovation in Education and Senior Education and Technology Policy Specialist, World Bank)
  • Introduction to the report: Tim Unwin (Chairholder, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D and Co-Founder of TEQtogether)
  • High-level panel:
  • Video reflections:
    • Amina Umohoza (Digital Opportunity Trust, Youth Leadership Advisory Board, Rwanda; CEO of Saye Company and the Founder of Dukataze)
    • Helen Crompton (Associate Professor Teaching and Learning, Old Dominion University)
  • Insights on the report’s Guidance Notes:
    • Ensuring resilient connectivity: Christopher Yoo (John H. Chestnut Professor of Law, Communication, and Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and the founding director of the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition), Leon Gwaka (University of Pennsylvania) and Müge Haseki (University of Pennsylvania)
    • Keeping Safe and Local Context: Azra Naseem (Director, Blended and Digital Learning, Aga Khan University, Pakistan)
    • Small Island States and the importance of sustainable electricity: Javier Rua (former Director of Public Policy for Sunrun; former Chairman, Puerto Rico Telecommunications Regulatory Board)
    • The importance of OER and Creative Commons: Paul West (Senior Education Adviser, West and Associates; and South Africa Chapter Lead, Creative Commons)

The final programme, including any revisions will be available by 16th December.

Speakers will talk for a maximum of 5 minutes each, enabling there to be a lively and forthright discussion afterwards. We welcome all those committed to empowering the poorest and most marginalised through the use of digital technologies in education to join the conversation, and work together to implement the report’s recommendations.

Funded by the FCDO and World Bank through the EdTech Hub.

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at the virtual IGF 2020

Members of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D were delighted to participate in the virtual IGF 2020 gathering earlier this month – although most of us would have much preferred actually to have been on the ground in Katowice enjoying Polish hospitality and the opportunity to network and discuss ideas together face-to-face! Thanks to everyone who made this event possible and so successful.

In particular the Chairholder participated in the following three sessions:

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!

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…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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?

23eaf6ed-e0e1-456d-915f-e10a2f72881a
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.