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.

Participating in IFLA’s President’s Meeting and Ministerial Forum, Buenos Aires, 22-23 May 2019

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) convened a Forum of Ministers and Secretaries of Culture of Latin America and the Caribbean on 22nd May, followed by its 2019 President’s meeting on the theme of Motors of change: libraries and sustainable development on 23rd May, both in Buenos Aires.  These important meetings provided a valuable opportunity for those actively involved in the role of libraries in contributing to the development of Latin American and Caribbean countries to share ideas and experiences, and agree on ways through which their work can be further enhanced.  Tim Unwin, as Chairholder of our UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, was honoured to have been invited to give a keynote address, and was delighted to have participated in both days of discussions.

Ministers ForumThe Forum of Minister and Secretaries of Culture was held in the very impressive Congress of the Argentine Nation, and provided an excellent opportunity for senior government officials from across the region to share presentations and discuss the theme of Libraries, Access to Information and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Welcoming participants, IFLA President Glòria Pérez-Salmerón reminded them of the theme of her presidency – Motors of Change – and underlined the difference that libraries can make, for so many people, in so many ways.  IFLA Secretary-General Gerald Leitner stressed to the ministers of the power they had in their hands, and made the case for ensuring that they – and libraries – are included fully in national development plans.  A key outcome of the meeting was the signing of the Buenos Aires Declaration which affirmed participating governments’ commitment to the UN 2030 Agenda, and to the power of libraries and access to information to achieve it.  The meeting also saw the launch of the second edition of the Development and Access to Information Report produced by IFLA and the Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington, focusing especially on SDG4 (education), SDG8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG10 (inequalities), SDG13 (climate chage) and SDG16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), and edited by Stephen Wyber and Maria Garrido.

In the evening, there was a Cultural Gala in the Public Hall of the Library of the National Congress, which consisted of three main elements:

  • NachaA dance performance in two parts by the Arte Ballet Compañía: the Don Quijote suite, and Tiempos de Tango, with ideation, choreography and direction by María Fernanda Blanco.
  • Music played by the Chamber Orchestra of the Honorable Argentine Chamber of Deputies with a repertoire dedicated to the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, featuruing especially the saxophone soloist Jorge Retamoza.
  • A wonderful closing sequence of songs by the famous Argentine artist Nacha Guevara.

The 2019 President’s Meeting on 23rd May built on the themes of the Development and Access to Information Report, and began with a session of welcoming speeches by IFLA President Glòria Pérez-Salmerón, IFLA Secretary-General Gerald Leitner, Alejandro Lorenzo César Santa (General Coordinating Director, Library of the National Congress), and Rene Mauricio Valdes (United Nations Resident Coordinator, Argentina).  This was followed by Tim Unwin’s keynote speech on Libraries and Sustainable Development: challenges of inequality in a digital world (.pdf of slide deck), which:

  • Screenshot 2019-05-25 at 21.00.54Challenged those who believe that the SDGs will deliver on their aspirations;
  • Highlighted the role of digital technologies in leading to increasing inequalities;
  • Explored issues around power, knowledge and content;
  • Advocated for the important role that libraries can serve as open places and communal resource centres; and
  • Concluded by encouraging participants to have the will to make a difference.

In the afternoon, there were three sets of discussions and presentations by the authors of the Development and Access to Information Report and others on the following themes:

  • A Library Response to Global Challenges: What Can Libraries Contribute to International Efforts to Tackle the Issues that Affect the Planet?
  • Driving Development at a Local Level: Libraries Making a Difference to People’s Lives
  • Improving Decision-Making and Accountability: Libraries as Pillars of Democracy and Good Governance

These two days of lively and interesting discussion provided a wealth of ideas for all those participating from governments and libraries to implement on return to their own countries.  It was also a very valuable opportunity to build a network of people working at the interface between libaries and international development, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Very many thanks are due to the hard work and hospitality of colleagues from IFLA and our Argentian hosts.

 

TEQtogether workshop at WSIS 2019: changing men’s attitudes and behaviours to women and technology

TEQtogether 1Members of TEQtogether, working with colleagues in the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, were delighted to have convened a workshop on 11th April at WSIS 2019 in Geneva on Changing men’s attitudes and behaviours to women and technology.  This represents part of Royal Holloway, University of London’s commitment to the global EQUALS partnership designed to increase gender digital equality.  The session began with three short opening presentations:

  • An overview of the work of TEQtogether
    • informing men about how their actions impact digital gender inequality (see  Resources and Other Initiatives pages);
    • Identifying actions that men can take to enhance gender equality in the tech workplace (see  Guidance Notes)
    • Recommending actions that men can take to reduce digital violence against women
    • Encouraging reverse mentoring through which women mentor men at all levels in tech organisations.
  • An introduction to TEQtogether’s Guidance Notes by Paul Spiesberger (ict4d.at), focusing especially on guiding for when running a computer programing workshop
  • An overview of work on the use of mobiles for sexual harassment by Bushra Hassan (International Islamic University, Islamabad).

TEQtogether 2The main part of the workshop then built on these presentations to discuss what needs to be done to change men’s and boys’ attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls in technology.  The co-created mindmap developed during the workshop is illustrated below (link to detailed .pdf file of the mindmap).2 Changing men’s attitudes and behaviours to women & technologyThe four most important issues identified that require attention were:

  • Education (especially gender sensitivity materials and unconscious bias)
  • Family roles (especially in early life)
  • The resocialization of men
  • Tech industry and employment

A second tier of issues focused on:

  • Cultural change – takes time
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Awareness raising
  • Role models (both men and women)
  • Virtual reality (so that men can experience the difficulties faced by women)
  • Legislation
  • Practical women’s empowerment.

TEQtogether is committed to take forward actions that will make a difference to all of the above, through its guidance notes and future workshops.

UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at WSIS Annual Forum 2019

Screenshot 2019-03-27 at 22.33.08.pngMembers of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D and TEQtogether are playing an active role in this year’s WSIS Annual Forum between 8th and 12th April in Geneva.  We are delighted to be involved in the following sessions:

  • Workshop with the Inter-Islamic Network on IT on Digital technologies and accessibility: from rhetoric to reality as part of the special WSIS Accessibility day on Monday 8th April (Room T103, 0900-10.45)
  • Moderating Academia Round Table Action Line C4 Facilitation Meeting on Capacity Building, New teaching approaches for higher learning in the digital era,  (Room L2, 11.00-13.00)
  • Moderating High Level Policy Session on Gender Mainstreaming on Wednesday 10th April (Session 10, Room 2 CICG, 10.00-11.00)
  • Panellist in EQUALS session on How ICTs could be useful tools against gender discrimination, Thursday 11th April (Room C2, 11.00-13.00)
  • TEQtogether workshop on Changing men’s attitudes and behaviours to women & technology, with the New York Academy of Sciences and Global Scribes, Thursday 11th April (H2, 14.30-16.15) as part of our contribution to EQUALS.
  • Delivering one of the inaugural WSIS TALKX

Please do join us for these sessions.  We intend to try to make them as interactive and participatory as possible!

PhD Studentship on ICT, migration and inequality

We invite applications for an exciting PhD studentship at the interface between ICTs and migration.  This would suit someone from an interdisciplinary background with a passion for working with migrants to develop technologies that will reduce inequality.

Overview of the project

MTN mobile moneyThe UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London is part of the UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub, funded by the ESRC through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The Hub is investigating how South-South migration – or the movement of people between less developed countries in the Global South – contributes to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals such as ending poverty and reducing inequality. The Hub is led by Heaven Crawley, Professor of International Migration at Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, and delivered in partnership with 20 leading universities, six international organisations, and numerous local organisations in the 12 countries in which the hub will work: Burkina Faso, Brazil, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Jordan, Malaysia, Nepal and South Africa.

Dr G. Hari Harindranath (School of Management, and member of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D) and Professor Tim Unwin (Dept. of Geography and Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D) from Royal Holloway are leading on the Hub’s work package on ‘ICT, migration and inequality’. Our work focuses on understanding the extent and ways through which the application of ICTs has alleviated or exacerbated existing inequalities in the context of South-South migration, as well as successes and challenges facing the use of ICT for migrant-related development outcomes. It also considers how the potential benefits of ICT can be leveraged to ensure that the developmental benefits of migration are harnessed and increased, particularly through reducing inequalities in ICT access and use. See: https://ict4d.org.uk/technology-inequality-and-migration/

Candidate

If you have a good undergraduate degree (2.1 or equivalent) and a Master’s in social science, information systems, computer science or allied disciplines with an interest, and preferably expertise, in migration and ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) you should consider applying. The successful candidate will have skills in doing qualitative and/or quantitative research, will demonstrate an excellent level of spoken and written English, will possess good interpersonal communication skills, and should be prepared to conduct field research in one or two of the countries included in the project. More on entry requirements here: https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/studying-here/postgraduate/management/management-phd/ Please indicate clearly on your application that you are applying for the ‘GCRF SSM Hub PhD Studentship’ and mention Dr Harindranath as potential supervisor.

Studentship details (closing date for applications, 30th April 2019)

The 3-year PhD studentship, to begin in Sep 2019, will cover fees at the Home/EU rate of £4,195 per year and £16,553 per year for stipend. International students are welcome to apply provided they can cover the difference between the Home/EU fee and the overseas student fee. This is an excellent opportunity to work in close partnership with experienced researchers and practitioners from around the world, on a complex and challenging topic of global significance. We will conduct interviews (face-to-face or via Skype) for the studentship during May.

Application Process

Please send a research proposal (c.750-1000 words) on any aspect of our workstream’s theme of ‘ICT, inequality and migration’ in the context of South-South Migration together with the documents listed below direct to Dr G. Hari Harindranath, School of Management (G.Harindranath[at]rhul.ac.uk) and Tim Unwin, Department of Geography (Tim.Unwin[at]rhul.ac.uk) by 30th April 2019:

  • academic transcripts
  • English language qualifications, if your first language is not English
  • academic references
  • resume or CV to show published work and any industrial experience.

Shortlisted candidates will then be contacted to complete a formal application.

Meanwhile, enquiries can also be submitted to Dr G. Hari Harindranath, School of Management and  Tim Unwin, Department of Geography on the above , or through our contacts page.

UKRI copy

GCRFsmall

Inception meeting of UKRI GCRF South-South Migration Hub in Ghana

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, represented by Dr. Hari Harindranath and Tim Unwin, is excited to be participating in the inception meeting of the UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub, being held at the spacious University of Ghana Campus in Legon.  The multidisciplinary Hub, led by Professor Heaven Crawley from the University of Coventry, is committed to “doing development research” in new and different ways, and this inception meeting is living true to that aim – with the first morning being illuminated by music, art and poetry, as well as lively discussion.

The first day is focusing on how the more than forty partners will work together as well as getting to know those colleagues leading on the various corridors and work packages.  The second day will focus on issues such as research ethics, the baseline survey and our communication strategy, and the entire final day will be devoted to safeguarding issues.

We hope that the pictures below catch something of the diversity, energy and expertise of those participating in this fun-packed gathering.  The dancing starts later…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

UKRI copy

GCRFsmall

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D: research, policy and practice

We are delighted to share this new poster prepared for the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D by Jen Thornton, highlighting the aims of our research and how these influence policy and practice.  Especial thanks too to our friends Sanna Ojanperä and Mark Graham at the Oxford Internet Institute for preparing the map on the latest figures for the relative costs of fixed broadband subscriptions across the world.  Put simply, we try to do the best possible quality of research with, and in the interests of, the poorest and most marginalised.

ICT4D_2

For a high resolution .pdf version, please click here.

UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s response to the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation call for contributions

We share below in full our response to the recent call for contributions by the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation. Whilst we have sought to respond to these questions in good faith, we have serious concerns about the process and its likely impact.  Some of these are summarised in Section IV below.  Unfortunately the consultation seems very flawed in design, and we do not believe that it will have any significant positive impact on the use of digital technologies by poor and marginalised people and communities.

However, should you also hold any of the views and opinions below, do please also reflect these in your submissions to the Panel.

The headings in bold (and italics) below are those provided by the Panel – our responses are listed in normal font below.

I. Values & Principles:

a) What are the key values that individuals, organizations, and countries should support, protect, foster, or prioritize when working together to address digital issues?

1) The most important value is that of RESPONSIBILITY – at every scale from the UN, through governments and companies, down to individuals.  Scientists are responsible for the technologies that they develop; countries are responsible for the regulatory environments they create; the UN is responsible for the examples of good practice and advice that agencies share with governments; companies are responsible for the harm that their technologies do.  For too long, the UN focus has been on rights, but rights without responsibilities are problematic.

2) RESPECT for the OTHER.  All too often, digital technologies are imposed (through marketing, sales, government action etc.) without sufficient recognition of the real needs of others.  Clearly, the private sector is interested in being able to sell the same product to as many people as possible, even though this might not be in the best interests of many of those people.  However, it is very important that technologies are designed with the interests of users at heart, and users have diverse interests.

3) TRANSPARENCY.  This value is problematic, because it can be seen as being in conflict with privacy (below).  However, transparency is crucially important in contexts such as regulatory decisions pertaining to spectrum auctions, the use made of personal data by social media corporations and others, and the monitoring of citizens by governments.

4) PRIVACY (see also Transparency above).  The notion of privacy varies in meaning and understanding across the world, although a “Western” conceptualisation of the privacy of the individual has come to dominate much global discourse on this matter.  Accordingly, information and data that are deemed to be “private” should not be accessible in the public domain.

5) SECURITY.  When designing digital services and technologies, it is important to understand how these have the potential to impact the security of different stakeholders.  Whatever approach is used, critical security questions need to be addressed at each stage of the digital design: Who or what is being secured? Who or what is doing the securing? Why is the subject being secured? Who or what is the subject being secured from?

6) THE GOLDEN RULE.  In essence, this can be summarised as doing to others as you would have done to yourself; it can also be considered as doing no harm.  Despite considerable discussion by philosophers about “universalism” this is probably the only universally accepted value across most of the world’s cultures and societies.  It has important implications with respect to digital technologies.  The behaviour of senior executives in global corporations who send their children to be educated in “digitally-free” schools, and yet make and sell technologies for use in schools would seem to run counter to this value.

7) TRUST is important at many levels when working together on digital issues.  All too often digital partnerships fail because insufficient emphasis is placed on trust in their initial creation.  Trust is also absolutely essential in global negotiations around such issues as Internet governance and digital security.

b) What principles should guide stakeholders as they cooperate with each-other to address issues brought about by digital technology?

The principles essentially derive from the values noted in 1(a)

1) Above all else, the principle of “INCLUSION” should be at the forefront when we are “working together to address digital issues”.  The needs of the poorest and most marginalised should be prioritised, especially in UN, civil society and government agendas.   Digital technologies marginalise individuals and communities unless they are designed to be inclusive.  Specific attention should be paid to working with people with disabilities, out of school youth, women and girls (especially in patriarchal societies), and refugees.

2) Closely allied to the value of inclusion, is the need to prioritise a REDUCTION IN INEQUALITIES rather than an increase in economic growth.  For too long, the UN, governments, private sector companies and civil society have all worked in the belief that economic growth is the main way to reduce poverty.  Such policies and practices have failed to recognise that in most instances economic growth fueled by digital technology has actually increased inequalities at a range of scales.  This is not only morally wrong, but it has important implications for peace, prosperity and social cohesion.

3) WITH THE POOR.  In the past, far too much effort has been placed on using digital technologies “for” the poor and marginalised.  Technologies are designed and developed usually in the richer countries of the world, and then promoted as being useful in the reduction of poverty.  This approach is fundamentally flawed.  Instead digital technologies should be designed WITH the poor.  Indeed, the poorest and most marginalised should be at the heart of determining the needs that these technologies should serve, the sorts of technologies that are developed, and how they are used.

4)  DRAWING ON EXPERIENCE.  Far too many uses of technology in development practice reinvent the wheel.  Insufficient attention and understanding is placed on understanding the successes and failures of the past; this is costly and all too often replicates failure.

5) True PARTNERSHIP.  Many technology initiatives claim to work in partnership, but all too often such partnerships fail to deliver in the interests of the poorest and most marginalised.  This is frequently because those involved do not fully understand the complexities and principles of delivering successful partnerships.  Much more effort is required in ensuring that when partnerships are used they are indeed effective

6) MITIGATING HARM.  Much global attention, especially by UN agencies, not least through the WSIS process, is focused on showing how ICTs can be used positively to deliver the SDGs.  However, this is only part of the story.  ICTs can equally be used to do harm.  Therefore, all initiatives using digital technologies for “development” should pay as much attention to mitigating harm as they do to doing good.

7) LANGUAGE matters.  The words we use not only reveal the way we think, but they can also shape the thinking of others.  They therefore need to be used carefully.  Much focus in the tech sector is on connecting the “next” billion; but this will only increase inequality because the poorest and most marginalised will be left behind.  However, we should not aim to connect the “bottom” billion because this is pejorative; instead we should call them the “first” billion because they are most important.  Hence our focus should always be on the “first billion” when we think about and deliver initiatives designed to support the poorest and most marginalised.

8) A shift from the INDIVIDUAL TO COMMUNAL interests.  For too long, the emphasis of tech companies, governments and indeed the UN (as in INDIVIDUAL human rights) has been on the individual.  However, there are strong arguments that shifting the emphasis to communal interests would create a fairer and more equal society.  The working out of this principle can be seen in the tensions, for example, between the USA (more individualistic) and the EU (more communal) in negotiations relating to digital technologies.

9) Widespread and informed PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT about the kind of digital future that our societies want.  This is particularly important with respect to debates over AI and cyborgs.  Some fear that it is already too late to prevent “pure” human beings from becoming extinct as they are replaced by machine-humans or human-machines; others argue that this does not matter, and that humans have always used machines for their own advantage.

10) DESIGN AT SCALE.  The model of private sector companies and civil society organisations funding and delivering small pilot scale projects in the expectation that they can then be rolled out globally is fundamentally flawed.  All too often, those promoting these pilots bemoan that governments will not fund them to go to scale and be sustainable.  The fundamental problem here is that most were never in the first place designed at scale, and it is therefore scarcely surprising that no-one can find the necessary budgets for them to be rolled out more widely.

11) FOCUS ON WHAT WORKS WELL and not just on innovation.  Innovation is important, but most innovations fail.  It is therefore at least as important for donors and governments to fund what is known to work quite well, and then make it even better and more widespread, rather than focusing only on innovations (many of which will fail, and thus reflect a waste of money).

c) How can these values and principles be better embedded into existing private and/or public activities in the digital space?

There is a huge literature on this.  Section 5 below highlights some of the more valuable work that the panel should read.  If there is only one book you have time for, you should read Tim Unwin’s (2017) Reclaiming Information and Communication Technologies for development (OUP).

1) The role of  PRIVATE sector companies.  The private sector cannot be expected to deliver on the needs of those who cannot pay for its goods and services.  The role of companies is to make profits for their owners and shareholders.  Many governments and UN agencies see companies primarily as sources of additional revenue, often through their Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) budgets.  However, more often than not, the real benefits of involving private sector companies in technology for development initiatives are in their ability to deliver on the ground, their focus on ensuring ‘profit’, and thus on ensuring sustainability.

2) The role of the PUBLIC SECTOR.  The public sector (governments) is theoretically the only sector (of the three: public, private and civil society) that should have the interests of all of their citizens at heart.  Hence, they must play a crucial role in serving the interests of their most marginalised citizens.  A real challenge here is that many of those in governments are seen as being self-serving, and in such circumstances citizens often say that they trust companies more than they do their governments.  Given the absolutely crucial role of governments, much more needs to be done to help train politicians and civil society (and indeed UN agencies) about digital technologies, so that they can take wise decisions in the interests of all.

3) REGULATION.  In balancing the interests of the private sector and governments, good regulation has a key role to play.  All too often, though, ICT and Telecommunication regulators have erred on the side of the private sector rather than their poorest citizens.  This balance needs carefully to be changed, so that more affordable and more extensive access can be made available to digital technologies.  As is well known, access by itself is not enough to ensure that the poor can empower themselves through ICTs, but without access they are unable even to begin to use technologies in their own interests

4) OPEN and PROPRIETARY solutions and INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS (IPR).  The balance between open and proprietary solutions is complex and varies in different contexts.  There are strong arguments that anything that is funded by governments should be open and accessible to all.  However, IPR can act as an incentive for people to create new solutions from which then can benefit.  This can in turn motivate them to gain digital literacy and information security skills that they need to be self sufficient.  For the sake of collaboration and development, it may also be useful to make more intellectual property available for free to them, and at the same time not take and register their cultural symbols, traditions, designs, unique products and services to patent and copyright them in some developed country system.

5) A focus on the POOREST AND MOST MARGINALISED.  Above all, if we wish to use digital technologies for all, we must always ensure that they are designed in a way that is inclusive and does not further marginalise the most marginalised.  The evidence of the past, however, suggests that this is unlikely to happen.  It is the rich and powerful who have always used technologies primarily to serve their interests and remain in power.

II. Methods & Mechanisms

a) How do the stakeholders you are familiar with address their social, economic, and legal issues related to digital technologies? How effective or successful are these mechanisms for digital cooperation? What are their gaps, weaknesses, or constraints? How can these be addressed?

This question is ridiculously broad, and relates closely to other questions, so there is a danger of simply repeating what we have already stated.  Members of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D work with governments, the private sector, civil society and academia, and some of us have >40 years of experience in using digital technologies in these sectors However, in brief, we would make the following observations on mechanisms for digital co-operation.

1) On EFFECTIVENESS.  Most attempts to build partnerships to deliver effective digital technological solutions in the interests of the poorest and most marginalised have failed.  There are many reasons for this (see literature noted in V below), but among the more importance are:

  • a failure to apply basic well-known principles of partnership and cooperation;
  • a failure of trust;
  • a failure of appropriate planning;
  • a failure to deliver on commitments;
  • self-interest rather than an interest in the well-being of the poor; and
  • a failure of leadership.

To stimulate co-operation, it is important to ask critical questions about what benefits digital service and technology provide people with (see literature in V below), and it is also essential to understand the many barriers (access, skills, knowledge, affordability, relevance) to accessing those benefits and how different barriers shape access for different communities.

2) GAPS, WEAKNESSES AND CONSTRAINTS.  In part these relate directly to the first part of this question.  However, gaps, weaknesses and constraints include:

  • competitive rather than collaborative interests;
  • lack of knowledge about effective partnership delivery;
  • lack of trust-building;
  • lack of cultural understanding and awareness;
  • excessive arrogance, and lack of humility;
  • poor leadership;
  • failure to establish what stakeholder interests really are;
  • lack of transparency and openness; and
  • focus on economic growth rather than reducing inequalities.

It should be emphasised that a lack of funding is NOT usually a barrier or constraint.  A good well-designed and appropriate initiative can always find ways of being funded.  Indeed, it is not usually the funding, but rather the will of those involved actually to deliver, that is the biggest problem!

3) How can these be ADDRESSED.  At the danger of repeating answers given elsewhere, the following would provide some solutions:

  • enhanced education about digital technologies;
  • improved training of government officials and politicians;
  • widespread public debate and involvement in decisions over digital futures;
  • specific training in partnership building and cooperation, and involving experienced partnership brokers in delivering partnerships sustainably;
  • ensuring a joined-up UN approach (what, for example, does the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation really actually add to the many UN-wide initiatives ongoing in the field of digital technologies?).  The CEB and HLCP are, for example, doing valuable work in trying to develop such UN-system-wide strategies;
  • greater involvement of poor and marginalised people and communities at all stages from the design to the use of digital technologies;
  • giving greater power (and respect) to Regulators; and
  • focusing more on the impact that digital technologies have on inequality than on economic growth.

b) Who are the forgotten stakeholders in these mechanisms? How can we strengthen the voices of women, the youth, small enterprises, small island states and others who are often missing?

1) The list of implied forgotten stakeholders in the question (women, the youth, small enterprises, small island states) is itself revealing, because it reflects a very top-down approach to these issues and ignores the most marginalised people and communities.  We would add:

  • people with disabilities (we hope His Excellency Mohammad Al Gergawi will champion this on the panel);
  • refugees;
  • indigenous and isolated communities;
  • out of school youth and “street children”;
  • the LGBTIQ community; and
  • the elderly

2) How to STRENGTHEN THE VOICES.  This is indeed a really important but difficult question.  The usual arguments are that: democratic processes can involve them; the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a mechanism through which their voices are expressed; social media platforms can be used; and we should draw on the experience of those who have deep working knowledge of their needs and wishes, such as civil society organisations.  But none of these have really yet worked effectively (see Unwin, 2017 – in Section V –  for a discussion of these issues of voice, and further references cited therein).  There is also no one-size-fits all solution.

Some suggestions:

  • on “women” – we need to change men’s attitudes and behaviours to woman in/and technology, thereby enabling women to have greater voice (see TEQtogether, Section V)
  • on small island states – very intractable – not only because of small size and isolation, but also because they usually have few people with the skills and expertise and they cannot spend all their time out of the country “giving voice”.  Solutions include: dramatic cut-back on the number of events relating to digital technologies (there is already far too much duplication and overlap in conferences and summits); dramatic improvement in virtual meeting technology; substantial efforts at capacity development…
  • on youth – again there are real problems in identifying “representative youth”.  All too often youth representatives replicate existing power structures in the countries from which they come.  Furthermore, they are often also often treated very patronisingly – their voices should not only be listened to, but also really acted upon.  We also need more interaction between the elderly and the young.  Reverse/360 degree mentoring can be valuable in this context.

c) What new or innovative mechanisms might be devised for multi-stakeholder cooperation in the digital space?

Why always look for the new, when the old could work if better delivered?  There is a huge literature on technology partnerships and cooperation, but few people take the time to read it.  The lessons are very well known.  The trouble is that many people actually want to reinvent the wheel, often because they want to claim something for themselves as being new, but also often because they think they do not have time to learn how to deliver what they want.

There is also a problem with terminology.  Most people now use the term “multi-stakeholder”, when what they actually mean is “multi-sector”.  Multi-stakholder only means having many stakeholders, which could all be from, for example, the private sector!  In general usage, though, the term is usually now used to organisations, cooperation or processes that involve the private sector, the public sector and civil society – and so in such instances should properly be called “multi-sector”.  As noted above, language is very important.

Some existing partnership and cooperation good practices are noted below.  Geldof et al (2011) noted five broad factors as being important in successful ICT4D partnerships, and these also apply for any kind of cooperation in the digital space:

  • “Success is increased when detailed attention is paid to the local context and the involvement of the local community in partnership implementation.
  • It is important for such partnerships to have clear and agreed intended development outcomes, even where constituent partners may themselves have different reasons for being involved in the partnership.
  • Sustainability and scalability of the intended development intervention need to be built into partnership design at the very beginning.
  • Successful partnerships are built on trust, honesty, openness, mutual understanding and respect.
  • A supportive wider ICT environment needs to be in place, both in terms of policy and infrastructure, if such partnerships are to flourish and deliver effective development outcomes”.

In general eight key principles are important for effective multi-sector cooperation or partnerships in the field of digital technologies:

  1. A political and infrastructural environment that is conducive to the implementation of partnerships and cooperation. Without this, there is little point in starting.
  2. Engagement of all relevant stakeholders as early as possible in the initiative.
  3. The involvement of a high level champion, as well as leaders of all of the entities involved.
  4. The identification of clear and mutually agreed objectives for the partnership or cooperation at the very start.
  5. Consistent monitoring and evaluation of the partnership or cooperative process and its intended outcomes. Again, this must be done from the beginning by ensuring a baseline study exists to enable impact and outcomes to be measured effectively.
  6. A clear and realistic resourcing framework, whereby each partner is explicit about the resources that they are willing to make available to the partnership or cooperation, as well as their expectations of the benefits of being involved in the partnership. Mechanisms must also exist for the inclusion of additional partners at stages during the process where new needs are identified.
  7. An ethical framework that emphasises a focus on transparency, and helps build trust within the partnership or cooperation.
  8. A management office and/or partnership broker to ensure the day-to-day and effective management and delivery of the partnership or cooperation.

This is not new, but is rarely undertaken in practice.  Perhaps it would be new to change our approaches away from the “fetishisation” of innovation and focus instead on what we know works.

III. Illustrative Action Areas

The Panel plans to explore, among others, the following areas where greater digital cooperation is required:

  • inclusive development and closing the digital gap
  • inclusive participation in the digital economy
  • data
  • protection of human rights online, particularly of children, women and marginalized communities
  • human agency and voice/participation in shaping technological choices and architecture
  • digital trust and security
  • building the capacity of individuals, institutions and governments for the digital transformation.

a) What are the challenges faced by stakeholders (e.g. individuals, Governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations, the technical and academic communities) in these areas?

Again there is a wealth of good research and practice in these areas.  The panel would be advised to read some of this literature.  The values and principles noted above in our responses to Section 1 are also highly pertinent here.

It is interesting that you do not ask WHY the many challenges exist.  Only by asking this question can you hope to consider mechanisms to deal with the many ones that exist.  So, we offer just a few of the more important inter-related reasons:

  • individual interests and greed
  • competition for market share
  • competition between and within organisations and especially UN agencies
  • arrogance
  • failure to trust
  • failure to listen to the needs of “the other” and especially the poorest and most marginalised
  • failure of governments to serve the interests of all of their citizens
  • lack of transparency
  • inadequate leaders and champions

b) What are successful examples of cooperation among stakeholders in these areas? Where is further cooperation needed?

There are remarkably few really good examples of successful cooperation and partnership in the interests of the poorest and most marginalised.  Much depends on how success is defined.  Some famous initiatives (such as the NePAD e-Schools Project in Africa a decade ago) have often been described as successes (from the perspective of individual stakeholders), when they were actually complete failures with respect to enhancing education of children systemically across Africa.

It is interesting that the question posed here is “Where is further cooperation needed?”.  If existing cooperation is poor, then it is clear that we should not have further such cooperation, but instead need to change the nature of such cooperation, as suggested in IIIa above.

c) What form might cooperation among stakeholders in these areas take? What values and principles should underpin it?

This question has largely been answered by responses to Section I on values and principles.  There are very many guides to good cooperation and partnership that the Panel should read if they are not already aware of their content.  The references included in the material cited in Section V will provide plenty of food for thought.

In addition, though, it should be emphasised that we have specifically outlined above some of these points in relation to digital security and trust. Another aspect to consider is the starting point for the design of digital technology and services. Some principles for engendering trust in digital design are again outlined in the references in Section V under “Security”.

IV. Do you have any other ideas you would like to share with the Panel?

Unfortunately the questions in this consultation are somewhat broad and repetitive.  Most have already been answered in the very extensive literature that exists, some of which we list below in Section V.  We wonder how much time panel members actually have to read some of the most important texts on the subject?  The answers to most of the questions herein are well-known; the challenge is to act upon this knowledge.  It is a challenge of “will”.

We also noted above our concerns about the role of the High-Level Panel on Digital Co-operation, and remain unconvinced that it is the appropriate vehicle through which real change can be delivered.  There are already UN bodies and structures that could readily have fulfilled this role.  Why was there the need to create yet another high-level  body?  The structure of the Panel is also problematic if it intends to understand and deliver on the key issues noted above.  Whilst efforts have clearly been made to get reasonable gender and regional balances, the panel is heavily made up of elite people, and has a strong private sector emphasis.  Few members are from very poor or marginalised backgrounds, and although many might claim to know about poverty and marginalisation, few have really experienced it.

Moreover, the poor design of this “consultation/survey” generates concern whether the analysis will make a significant difference to global policy or practice.  We have nevertheless responded in good faith, and hope that our concerns over the likely impact are misplaced.

V. Please provide your numbered references or links to additional reports/documents here.

On ICTs FOR DEVELOPMENT

  • The work of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D https://ict4d.org.uk
  • Unwin, T (2017) Reclaiming Information and Communication Technologies for Development, OUP
  • Unwin, T. (ed.) (2009) Information and Communication Technologies for Development, CUP
  • Sharafat, A. and Lehr, W. (eds) (2017) ICT-Centric Economic Growth, Innovation and Job Creation, Geneva: ITU

On ICT PARTNERSHIPS

  • Geldof, M., Grimshaw, D., Kleine, D. and Unwin, T.  2011.  What are the key lessons of ICT4D partnerships for poverty reduction?  London: Department for International Development.
  • Unwin, T. (2015) MultiStakeholder Partnerships in Information and Communication for Development Interventions, in International Encyclopedia of Digital Communication and Society, Chichester: Wiley, 634-44.
  • Unwin, T. (with Alex Wong) Global Education Initiative: Retrospective on Partnerships for Education Development 2003-2011, Geneva: World Economic Forum, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GEI_PartnershipsEducationDevelopment_Report_2012.pdf

On SECURITY:

On CHANGING MEN’S ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOURS TO WOMEN AND TECHNOLOGY

Digital technologies and the FUTURE OF EDUCATION AND LEARNING IN DEPRIVED CONTEXTS

Members of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D are part of new UKRI GCRF South-South Migration Hub led by Coventry University

AirtelA group of leading international migration experts – including from the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London – has won £20 m backing from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to explore how South-South migration is affecting inequality and development in less developed regions.

The South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub won funding for the five-year project under the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) call to establish interdisciplinary research Hubs addressing complex global challenges. The recipients of the awards were announced on 10th December 2018, and made public on 22nd January 2019.

Dr G. Hari Harindranath (School of Management, and member of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D) and Professor Tim Unwin (Department of Geography and Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D) from Royal Holloway are among the experts who, as part of the Hub, have been awarded £688,000 to investigate how South-South migration – or the movement of people between less developed countries in the Global South (for example between African countries) – contributes to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals such as ending poverty and reducing inequality.

They will work alongside academics, artists, community leaders, international organisations and policymakers from 12 countries across South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Middle East better to understand international migration patterns and consequences, and to support and influence global migration policy development.

South-South migration is estimated to account for nearly half of all international migration (up to 70% in some places), but its potential benefits have been undermined by limited and unequal access to rights and the economic and social opportunities that migration can bring.

Using a wide range of research methods and creative approaches, the Hub will map, record and draw attention to the experiences of those who move, generating a better understanding of – and encouraging a greater range of policy responses to address – the challenges associated with international migration. It is hoped that the work will re-balance academic and political debates, currently driven largely by the perspectives and priorities of countries in the Global North.

The GCRF South-South Migration Inequality and Development Hub will be led by Heaven Crawley, Professor of International Migration at Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, and delivered in partnership with:

  • 20 leading universities, as well as the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and PositiveNegatives;
  • Six international organisations – the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Research Institute For Social Development (UNRISD); and
  • Numerous local organisations in the 12 countries in which the hub will work: Burkina Faso, Brazil, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Jordan, Malaysia, Nepal and South Africa.

Dr Harindranath and Professor Unwin’s work package on ‘Leveraging ICTs to address inequality’ focuses on understanding the extent and ways through which the application of ICTs has alleviated or exacerbated existing inequalities in the context of South-South migration, as well as successes and challenges facing the use of ICT for migrant-related development outcomes. It also considers how the potential benefits of ICT can be leveraged to ensure that the developmental benefits of migration are harnessed and increased, particularly through reducing inequalities in ICT access and use.

 

UKRI copy

GCRFsmall

Chairholder on Teledifusão de Macau talk show discussing ICT4D

KelseyTim 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!

UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s contributions to UNESCO’s first Partners’ Forum

SindiIt was great to be able to participate as a UNESCO Chairholder in UNESCO’s first Partners’ Forum on 11th-12th September in Paris, and to contribute as a panellist in the session arranged by Indrajit Banerjee and his team on Responding to Opportunities and Challenges of the Digital Age.  Much of the Forum focused on the successes of existing UNESCO partnerships, but our panel yesterday instead addressed practical issues where UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Division could make a difference.

AudienceOur panel also consisted of:

  • Moderator: Indrajit Banerjee (Director, Knowledge Societies Division, UNESCO)
  • Marcus Goddard (Netexplo Observatory)
  • Marie-Helene Parizeau (Chair of World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology)
  • Dr. Davina Frau-Meigs (Professor of Media Sociology at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, and Chairholder of UNESCO Chair for “savoir-devenir le développement numérique durable: maîtriser les cultures de l’information”)
  • Octavio Kulesz (Teseo, Argentina).

Our multilingual session had five themes, and there was a great audience who contributed hugely through their smiles!  I note below some of the contributions that I sought to make:

Introductory comments

I focused on two main issues:

  • We must avoid an instrumental view of the world. AI, the Internet of Things,  5G… do not have any power to change anything themselves.  They are created by global corporations – be they failing USAn ones, or rising Chinese ones – and by individuals in them who have particular interests.  AI, for example, will not change the world of work.  Those who are creating AI are doing so for a very particular set of reasons…  We are responsible for the things we create.
  • Use of the term 4th Industrial Revolution is highly problematic. I guess there are two kinds of people – those who see the world as being revolutionary, and those who see it as evolutionary.  The “revolutionary” people like to see the world as shaped by heroes (perhaps they want to be heroes themselves) – elite people such as Turnip Townsend or Thomas Coke of Holkham in the “agricultural revolution”, or Richard Arkwright who invented the water-powered spinning mill, Jean Baptiste Colbert here in France, or George Stephenson – people who led the so-called industrial revolution. However, the reality is that these changes evolved through the labour of countless millions of poor people across the world, and their lives were shaped by fundamental structural forces, most notably the driving forces and interests of capitalism – money bent on the accretion of money – that sought to reduce labour costs and increase market size.  These forces still shape today’s world.  There is no 4th Industrial Revolution

How can UNESCO leverage digital technologies to achieve SDGs?

I sought to raise challenging questions about the relationship between digital technologies and the SDGs, particularly around notions of sustainability:

  • First, most ICTs and digital technologies are based on fundamentally unsustainable business models – and there are therefore real challenges claiming that they can contribute positively to “sustainable development”. Just thinking about it.  How often do you replace your mobile phone, or have to get new software because you have bought some new hardware with which it is incompatible, or instead need new hardware to run the latest memory and processor demanding software.  Such obsolescence is a deliberate ploy of the major technology companies.
  • Second, the use of most such technologies is damaging to the environment – this is hardly sustainable – think about the satellite “waste” in outer space, or the electricity demands of server farms, or take blockchain; do you realise that Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity a year than does the whole of Ireland?
  • And then, the SDGs have failed already – most countries have not set their targets, and for many the baseline data simply do not exist. It is therefore not going to be possible to say whether many targets have been met or not. Take UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics date on SDG 4.  In most parts of the world less than a third of countries have data for the educational indicators and targets. [http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/sdg4-data-book-2018-en.pdf].  Indeed, it is often said that the SDGs purely exist to give UN agencies something to do!
  • But being positive, the answer is simple – we need to concentrate our efforts first on the poorest and most marginalised. These new technologies have rapidly been used to make the world a more unequal place.  It is good that we now have SDG 10 focusing on inequality, but few people ever mention it in the context of digital technologies. No-one else has mentioned it in any of the sessions at which I have yet been during this Forum. We should not always be talking about connecting the next billion – but instead of connecting the first billion – yes, the first and most important – those who are poorest and most marginalised – people with disabilities, street children, refugees, and women in patriarchal societies.  We need to work with them, to craft new technologies that will help them achieve their empowerment.

How can we de-risk digital interactions and counter online challenges to privacy, human rights and freedom of expression?

I responded briefly, since other speakers addressed this at greater length and with more sophistication:

  • Ethics is incredibly important – Most people tend to think that new technology is necessarily good. But it is not.  Technology is neither good nor bad – it simply “is”.  But technologies can be made, and used, for good or bad purposes.
  • Two examples on which I have recently been working are:
    • Sexual harassment through mobile devices – Pakistan, India and Caribbean
    • Is it too late for “pure humans” to survive – or will we, are we already, all cyborgs?
  • How might we respond to these challenges
    • We need to focus as much on the negatives as on the positives of technologies in our education systems and media.
    • We need more open public debate and discussion on the ethics of digital technologies – governments tend not to trust their citizens to engage in these very difficult issues.

What forms of multi-stakeholder mechanisms/government frameworks will foster global dialogue around the use of advanced ICTs?

Again, towards the end of the session, there was little time to discuss this, but I noted:

  • Everyone talks about partnerships, but few actually succeed
  • Back in 2005 I actually wrote about multi-sector partnerships as part of UNESCO’s contribution to WSIS – and most of what I wrote then still applies!
  • We must stop competing and instead work together creatively and collaboratively in the interests of the poorest and most marginalised. This applies particularly both within and between UN agencies!

Concluding remarks

This is what I think I said:

I have huge admiration for many of the staff in UNESCO; the organisation has the most important mandate of any UN agency – focusing as it does on Education, Science and Culture.  There are three simple, and easy things that UNESCO could do, but they require a fundamental change of mentality:

  • Focus on understanding the needs of the poorest and most marginalised
  • Work with, not for, the poorest and marginalised
  • Develop digital solutions that will serve the interests of the poorest and most marginalised.

And of course, UNESCO could take much more advantage of the expertise of the many Chairholders in its UNITWIN and UNESCO Chairs networks!

Thanks again to all those in UNESCO who made the Forum such an interesting event.