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.

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[Originally posted on MIDEQ site on 14 October 2019]

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…

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UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at EQUALS annual meetings in New York

30977455738_16795cafc3_oRoyal Holloway, University of London, was one of the earliest  partners to join the EQUALS global partnership in 2016, and has largely been represented in the partnership by members of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D.  EQUALS is “a ground-breaking global network delivered by a committed partnership of corporate leaders, governments, non-profit organizations, communities and individuals around the world working together to bridge the digital gender divide – by bringing women to tech, and tech to women – and in so doing, bettering the lives of millions worldwide”.  Its activities are grouped into three coalitions (Skills, Leadership and Access) and a Research Group, with Royal Holloway being most active in the Skills Coalition and the Research Group.

30977455818_32711a3151_oEQUALS holds its annual Principals’ Meetings in the margins of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), and this year Royal Holloway was represented by the Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D.  The Principals’ Meeting on 22nd September discussed the progress made by all of the coalitions, and particularly the publication of the Research Group’s report entitled Taking stock: data and evidence on gender equality in digital access, skills and leadershipMembers of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D have been active in the preparation of this report, and the section written by Liz Quaglia and Ashley Fraser on A gender perspective of security and privacy in the digital age was particularly noted by the Rector of the United Nations University (UNU) in his speech launching the report.   EQUALS now has more than 70 partners, and before the Principals’ Meeting, there was a welcome event for new members.  In the evening many of us also gathered for the  EQUALS in Tech awards ceremony, which celebrated the activities of global initiatives in skills, access, leadership and research that have helped deliver the overall objectives of EQUALS.

43941036125_cdf0d24a59_oWith so many EQUALS partners present in New York this was also an opportunity for members of the Skills Coalition and the Research Group to meet to review progress and plan for the future.  We were all very grateful to UN Women for hosting these meetings, and much progress was made in moving the initiative forward.  In particular, there was widespread support at the Skills Coalition meeting for the need to change men’s attitudes and behaviours, and the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s new TEQtogether initiative, soft-launched at this event, was strongly supported.  Indeed, the Skills Coalition has subsequently agreed that a group of its partners would have this theme as one of its deliverables for the next couple of years.

Royal Holloway, University of London’s formal commitments to EQUALS for 2018-19 are:

  • Research Group: membership of, and active contribution to, Research Group – e.g. one chapter in 2018 report, as well as two people undertaking editorial work.
  • Skills Coalition: support UNESCO in the development of the outputs through active participation in meetings, including continued participation in Mobile Learning Week.
  • Other Coalitions: support Access and Leadership Coalitions and their deliverables by sharing knowledge and resources.
  • Implementation and testing: application of tools developed by skills coalition with students and staff at Royal Holloway, University of London (c.9,500 students and 1,700 staff)
  • Additional Initiatives: Development of women in science database, and TEQtogether

We are all delighted to be able to contribute to this important initiative on behalf of Royal Holloway, University of London.

Christmas Greetings 2017 from the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D

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Members and Affiliated Members of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D would like to take this opportunity to share these images from a nativity scene in Macau earlier this month and wish all of their friends and colleagues a happy, peaceful and relaxed Christmas.  According to the Gospels,  Christ was born in a stable (homeless), to an unmarried mother, and then became a refugee as his parents fled from Palestine to Egypt.  For those of us working in the field of ICT4D, it is a timely reminder of our commitment to using ICTs to serve the interests of the poorest and most marginalised, wherever they are to be found, and especially children, the homeless, minorities, and refugees.

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For learn more about our work, do explore these links:

Royal Holloway, University of London – Principal attends first partner meeting of EQUALS in New York

It was great to see Royal Holloway, University of London, represented by the Principal, Professor Paul Layzell, at the first principals meeting of EQUALS, the partnership for gender equality in the digital age, held on 16th September, just before the UN General Assembly starting today in New York.

EQUALS is a very important initiative, founded by the ITU, UN-Women, the ITC, the UNU-CS and the GSMA, to reverse the trend of increasing gender digital inequality.  The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D has been delighted to be working closely with the founding partners ever since the origins of EQUALS, and our membership provides an opportunity for everyone at Royal Holloway, University of London to play a part in helping to make a difference in this crucial area.

Royal Holloway, University of London, has played a leading role in the higher education of women, especially in STEM subjects.  Bedford College, University of London, which merged with Royal Holloway College in the 1980s to form Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, now abbreviated to Royal Holloway, University of London, was thus founded in 1849 as the first higher education college in the UK specifically for women.  Staff from many of its leading departments contribute to the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D; 12 of our 28 Members and Affiliated Members are women.

EQUALS has three broad coalitions, on Skills, Access and Leadership, and Royal Holloway is an active member of the Skills coalition.  The College is also participating in the EQUALS Research Group being led by the UNU Computing and Society Institute (UNU-CS).  It is great to see the College featuring in this high profile UN initiative, as one of only two universities among the first 24 Partners and 5 Founding Partners.

I hope that the pictures below of the principals meeting, and Professor Paul Layzell’s interview, capture something of the atmosphere.

Improving the management of digital government

Liz Quaglia and Tim Unwin from the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D attended the launch discussion for the Institute for Government’s new report on Improving the Management of Digital Government at a breakfast meeting on 21st June, which focused on the question “Who is responsible for effective, efficient and secure digital government?”.

Speakers at the event included:

  • Ciaran Martin CEO National Cyber Security Centre
  • Janet Hughes, Doteveryone
  • Bryan Glick, Editor Computer Weekly

and it was moderated by Daniel Thornton from the Institute of Government, one of the co-authors of the report (the other being Lucy Campbell).

Concluding thoughts from the speakers included:

  • It is very difficult to deliver effective digital government, but we should not despair and must keep moving forward to make things better;
  • It is essential to have a joined up approach across governments, with leadership at the highest level; and
  • How governments are organised is a secondary issue; what matters is beginning with a clear strategy, and then finding ways to deliver it.

The report itself makes interesting reading, and has wider relevance beyond the UK context.

UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at WSIS Forum 2017

JPN ChairMembers of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D are delighted to be participating in the 2017 WSIS Forum being held in Geneva from 12th-16th June.

We are very pleased to congratulate one of our Honorary Patrons, Hon. Jean Philbert Nsengimana (Minister of  Youth and Information and Communication Technology, Rwanda), who was elected Chair of the WSIS Forum 2017.

Sessions in which members of the Chair (including Jean Philbert Nsengimane, Marco Zennaro, Charlotte Smart, Bushra Hassan, and Tim Unwin) are playing an active role as moderators and speakers include:

  • Special SDG9 Session Co-hosted by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) (Session 266): Digital Transformation for Sustainable Development (Room 1, CICG, 9.40-10.45 Thursday 15th June).

  • Action Line C4. Capacity Building: Building Capacity to Leverage eAgriculture Applications (Session 309) (11.00-13.00, Room G2, ITU Varembé)

  • Innovation in ICT Technologies, Broadband, Smart Cities and Manufacturing for Sustainable Development Goals (Session 310) (Room C1, 11.00-13.00, Thursday 15th June)

  • Global Partnership for Digital Gender Equality, first Research Group meeting being convened by UNU-CS.  The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D is delighted to be one of the founding members of this research group undertaking important research in support of this significant global initiative being led by the ITU and UN Women (Thursday 15th June)

  • Building ICT innovation capacity (ITU) (Session 324) (14.30-16.15, L2 ITU Montbrillant, Thursday 15th June)

  • Network for Digital Development – Advancing a Global Action Agenda (World Economic Forum, IEEE) (Session 335) (16.30-18.15, ICT Discovery, ITU Montbrillant, Thursday 15th June)

  • Reclaiming ICT4D (Session 345) hosted by the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D (11.00-12.45, Popov 1, ITU Tower, Friday 16th June)

We very much look forward to seeing friends and colleagues at these sessions.  Copies of Tim Unwin’s new book, Reclaiming Information and Communication Technologies for Development will also be available at a special WSIS rate during our session on Friday.

 

Nominations for next DG of UNESCO

This appointment will be crucial for the entire future of UNESCO – so, though, it was worth copying this directly from UNESCO’s site at http://en.unesco.org/news/nine-nominations-received-post-director-general-unesco

Nine Nominations received for the post of Director-General of UNESCO

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UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France
© UNESCO/Ignacio Marin
16 March 2017

Paris –The Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO, Mr. Michael Worbs, today officially announced the names of the nine candidates received for the post of Director-General of UNESCO.

The nominees are listed below in the order of receipt of their candidature, within the deadline set by the Executive Board.

Name of candidate

Date complete file received

Proposed by

Mr Polad BÜLBÜLOGLU

 

09.03.2017

Azerbaijan

Mr PHAM Sanh Chau

 

13.03.2017

Viet Nam

Ms Moushira KHATTAB

 

13.03.2017

Egypt

Mr Hamad bin Abdulaziz AL-KAWARI

 

14.03.2017

Qatar

Mr Qian TANG

 

14.03.2017

China

Mr Juan Alfonso FUENTES SORIA

 

15.03.2017

Guatemala

Mr Saleh AL-HASNAWI

 

15.03.2017

Iraq

Ms Vera EL-KHOURY LACOEUILHE

 

15.03.2017

Lebanon

Ms Audrey AZOULAY

 

15.03.2017

France

The Director-General is nominated by the Executive Board and appointed by the General Conference for a period of four years. These nine candidates will be interviewed during the 201st Board session on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 April 2017. The person to be nominated by the Executive Board shall be chosen by secret ballot, during a vote that will take place during the Board’s 202nd session in October 2017. Subsequently, the Chairperson of the Board shall inform the General Conference, during its 39th session in November 2017, of the candidate nominated by the Board. The General Conference shall consider this nomination and then elect, by secret ballot, the person proposed by the Executive Board.

Information pertaining to the candidates, together with the procedure for the nomination of the Director-General of UNESCO, is available on the Executive Board website at: http://en.unesco.org/executive-board/dg-candidates-2017.

PhD project on migration and digital technologies

Delighted to be able to share details of a fully-funded (EU/Home) PhD studentships to be supervised by Dr. Silvia Masiero (an Affiliated Member of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D) and Prof Ravishankar at Loughborough University.  Details are as follows:

PhD project: Forced International Migration and Digital Technologies

Applications are invited for the above studentship commencing 1st October 2017. The Studentship is open to home/EU and international/overseas students. It will run for 3 years, and it includes:

A fee waiver equivalent to the home/EU rate*
Tax-free stipend of £14,553 p.a. for three years
* Please note that international/overseas students will be required to find funding to cover the difference between home/EU fees

Project description

With more than 65 million people worldwide classified as refugees, the world is witnessing one of the greatest humanitarian crises in history. As war, hostility and violence force millions of people to flee their home countries, the global refugee crisis has generated an unprecedented need for new expertise in responding to large-scale humanitarian emergencies.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) and digital platforms are increasingly seen as helpful in handling the consequences of the global surge in forced international migration. But while extant evidence on the impact of digital tools cluster around short-term emergency management, less is known about their role in dealing with long-term issues of refugee integration.

This PhD project will explore the role of digital technologies in refugee integration, both from the perspective of host governments and social enterprises complementing the efforts of the state. The project aims to draw on in-depth ethnographic approaches to generate valuable knowledge on how ICTs can foster long-term social inclusion, and on the complex relationships connecting digital technologies, social enterprises and wider institutional arrangements.

Supervisors: Professor M. N. Ravishankar and Dr Silvia Masiero

Entry criteria

Masters degree (with average programme mark of no less than 65%) or equivalent. English Language requirement of IELTS band 7.0 or above with not less than 7.0 in each component.

Link to Application: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/sbe/research/phd-mphil/studentships/27042017sbe-rmnsm17/

Silvia Masiero’s seminar on big data and poverty in India

Silvia Masiero (Loughborough University, and Affiliated Member of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D) has just finished a fascinating seminar at the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D on The Affordances of Big Data for Poverty Reduction: Evidence from India, which raised many interesting questions about the relative benefits and challenges of biometric data, especially in the context of demonetisation in India.  Slides of the presentation are available here, and her recent ICT4D briefing on the same subject is here.

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UNESCO/Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities

Just to note that there is a new deadline of 14th October 2016 for nominations for the 2016 UNESCO/ Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities http://en.unesco.org/prizes/digital-empowerment – do please consider applying or suggest nominations.  It is a great opportunity to raise the profile of institutional and individual successes in using ICTs to empower people with disabilities, and thereby share good practices that can help to enhance accessibility and empower people with disabilities.

ICTs and volunteered geographic information

A literature review of academic research articles on volunteered geographic information (VGI) has revealed a recent, and very interesting, turn in how VGI is being viewed by academics, with implications for practitioners in ICT4D.  In many ways, as I explain below, this turn is actually a return to old questions about authority, indigeneity, and ‘development’.

Two recent articles indicate this turn, which deepens a critique of VGI as something separate from the act of its creation (Sieber and Haklay, 2015).  Goodchild (2007 and 2016) has been at the forefront of defining and legitimising uses of VGI in academia, but in his theorisations it is often couched more in terms of geographic information science, less so in terms of democratisation and participation.

Idris et al (in press) have written, for example, a very illuminating article on ‘engaging’ with indigenous people as ‘sensors’ for ecotourism.  The terminology here is telling, and it comes from Goodchild (2007).  The idea that a citizen (or indigenous person) can transform themselves into a sensor for contributing potentially useful spatial data on the geoweb (i.e. the ‘mappy’ fraction of the web) has a couple of facets that are worth examining, aside from the very passive connotation of the word.

To what extent do the sensors themselves benefit from their contributions?  What are the repercussions for protection of sensitive indigenous and local knowledge systems (such as the location of endangered or keystone wildlife species)?  These are issues that go back to the early days of GIS when Rundstrom (1995) was beginning to ask questions about epistemological diversity in relation to indigenous peoples and mapping/GIS.

I have written about these issues myself, elsewhere, in relation to northern Canada where social media maps hold the potential to reveal indigenous knowledge and sensitive information to outsiders.  The result has often been a patch-work of local maps and map-networks that serve the needs of inhabitants of specific areas, securitised to some extent against outside viewing and user generated content.  This securitisation has to be balanced against the potential uses of such data for development involving outside influence on the data.

The Canadian context is vast, differentiated, and vastly different from many other (indigenous) nations, where sensitivities and emphases lie in directions specific to historical development, trajectories and narratives, especially in relation to the state.

With VGI, crowdsourcing, and neo-geographies of the web continuing to evolve, the old questions keep recurring, and the idea of how much ‘authority’ and accuracy geographic information needs to have to be considered legitimate is continually being brought up.  Terminologies are evolving now as we speak more now in terms of big data and the internet of things, but those old questions still apply.

References:

Goodchild, Michael.  2016.  New questions and a changing focus in advanced VGI research. Transactions in GIS.  Early view online.

Goodchild, Michael.  2007.  Citizens as sensors: the world of volunteered geography.  GeoJournal.  69: 211-221.

Idris, Nurul Hawani; Osman, Mohamad Jahidi; Kanniah, Kasturi Devi; Idris, Nurul Hazrina; and Ishak, Mohamad Hafis Izran. (in press). Engaging Indigenous people as geo-crowdsourcing sensors for ecotourism mapping via mobile data collection: a case study of the Royal Belum State Park. Cartography and Geographic Information Science. Early view online

Rundstrom Robert. 1995 . GIS, Indigenous Peoples and Epistemological Diversity. Cartography and Geographic Information Systems. 22(1): 45-57

Sieber, Renee and Haklay, Muki.  2015. The epistemology(s) of volunteered geographic information: a critique.  GEO: Geography and Environment.  2(2): 122-136.