Members of UNESCO Chair in ICT4D pledge commitments to Partner2Connect

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D accepted an invitation in 2021 to join the UN’s Partner2Connect Coalition (P2C), which has been created with the aim of being “a leadership level platform to engage all stakeholders to mobilize and announce new resources, partnerships, and commitments to achieve universal and meaningful connectivity”. The ITU is the overall convener of the Coalition, working in close collaboration with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), and line with the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.

The Coalition has four Focus Areas, and having participated actively in its meetings over the last six months, we are focusing our engagement primarily on the second of these: how the poor and marginalised can empower themselves through the use of digital technologies.

We are delighted to report that our pledge to Partner2Connect has now been validated. This is to advise, engage and involve Partner2Connect partners in delivering effective and empowering interventions with the world’s most marginalised people and communities.

We are offering the Coalition and its partners three main things:

  • An opportunity to engage directly in and contribute to our ongoing and future initiatives working with poor and marginalised communities and people who choose to use digital technologies for their empowerment. This will focus on five main areas:
    • Our work with migrants (especially in Nepal and South Africa as part of MIDEQ) to craft digital interventions that will reduce the inequalities associated with migration (led by Hari Harindranath and Maria Rosa Lorini)
    • Our work with people with disabilities, especially with our partner the Inter Islamic Network on IT throughout the Islamic world (led mainly by Akber Gardezi and Tahir Naeem)
    • Our work through TEQtogether on changing men’s attitudes to women and digital tech, especially in patriarchal societies (with the support of ICT4D.at, and led by Tim Unwin, Liz Quaglia and Paul Spiesberger)
    • Indigenous peoples and small island developing states (SIDS), especially with our partners RC-DISC at the University of Canberra and ISITI at the University of Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) (involving Roger Harris and Ahmed Imran)
    • Work on entrepreneurship. This has mainly been focused since 2018 in Kazakhstan and Central Asia on empowering creative local start-ups with entrepreneurship skills for growth and development (led by Endrit Kromidha)
  • Contributing expertise in research and practice to the further conceptual development of Focus Area 2 so that all activities are developed in accordance with the latest understanding of inclusive, equal and safe access and use of ICTs for all. We recognise that there are many differing views about empowerment, and we relish the opportunity to engage with other partner organisations to develop shared understandings of benefit to P2C and to the world’s least connected peoples. 
  • Offering training in empowerment theory and practice to partners within P2C. We look forward to the opportunity to engage actively with other P2C partners through workshops and other forms of tailored training to share our experiences of delivering digital interventions with and for the most marginalised, focusing especially on the notion of empowerment that lies at the heart of Focus Area 2.

We are one of the few academic entities yet to pledge commitments to Partner2Connect, and look forward to continuing to engage with and contribute to its actitivites, especially helping to ensure that the world’s poorest and most marginalised do indeed benefit from the increased global connectivity that the Coalition seeks to provide.


Please use our Contacts Page should you wish to find out more or to work with us in driving these pledges forward

UNESCO Chair in ICT4D signs partnership with the University of Canberra

Paddy Nixon, Vice Chancellor and President of the University of Canberra, signing the MoU with Tim Unwin, Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D signed a partnership Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Canberra on 28th March during the International Symposium on Digital Inequality and Social Change (ISDISC) convened by the University’s Research Cluster for Digital Inequality and Social Change (RC-DISC), led by Dr. Ahmed Imran, who is also an Affiliated Member of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D.

The MoU provides the basis for extensive collaboration between the two research groups, focusing particularly on:

  • Research collaboration
  • Workshop and conference convening
  • Research visits and exchanges, especially for early career researchers
  • Collaborative grant applications
  • Implementation of practices to reduce digital inequalities
  • Policy recommendations

This closely reflects the University of Canberra’s interests in developing research in the field of ICT4D, building its transnational networks, and increasing its reputation in digital inequality research and practice, while also reinforcing the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s commitment to crafting partnerships with cognate bodies, developing new ways to reduce digital inequalities, and developing collaborative research activities. It will also provide opportunities to build closer collaboration between colleagues from other disciplines in both institutions.

ISDISC was a hybrid event held at the Univeristy of Canberra and brought together researchers and practitioners from diverse disciplines across Australia, with many virtual contributions also coming from elsewhere in the world.

The International Symposium on Digital Inequalities and Social Change being opened by the Executive Dean of the Univeristy of Canberra’s Faculty of Science and Technology, Prof. Janine Deakin, with Dr. Ahmed Imran in attendance.
Participants at the ISDISC conference held at the University of Canberra, 28th-29th March 2022

Tim Unwin’s keynote address at ISDISC on Marginalisation and empowerment: exploring digital inequalities is available here.

How and why do migrants use digital tech? Evidence from Malaysia, Nepal and South Africa

This post was first published on the MIDEQ site on 3 February 2022 at https://www.mideq.org/en/blog/how-and-why-do-migrants-use-digital-tech and is reproduced with permission

Digital interventions intended to benefit migrants are often developed by well-intentioned outsiders without sufficient understanding of migrants’ real needs or awareness of how they are already using such technologies. It is scarcely surprising that they fail to have their intended impact. Our approach within MIDEQ has begun to address this basic requirement by learning from migrants themselves at the very beginning of our intervention-research. After all, they know best about their own experiences.

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented us from using our preferred qualitative methods to understand these matters, and so we turned instead to using online surveys facilitated by the country teams in the China-Ghana, Ethiopia-South Africa, Haiti-Brazil and Nepal-Malaysia corridors in 2020 and 2021. This post highlights the main findings from these online surveys with migrants, returned migrants and migrants’ families in Malaysia, Nepal and South Africa (n > 250 in each country). We are subsequently supplementing these with online interviews and evidence from the MIDEQ wide comprehensive country surveys to provide the basis for more detailed analyses.

Five clear conclusions can already be drawn: context matters; most migrants never use apps specifically designed for them; the use of digital technologies increases through the migration process; migrants make very extensive use of smart phones and the Internet; and yet many migrants do not have sufficient skills or knowledge to be able to avail themselves safely of their full potential.

Context matters

It’s a truism, but migrants are very different from each other, not least in Africa, Asia and South America. Despite this, all too often digital “solutions” are developed for migrants (and refugees) as a monolithic uniform group. Our research has clearly shown that migrants in different occupations, and from different backgrounds tend to have significantly varying priorities in their uses of digital technologies. For example, those from Zimbabwe working in South Africa prioritised the use of digital tech for networking more than did those from Cameroon, Ethiopia or Ghana. Gender, though, was surprisingly not as significant a variable as we anticipated in influencing the usage of different types of technology or of what people liked or disliked about them. This was particularly so in our data from Malaysia and Nepal, although in South Africa there were some noticeable differences. Migrant women in South Africa liked the way that digital tech helps with networking and finding things out, whereas men placed greater emphasis on making money from their use. With dislikes, women in South Africa more than men particularly emphasised their potential to cause health problems and access to harmful materials.

What apps are used and why?

Our most important conclusion is that very few migrants ever use apps that have been specifically designed for them. Even when they claim that they have used such apps, almost all the “migrant apps” that they then named were generic ones such as Google, Facebook, WhatsApp or Imo. Only four of the 547 respondents in our surveys in Nepal and Malaysia, for example, mentioned that they used the Shuvayatra Safe Journey app which had been specifically designed for them.

Migrants and their families in these three countries make extensive use of a relatively small range of apps, almost exclusively those developed by global corporations from the USA. Questions were asked about the use of Chinese apps such as Alipay, Badu, QQ and WeChat, but these were very rarely used. Instead it was apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and YouTube that were the daily go-tos for more than three quarters of all respondents. These were mainly used for contacting family members and friends, networking, and watching videos, although the preference of specific apps did vary a bit between countries.

ICT image cropped - photo by Anita Ghimire.jpg
Migrant’s wife in Nepal proudly showing off the tablet sent to her by her husband (Source: Anita Ghimire, with permission)

Digital use through the migration process

A third interesting finding concerned how the use of digital tech varied at different stages in the migration process. Across all countries there was a general progression in the use of digital tech from thinking about migrating to their widespread use in the host countries. In the Nepal survey, for example, only 46% had used digital tech very frequently before migrating, whereas 85% used them very frequently while in the migration destinations. In the sample from South Africa, only 34% had used them very frequently before departure, with 89% do so while in their new locations. Migrants generally also served as a means through which digital tech was dispersed through their home communities, as illustrated in the image above. Enabling their families to have devices at home was a very important way through which they could continue to communicate together.

Which technologies are most used and why?

Mobile phones, especially smart phones, and the Internet were by far and away the dominant digital technologies used by migrants. In South Africa, 99% of the sample used mobile phones daily with the Internet being used daily by 94%; in Malaysia, the figures were very similar, with 98% using mobiles daily and 95% accessing the Internet daily. However, there were subtle differences in usage reported by migrants in the different countries for which we have now analysed data. In South Africa, for example, more than 90% of migrants used digital tech for all but one (work) of the 13 usage categories on which we focused, whereas in Nepal there were only five categories (audio calls, video calls, social networking, health and news updates) for which this was so. Laptops and desktop computers were generally used mostly for work, learning and education, as well as watching videos for entertainment. In Malaysia, digital technologies were liked mainly because they were easy to use and help with finding things out; in South Africa they were most liked for contacting people and accessing information.

How else do migrants want to use digital tech?

The most important findings for us were about what other things migrants wanted to use digital tech for, since this will guide the interventions that we facilitate with them and local tech communities in some of these countries. Interestingly, not many migrants or their families found it easy to respond to this question. However, those that did came up with a wide range of suggestions, including uses related to finance, communicating with family members, skills and employment, music, transport and visa checking. All of these are readily feasible now, which suggests that a key improvement in the digital lives of migrants might just be simply to help them better understand how to use their existing mobile devices. However, other suggestions provide novel potential uses for digital tech, such as “To do my house chores, e.g. cooking, cleaning, ironing etc.” and “to detect liars” or “evaluate what is true and false”. One interestingly said that “I would like to use it track other users. Knowing their communication angles and companion at the point of communication”.

Moving forward

Our intervention-research will use these findings along with those from our more qualitative research and the MIDEQ-wide survey to work with migrants and local tech developers to craft one or more interventions designed with them to reduce the inequalities associated with migration. Rather than reinventing the wheel, or building an app that might not be used by many migrants, we may well work in support of existing initiatives to help improve what they are already doing digitally by incorporating some of our findings. One of the most valuable interventions might simply be helping migrants use the tech that they already have more extensively, wisely and safely in their own interests. Including basic digital skills training in migrant programmes might after all be much more valuable than simply designing another app.

Our latest Working Paper: how migrants in South Africa use digital tech

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 third of our working papers presenting data on the uses of digital technologies by migrants in South Africa has just been published within the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s publication series. Key findings and abstract are as follows.


Key findings

1. Migrants in South Africa are very diverse, making subtly different usage of digital tech – while smart phones and the Internet are the dominant technologies in use, context nevertheless matters in how they are used.  2. Very few migrants make any use at all of apps that have been developed specifically for migrants – and even those 3.7% that claim to do so may not have actually used apps that were deliberately designed for them  3. Many migrants have limited knowledge in how to use the full potential of
their mobile phones – basic training in digital skills and safety might therefore be a valuable intervention for them
 

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 Ethiopia-South Africa migration corridor.  It presents the results of an online survey of 297 respondents mostly currently living in South Africa (92.2%), and mainly from Ethiopia (59.8%); 92.7% of them identified themselves as migrants, with the remainder being family members of migrants (6.2%) or returned migrants (1.1%).  Following a summary of the methodology, which explains the impact of COVID-19 on this research and why an online survey was used to replace our originally planned interviews and focus groups, the paper provides an overview of the most important results and an exploratory data analysis, focusing on the potential influence of age, gender, countries of origin, migration status, and occupational status on the ways in which respondents use digital technologies and for what purposes.  Three important conclusions for the subsequent stages of our research on the inequalities associated with migration and how digital tech may be used to reduce these are: first, the migrants responding to this survey are from very different backgrounds, and these have some strong influences on their use of digital tech; second, very few migrants make any use at all of apps made specifically for them; and third, many migrants still appear to need basic training in the safe and secure use of digital technologies.


To read this paper in full (v.3 .pdf) please use this link.

Other UNESCO Chair in ICT4D Publications are available here.

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.

Launch of the Education for the Most Marginalised Report

The Report on Education for the Most Marginalised post-COVID-19: Guidance for governments on the use of digital technologies in education, led by the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D and funded by the FCDO and World Bank through the EdTech Hub was officially launched in a 2 hour online gathering on 18th December 2020. More than 350 people had registered for the launch, with some 150 participating at any one time throughout the event.

Speakers included:

  • Michael Trucano (Global Lead for Innovation in Education and Senior Education and Technology Policy Specialist, World Bank)
  • Tim Unwin (Chairholder, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D and Co-Founder of TEQtogether)
  • John Nasasira (Head of Expert National Task Force on Fourth Industrial Revolution, former Government Chief Whip 2011-2013, and Minister of Information and Communication Technology 2013-2016, Uganda)
  • Janet Longmore (Founder and CEO, Digital Opportunity Trust)
  • Caroline Wright (Director General, British Education Suppliers Association): “Technology and Education for the Most Marginalised Post-COVID-19 provides pragmatic, practical and insightful strategies, solutions and supportive practices to help and support Governments and educationalists working to empower learners in the most challenging of circumstances”.
  • Waleed Al Ali (General Co-ordinator Digital School Initiative, Mohammed Bin Rashid Global InitiativesUAE) 

Materials from the launch are available here, including videos of our speakers and more information. Full information about the report is available here.

In translation

We were delighted to announce the following translations of the report’s Executive Summary during the launch:

The full report has also been translated into French as Éduquer les personnes les plus défavorisées après la COVID-19: orientations destinées aux gouvernements sur l’utilisation des technologies numériques by Karen Ferreira-Meyers:

Thanks to all those who participated

Sadly, there were far too many people to capture on a single slide, but we hope this image captures something of the character of the launch:

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]