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]

Participating in MIDEQ’s Executive Group meeting and training programme, Nairobi, 22-30 September 2019

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D is leading the work package on the interface between digital technologies and migration within the UKRI-GCRF South-South Migration Hub, now known by the shortened name MIDEQ.  Hari Harindranath and Tim Unwin were therefore delighted to participate actively in the Hub’s Executive Group meeting on 23-24 September in Nairobi, followed by numerous meetings with the corridor leads and other work package teams, as well as participating in and leading some of the training sessions held from 26th September to 1st October.  As well as discussing important issues around our progress so far, communications strategy, governance, operations and migration survey, the evening of 24th September included a digital launch event followed by dinner and story telling, led by Tawona Sitholé, around a campfire.  The week of meetings provided an invaluable opportunity to get to know the many partners and new researchers in the Hub.  We are all now in a much better position to start engaging in field research together once the inception phase is over.  Hari and Tim are especially eager to get involved on the ground working with colleagues in the China-Ghana, Ethiopia-South Africa, Haiti-Brazil, and Nepal-Malaysia corridors.  The pictures below provide just a glimpse of the diversity and energy of the gathering…

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Many thanks are due to all of the colleagues who worked so hard to put the programme together and helped to ensure that it was a success.

The opportunity for Hari and Tim to be in Nairobi also provided a great chance to catch up with old friends in the city and make new contacts of wider interest to the work of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D.  We would like to say especial thanks to them for making the time to meet up and exchange ideas about the uses of digital technologies in Kenya and beyond.  We also spent a magical half-day escaping to the Natiional Park near the airport in Nairobi (see some of our pictures here)!

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The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at ITU’s Telecom World 2019 in Budapest

This year’s Telecom World event convened by the ITU and hosted by the Hungarian Government from 9th-12th September in Budapest was one of the most interesting and useful such events in recent years.  The Forum programme contained many thought provoking presentations and discussions, and the government’s hospitality was generous, featuring an inspiring musical evening and a drone display over the Danube.  There was also a very diverse exhibition, with particularly impressive displays from China about the Digital Silk Road.

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David Banes speaking at ITU Telecom World

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D was delighted to participate in and contribute to several sessions.  In particular, David Banes was a speaker in an important session on Accessibility matters: dismantling the barriers of disability with technology on 12th September.  This session noted that technology can enable better access to health, education, government services and the job market for all those affected by disabilities, but also asked  what more can be done, in both emerging and developed markets? It explored how existing solutions can be scaled and adapted, and sought to identify whether there is  a business case for digital inclusion solutions?

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Tim Unwin moderating AI and gender session (Source: ITU)

Our Chairholder (Tim Unwin) also moderated two sessions, on Diversity by design: mitigating gender bias in AI and the launch of the ITU-CISCO Digital Transformation Center Initiative, as well as speaking in the Huawei sponsored session on Fixed wireless technology for affordable broadband development.  These provided a good opportunity to highlight the work of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D and also our TEQtogether initiative changing men’s attitudes to women in technology.

Why migrant technology research needs ‘values’ at its core

In a world where the fundamental human values of liberty, equality and fraternity are being challenged by digital technologies, research on how these technologies impact inequality and migration has never been more pressing.

Digital technologies are often implicated in stories around migration. Mobiles and mobile apps offer a lifeline for migrants in vulnerable situations; a means to connect with their past and to engage with their present.

But in many countries, digital technologies are also at the centre of state surveillance and anti-migrant propaganda. Access to technologies and capacity to use them effectively also vary across communities and individuals. Digital technologies create a kind of paradox: they empower but also create vulnerabilities and even inequalities.

How we use digital technologies to address the migration-inequality-development nexus matters. The values that underpin these efforts matter more. Migrant technology can only genuinely claim to address migrant concerns when it starts and ends with those affected by these technologies – the migrant themselves.

But this raises a couple of questions. How are the problems that migrants face being addressed by digital technologies? Will these technologies create other problems, vulnerabilities or inequalities? How can we fundamentally shift the focus of migrant technology research from the technologies that underpin it to the values that underpin their use?

Answers to these difficult questions aren’t easy. As we embark on a five-year project to understand the role Information Communication Technology (ICT) can play in addressing inequalities in the context of South-South migration, here are three key principles driving us:

  • There is nothing inherently good about digital technology. It can be used to do good or harm.
  • Digital development interventions are often technologically deterministic and have unintended social consequences. Both can lead to failure. Therefore, we must address not just the technological aspects, important as they are, but also the social processes that underpin their use in particular contexts. Different migration contexts may have different needs, and may likely need different kinds of technological interventions.
  • Development outcomes and meaningful user engagement are not inevitable in technology-related interventions. We must find ways to engage users in their context to ensure that interventions are both relevant and sustainable, while maximising positive outcomes and minimising negative social impacts.

Migrant technology research needs to put values at its core. It must reflect the values that we privilege, particularly when we are required to make difficult trade-offs.

When freedom of choice is constrained by the socio-political and legal context, when equality of access is constrained by the cultural context, or when fraternity is impeded by privacy concerns in risky and vulnerable contexts – these values will be integral.

Ultimately, recognising the multifaceted nature of the migrant context means being particularly mindful of the values we may seek to promote through technology interventions.

 

[Originally posted on MIDEQ site on 31 August 2019]

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.

Digital technologies and accessibility: from rhetoric to reality – at WSIS 2019

Accessibillity 1Members of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D and our colleagues at the Inter-Islamic Network on Information Technology (INIT) were delighted to have convened and hosted the first session on Accessibility Day (8th April) at this year’s tenth anniversary WSIS Annual Forum held in Geneva.  The theme was “Digital technologies and accessibility: from rhetoric to reality”, and our session began with three short opening presentations:

Building on these inspiring presentations, participants then turned their attention to discussing what still needs to be done to turn rhetoric into reality with respect to the empowerment of people with disabilities through ICTs.  This was captured in the mind map below (link to a detailed and expandable .pdf file of the mind map):

What must we do to turn rhetoric into reality so that people with disabilities can be empowered through digital technologies

This discussion highlighted the continuing need for work in ten main areas:

  • Holistic approaches
  • Enabling voices of people with disabilities
  • Policies and legislation
  • Partnerships
  • Leadership
  • Differentiation between universal inclusion and assistive technologies
  • Training, awareness and capacity building
  • Building appropriate technologies
  • Finances
  • Delivering commitments

Working together, we can all contribute to the empowerment of people with disabilities (details of some of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s activities and resources supporting people with disabilities).

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.

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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