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 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:
- 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
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):
- Azra Naseem, Kiran Qasim Ali, Audrey Juma, Basnama Ayaz, Afroz Sajwani and Saleem Sayani: Prospects and constraints of eLearning for healthcare providers in Afghanistan and Tajikistan
- Marcelo Fornazin et al.: Marielle Franco Favelas’ Dictionary
- William J. Batson, Pankaj Chhetri and Stephen Song: 3D Laser Scanning Technology for Historical Preservation
Three poster presentations were also commended:
- Dhwani Trivedi: AI enabled diagnosis tool using tongue image capture with automatic prescription generation for SDG3
- Marta Pucciarelli and Lorenzo Cantoni: Reading the digital city in Africa: combining synchronic and dyachronic perspectives
- Victor Omolaoye: Representing Indigenous proverbs for human and bot use
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!