Members of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D are delighted to support this exciting new initiative – #KindnessMatters – by our colleagues at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP). This aims to mobilize the world’s youth to achieve the 17 SDGs through transformative acts of kindness. The campaign attempts to create a positive culture of kindness, in which every young person’s selfless act matters!
As the UNESCO MGIEP says,
“Kindness is not defined by lofty stories, it exists all around us and needs to be celebrated at every moment of life because #KindnessMatters every day. We’re celebrating K3: kindness for self, others and nature, and invite you to share with us a simple act of kindness that you performed today – gave yourself some rest from daily routine, watered the plants, donated some blankets for a cause, or called your family. This exercise will take less than 30 seconds and will make you a part of our global kindness community. So, won’t you help us make the world a kinder place?”
To share an act of kindness, all you have to do is complete a simple form that looks like this:
It won’t take long, and by so doing you can help contribute to their Global Youth Campaign. This is intended to help mobilize United Nations Member States to declare an International Decade on Acts of Kindness.
What is an act of kindness according to the MGIEP?
An Act of Kindness by any person is a generous, intentional gesture or action towards another person, being, or the environment. These acts may range in scale and impact, such as organizing a beach clean-up, working on clean energy projects, campaigning against gender inequality or violent extremism, or mobilizing a community drive to save an endangered species.
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.
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.
It was great to be able to participate as a UNESCO Chairholder in UNESCO’s first Partners’ Forum on 11th-12th September in Paris, and to contribute as a panellist in the session arranged by Indrajit Banerjee and his team on Responding to Opportunities and Challenges of the Digital Age. Much of the Forum focused on the successes of existing UNESCO partnerships, but our panel yesterday instead addressed practical issues where UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Division could make a difference.
Marie-Helene Parizeau (Chair of World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology)
Dr. Davina Frau-Meigs (Professor of Media Sociology at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, and Chairholder of UNESCO Chair for “savoir-devenir le développement numérique durable: maîtriser les cultures de l’information”)
Octavio Kulesz (Teseo, Argentina).
Our multilingual session had five themes, and there was a great audience who contributed hugely through their smiles! I note below some of the contributions that I sought to make:
I focused on two main issues:
We must avoid an instrumental view of the world. AI, the Internet of Things, 5G… do not have any power to change anything themselves. They are created by global corporations – be they failing USAn ones, or rising Chinese ones – and by individuals in them who have particular interests. AI, for example, will not change the world of work. Those who are creating AI are doing so for a very particular set of reasons… We are responsible for the things we create.
Use of the term 4th Industrial Revolution is highly problematic. I guess there are two kinds of people – those who see the world as being revolutionary, and those who see it as evolutionary. The “revolutionary” people like to see the world as shaped by heroes (perhaps they want to be heroes themselves) – elite people such as Turnip Townsend or Thomas Coke of Holkham in the “agricultural revolution”, or Richard Arkwright who invented the water-powered spinning mill, Jean Baptiste Colbert here in France, or George Stephenson – people who led the so-called industrial revolution. However, the reality is that these changes evolved through the labour of countless millions of poor people across the world, and their lives were shaped by fundamental structural forces, most notably the driving forces and interests of capitalism – money bent on the accretion of money – that sought to reduce labour costs and increase market size. These forces still shape today’s world. There is no 4th Industrial Revolution
How can UNESCO leverage digital technologies to achieve SDGs?
I sought to raise challenging questions about the relationship between digital technologies and the SDGs, particularly around notions of sustainability:
First, most ICTs and digital technologies are based on fundamentally unsustainable business models – and there are therefore real challenges claiming that they can contribute positively to “sustainable development”. Just thinking about it. How often do you replace your mobile phone, or have to get new software because you have bought some new hardware with which it is incompatible, or instead need new hardware to run the latest memory and processor demanding software. Such obsolescence is a deliberate ploy of the major technology companies.
Second, the use of most such technologies is damaging to the environment – this is hardly sustainable – think about the satellite “waste” in outer space, or the electricity demands of server farms, or take blockchain; do you realise that Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity a year than does the whole of Ireland?
And then, the SDGs have failed already – most countries have not set their targets, and for many the baseline data simply do not exist. It is therefore not going to be possible to say whether many targets have been met or not. Take UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics date on SDG 4. In most parts of the world less than a third of countries have data for the educational indicators and targets. [http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/sdg4-data-book-2018-en.pdf]. Indeed, it is often said that the SDGs purely exist to give UN agencies something to do!
But being positive, the answer is simple – we need to concentrate our efforts first on the poorest and most marginalised. These new technologies have rapidly been used to make the world a more unequal place. It is good that we now have SDG 10 focusing on inequality, but few people ever mention it in the context of digital technologies. No-one else has mentioned it in any of the sessions at which I have yet been during this Forum. We should not always be talking about connecting the next billion – but instead of connecting the first billion – yes, the first and most important – those who are poorest and most marginalised – people with disabilities, street children, refugees, and women in patriarchal societies. We need to work with them, to craft new technologies that will help them achieve their empowerment.
How can we de-risk digital interactions and counter online challenges to privacy, human rights and freedom of expression?
I responded briefly, since other speakers addressed this at greater length and with more sophistication:
Ethics is incredibly important – Most people tend to think that new technology is necessarily good. But it is not. Technology is neither good nor bad – it simply “is”. But technologies can be made, and used, for good or bad purposes.
Two examples on which I have recently been working are:
Sexual harassment through mobile devices – Pakistan, India and Caribbean
Is it too late for “pure humans” to survive – or will we, are we already, all cyborgs?
How might we respond to these challenges
We need to focus as much on the negatives as on the positives of technologies in our education systems and media.
We need more open public debate and discussion on the ethics of digital technologies – governments tend not to trust their citizens to engage in these very difficult issues.
What forms of multi-stakeholder mechanisms/government frameworks will foster global dialogue around the use of advanced ICTs?
Again, towards the end of the session, there was little time to discuss this, but I noted:
Everyone talks about partnerships, but few actually succeed
Back in 2005 I actually wrote about multi-sector partnerships as part of UNESCO’s contribution to WSIS – and most of what I wrote then still applies!
We must stop competing and instead work together creatively and collaboratively in the interests of the poorest and most marginalised. This applies particularly both within and between UN agencies!
This is what I think I said:
I have huge admiration for many of the staff in UNESCO; the organisation has the most important mandate of any UN agency – focusing as it does on Education, Science and Culture. There are three simple, and easy things that UNESCO could do, but they require a fundamental change of mentality:
Focus on understanding the needs of the poorest and most marginalised
Work with, not for, the poorest and marginalised
Develop digital solutions that will serve the interests of the poorest and most marginalised.
And of course, UNESCO could take much more advantage of the expertise of the many Chairholders in its UNITWIN and UNESCO Chairs networks!
Thanks again to all those in UNESCO who made the Forum such an interesting event.
Paris –The Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO, Mr. Michael Worbs, today officially announced the names of the nine candidates received for the post of Director-General of UNESCO.
The nominees are listed below in the order of receipt of their candidature, within the deadline set by the Executive Board.
Name of candidate
Date complete file received
Mr Polad BÜLBÜLOGLU
Mr PHAM Sanh Chau
Ms Moushira KHATTAB
Mr Hamad bin Abdulaziz AL-KAWARI
Mr Qian TANG
Mr Juan Alfonso FUENTES SORIA
Mr Saleh AL-HASNAWI
Ms Vera EL-KHOURY LACOEUILHE
Ms Audrey AZOULAY
The Director-General is nominated by the Executive Board and appointed by the General Conference for a period of four years. These nine candidates will be interviewed during the 201st Board session on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 April 2017. The person to be nominated by the Executive Board shall be chosen by secret ballot, during a vote that will take place during the Board’s 202nd session in October 2017. Subsequently, the Chairperson of the Board shall inform the General Conference, during its 39th session in November 2017, of the candidate nominated by the Board. The General Conference shall consider this nomination and then elect, by secret ballot, the person proposed by the Executive Board.
Just to note that there is a new deadline of 14th October 2016 for nominations for the 2016 UNESCO/ Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities http://en.unesco.org/prizes/digital-empowerment – do please consider applying or suggest nominations. It is a great opportunity to raise the profile of institutional and individual successes in using ICTs to empower people with disabilities, and thereby share good practices that can help to enhance accessibility and empower people with disabilities.