Unleashing the Potential: ICTs for Development

I had the privilege of being a keynote speaker at the SciFest symposium on ICT for development and learning held in association with a meeting of the Computer Science Days of the Finnish Computer Society held at the University of Joensuu on 15th April. Here is a summary of the key issues that I raised:

  • The main question I sought to address was “How can Computer Science contribute to the lives of some of  the poorest and most marginalised people in the world?”
  • Much computer science seems to be very theoretical, and practised by people who prefer to remain in their familiar institutional surroundings
  • However, for those who wish to gain new experiences, insights and intellectual challenges, working in some of the poorest countries of the world offers great opportunities
  • Unfortunately, much so-called ICT4D research and practice tends to be top-down and led by people from Europe and north America
  • All too rarely does such research really address development needs
  • As privileged academics, we ought to listen much more to the stated needs of the poorest and most marginalised in crafting our research agendas
  • The private sector is likely to enable many relatively poor people to benefit from ICTs, but the very poorest – those with disabilities and street children – need interventions by governments and civil society organisations to help them use ICTs to achieve their aspirations
  • For those computer scientists not lured by the interests of capital, there remains the wonderful challenge of working for social agendas that can make a difference – both to their own intellectual benefit, and to the benefit of the world’s poorest people

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Filed under Africa, ICT4D, My Lectures

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