Together with Dr. Bushra Hassan, and building on my research earlier this year on how people in Pakistan use mobile devices to express their identities, we have developed a survey on people’s perceptions and experiences of sexual harassment through mobile devices in the country. This is a sensitive and difficult subject, and we are eager to have responses from as many people as possible. I do hope that readers of this post will share the details through their networks, and if they are Pakistani will complete it themselves. The survey is available until the end of November 2016 at https://rhul.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/sexual-harassment-through-mobile-devices-in-pakistan.
Thanks so much in anticipation.
I am delighted to have been asked to moderate the session on “Making money from meeting the SDGs?” at ITU Telecom World in Bangkok on Monday 14th November (4:45 PM – 6:00 PM, Jupiter 10), although I wonder a little why I have been chosen for this task given my past criticisms of the SDGs! Perhaps the “?” in the session title will give me a little freedom to explore some of the many challenges and complexities in this theme. Following in the footsteps of the Millennium Development Goals (2000), the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) still generally focus on the idea that economic growth will eliminate poverty; indeed, they assert that poverty can truly be ended. This is a myth, and a dangerous one. For those who define poverty in a relative sense, poverty will always be with us. It can certainly be reduced, but never ended. It is therefore good to see the SDGs also focusing on social inclusion, with SDG 10 explicitly addressing inequality. We need to pay much more attention to ways through which ICTs can thus reduce inequality, rather than primarily focusing on their contribution to economic growth, which has often actually led to increasing inequality.
This session will explore the implications of such tensions specifically for the role of ICT businesses in delivering the SDGs. Key questions to be examined include:
- How can the ICT sector contribute to accelerating the achievement of the SDGs by providing ICT-enabled solutions and building feasible business models?
- Is the SDG agenda relevant for the ICT industry?
- What roles should the ICT industry, and its corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments in particular, play in working towards the SDGs?
- Can the SDG framework provide an opportunity to accelerate transformative ICT-enabled solutions around new solutions like big data or IoT?
Underlying these are difficult issues about the ethics of making money from development, and the extent to which the ICT sector is indeed sustainable. All too often, the private sector, governments and even civil society are now using the idea of “development” to build their ICT interests, rather than actually using ICTs to contribute to development understood as reducing inequalities; we increasingly have “development for ICTs” (D4ICT) rather than “ICTs for development” (ICT4D). To be sure, businesses have a fundamentally important role in contributing to economic growth, but there is still little agreement, for example, on how best to deliver connectivity to the poorest and most marginalized, so that inequality can be reduced. As my forthcoming book argues, we need to reclaim ICTs truly for development in the interests of the poorest and most marginalized.
We have a great panel with whom to explore these difficult questions. Following opening remarks by Chaesub Lee (Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, ITU), we will dive straight into addressing the above questions with the following panelists (listed in alphabetical order of first names):
- Astrid Tuminez (Senior Director, Government Affairs. Microsoft)
- Lawrence Yanovitch (President of GSMA Foundation)
- Luis Neves (Chairman Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), and Climate Change and Sustainability Officer, Executive Vice President, at Deutsche Telekom Group)
- Ola Jo Tandre (Director and Head of Social Responsibility, Telenor ASA, Norway)
- Tomas Lamanauskas (Group Director Public Policy, VimpelCom).
Magic happens when people from different backgrounds are brought together to discuss challenging issues. This session will therefore not have any formal presentations, but will instead seek to engage the panelists in discussion amongst themselves and with the audience. We will generate new ideas that participants will be able to take away and apply in their everyday practices. Looking forward to seeing you on the Monday afternoon of Telecom World in Bangkok!
It was great to be invited to give a lecture in the Societat Catalana de Geografia in Barcelona on the subject of “Information and Communication Technologies: resolving inequalities?” on Tuesday 4th October in the Ciclo de Conferencias Programa Jean Monnet convened by my great friend Prof. Jordi Marti Henneberg on the theme of Los Desafîos de lintegración Europea. This was such an honour, especially since I had the privilege of following the former President of the European Union Josep Borrell’s excellent lecture earlier in the day on El Brexit y sus consequencias en la goberabilidad de la Unión Europea.
This was an opportunity for me to explore the relevance to the European context of some of my ideas about ICTs and inequality gleaned from research and practice in Africa and Asia. In essence, my argument was that we need to balance the economic growth agenda with much greater focus on using ICTs to reduce inequalities if we are truly to use ICTs to support greater European integration. To do this, I concluded by suggesting that we need to concentrate on seven key actions:
- working with the poor rather than for the poor
- pro-poor technological innovation – not the “next billion” but the “first” billion
- governments have a key role to play through the use of regulation as facilitation in the interests of the poor and marginalised
- crafting of appropriate multi-sector partnerships
- managing security and resilience against the dark side
- enhancing learning and understanding, both within governments and by individuals
- working with the most disadvantaged, people with disabilities, street children, and women in patriarchal societies
It was so good to return today to one of my favourite restaurants – Pitarra in Barcelona (on Carrer d’Avinyó) – for lunch. It is full of atmosphere (of the theatre), the food is really excellent, it is typically Catalan, the wines are great, and the service is very friendly and helpful. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone looking for a lovely restaurant in a quiet, rather hidden away part of Barcelona, just on the south-east edge of the Gothic Quarter.
Continuing the digitization of some of my early slide collections, I post below a selection of pictures from Dubai in 1980. I remember it then undergoing a building boom, but that was of a completely different scale from what has subsequently happened over the last 30 years or so. I wish I had been there in the 1960s, when by all reports it was a small, sleepy town built around the harbour! However, my pictures do still capture something of the old character of the city, and the busy waterfront. I loved wandering around the Bastakiya quarter, and remember being fascinated by the wind towers and architecture. It is good to see the sympathetic restoration that has taken place in the quarter in recent years, but it does not have quite the same atmosphere that it did then! It was good to wander in the suq and see all of the glittering gold that i could never afford! I also loved just watching the small boats and dhows plying their trade along the creek. My favourite hotel was undoubtedly the Meridien, a quiet oasis where I could escape from the business of the city, but surprisingly I never took a photograph if it!
I first visited Abu Dhabi in 1980; there was construction everywhere and part of me wished I had been there 20 years earlier! The changes since then, though, have been enormous, and it is very hard to recognise any of what I experienced then in the modern city of today. As part of my ongoing project of digitsing my slides from 30-40 years ago, I hope that the selection below captures something of the city as it was at that time: the juxtaposition of small new mosques with high-rise buildings; the contrasts between the greenness of the agricultural projects at Al Ain, and the urban concrete of Abu Dhabi city itself; the differences in wealth between local citizens and immigrant labourers who were mainly from South Asia; the belief that pumping oil could create cities, whereas pumping water from the underground aquifers could turn the desert green; the rather sleepy atmosphere that pervaded the place; the beauty and colours of the dhows on the blue, blue sea; the markets on the streets where one could buy everything from animals to all sorts of imported goods from containers; the mysteries of the suq…