Tag Archives: Conferences

Making money from meeting the SDGs? An overarching approach to sustainable development

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!



Filed under Conferences, Development, ICT4D, SDGs, Sustainability

Sexual harassment at international ICT events: a call for action

I have become increasingly saddened and dismayed in recent years at the level of sexual harassment, and what I see as inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour by a surprising number of men at the ICT conferences and exhibitions convened by some international organisations.  This ranges from generally loutish actions by some groups of young men, to what can only be called predatory behaviour by some older and more senior figures in the sector.  Until the last couple of years, I had thought that such behaviour had largely disappeared, but from what I have witnessed myself, from what I have heard from women in the sector, and from what I have read, it is clear that action needs to be taken urgently by all those in the sector, and particularly those who are organising conferences and events.

ITU maleThe ICT industry has for far too long been dominated by men, much to its disadvantage, and it is good that an increasing amount of publicity is being shed on the sexism that has come to dominate the sector more widely.  In 2014, the Guardian newspaper ran an interesting series of reports on the subject, one of which was entitled “Women ‘belittled, underappreciated and underpaid’ in tech industry“, and in 2015, the BBC also featured a report on “Sexism in Silicon Valley and beyond: tech wake-up call” following the case brought by Reddit boss Ellen Pao against her former employer, venture capitalist Kleiner Perkins.  However, this is the tip of the iceberg.

UN Women Watch has defined sexual harassment as “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature”, and has provided an excellent detailed document describing this in more detail and giving example of verbal, non-verbal and physical sexual harassment.  Such behaviour can certainly be by both men and women, but the vast majority of perpetrators are men, and it is high time that concerted action is taken to stop it.

ZTE.jpgAs a first step, I am issuing this call for all international organisations in the field of ICTs to issues guidelines on expected behaviour at their events.  I prefer guidelines to codes, because codes generally require policing, and the imposition of penalties or sanctions should anyone be found guilty.  In practice, this is extremely difficult to implement and enforce.  Guidelines, instead, reflect expected norms, and should be acted upon by everyone participating in an event.  If someone witnesses inappropriate behaviour, it should be their responsibility to take action to ensure that the perpetrator stops.  In far too many cases, though, people at present do not take enough action, especially when the harassment is by someone senior in the sector.  This has to change.  We must all take collective responsibility for bringing an end to such behaviour, so that everyone can participate equally at international ICT events without fear of being harassed because of their gender or sexuality.

DohaTo be sure, there are very complex cultural issues to be considered in any such discussion, but the fundamental aspect of harassment is that it is any behaviour that someone else considers to be unacceptable.  Hence, we must all consider the other person’s cultural context in our actions and behaviours, rather than our own cultural norms.  Just because something might be acceptable in our own culture, does not mean that it is acceptable in another person’s culture.  Despite such complexities, some international organisations have indeed produced documents that can provide the basis for good practices in this area.  Some of the most useful are:

  • The UN’s Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service, which has a useful paragraph (21) on harassment: “Harassment in any shape or form is an affront to human dignity and international civil servants must not engage in any form of harassment. International civil servants have the right to a workplace environment free of harassment or abuse. All organizations must prohibit any kind of harassment. Organizations have a duty to establish rules and provide guidance on what constitutes harassment and abuse of authority and how unacceptable behaviour will be addressed”
  • The Internet Governance Forum, has a short and straightforward code of conduct, which begins by stating that participants must “Treat all members of the IGF community equally, irrespective of nationality, gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age, or sexual orientation; all stakeholders of the IGF community should treat each other with civility, both face to face and online”.  This could be more explicit with respect to harassment, but it is at least a start.
  • One of the clearest and most detailed documents is the conference anti-harassment policy template, developed by the Geek Feminism Wiki.  This has useful suggested texts of different lengths, with the  shortest being “$CONFERENCE is dedicated to a harassment-free conference experience for everyone. Our anti-harassment policy can be found at: [URL for full anti-harassment policy]”.  It goes on to give medium and full length policy templates, as well as suggestions for actions that participants and staff should take.

I look forward to the day when all international ICT conferences do indeed have such guidelines on sexual harassment, and hope that this will begin to create a better, safer and happier environment where we can all work together more effectively to reach appropriate decisions about these important technologies and their use.


Filed under Conferences, ICT4D

Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation’s Digital Broadcasting Switchover Forum, Arusha

Just under 200 people (including regulators, the private sector and civil society groups) have come together to discuss critical issues surrounding the switchover/transition from analogue to digital broadcasting at the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation’s Digital Broadcasting Switchover Forum (#DBS2014) taking place from 11th-14th February 2014.  We were delighted that Hon Dr. Fenella E. Mukangara (Minister of Information, Youth, Culture and Sport of the United Republic of Tanzania) was able to open the Forum this morning.

With Nkoma and Mukangara

In my welcome address, as well as thanking the government of Tanzania and especially the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, I took the opportunity to highlight four particular issues:

  • The importance for Africa –  digital transition/switchover has considerable potential, especially in terms of the diversity of services it can offer, as well as the digital dividend it will provide through the reallocation of spectra.  However, it must be used to  serve the interests of all of Africa’s people, especially the marginalised, such as people with disabilities and those living in sparsely populated rural areas.
  • The potential for Africa – people living in Africa should not be only learning from the experiences of other parts of the world in terms of good practices (part of the purpose of this Forum), but should also be developing innovative solutions for the context of Africa, that can in their turn be used in other international contexts. We must build on the richness of African innovation.
  • The challenges facing Africa – some of the many challenges facing Africa include:
    • it is not easy to deliver transition/switchover solutions at a cost that everyone can afford;
    • we must not fall into the trap of being forced to deliver to a time-schedule that may not  be realistically feasible;
    • ensuring indeed that the poor and marginalised – those who often currently benefit most from analogue radio and television – can indeed still afford to do access digital broadcasting;
    • ensuring quality standards of equipment such as set top boxes; and
    • ensuring that appropriate information is shared with everyone in a diversity of languages.
  • My own experiences of switchover – I recall my parents being really concerned about switchover in England, not fully understanding what was involved, but they were grateful that a free service for elderly people was provided to put in a set top box and help them to use it effectively.  My mother can now benefit from all that digital TV can offer! This particularly reminds that it is not so much the technology that is the challenge, but rather that the most difficult thing to get right is how to ensure that everyone, and particularly the elderly, the spatially marginalised and those with disabilities, can really benefit from digital switchover.

Sirpa OjalaImage from session on the future of African broadcasting

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, ICT4D

IPID Annual Conference at UPC Barcelona

The International Network for Postgraduate Students working in ICT4D (IPID) is currently (9th-10th September 2010) holding its 5th annual conference at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona. A wealth of current postgraduate research in ICT4D is being presented around the following themes:

  • gender
  • e-agriculture
  • rural communities
  • online communities
  • e-government
  • technology
  • ICT in education
  • e-health
  • entrepreneurship
  • networks

The conference is being broadcast live at http://www.canalupc.tv/media/simposium-upc-uoc .

Ismael Peña Lopez’s comprehensive blog on the conference.

Leave a comment

Filed under ICT4D, ICT4D conferences

IPID annual conference: 9th-10th September in Barcelona

The IPID annual conferences have become one of the major global events for young researchers in the field of ICT4D to share their experiences.  This year’s conference is being hosted by the Open University of Catalonia and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia on 9th and 10th September 201o and will be held at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain:

1 Comment

Filed under ICT4D, ICT4D conferences

Heading to e-Learning Africa, 26th-28th May 2010

This year’s eLearning Africa takes place in Lusaka, Zambia, later this week, and promises to be a great chance to catch up with colleagues working on ICT4D!  I have been lucky enough to participate in all of the four previous eLearning Africa conferences in Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana and Senegal, and they have always provided a useful opportunity to learn about some of the latest developments in the field.  It is particularly good to meet African academics and activists committed to using ICTs to support the aspirations of poor and marginalised people across the continent.

Thanks to all those at ICWE who have been working so hard in recent months to put on the conference – I hope it’s a great success.

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Higher Education, ICT4D conferences

ICTs and Development: workshop at IIT Delhi (Day 2)

Welcome back to the second day of the ICTs and development workshop at IIT Delhi.

We got underway with Jonathan Donner’s (Microsoft Research India) invited lead talk on The changing roles of mobile phones in development: some examples from Africa

  • Emphasised amazing growth of mobile ‘phones – but rightly noted that this is neither universal not homogenous
  • We need to focus on the people rather than the technology – M4D is the tip of an iceberg of uses that people make of mobile ‘phones
  • Uses of mobiles for agriculture: use of mobiles for ‘traditional’ extension; creating platform mobile services including new market systems such as Manobi, or lean market places such as Google Trader
  • Homegrown services: M-PESA and MXIT – low barriers to adoption, affordable and compelling relative to existing alternatives, woven into everyday life, network effects.  They do well because they are so simple.
  • Both of these offer real possibilities for scale – albeit not yet for the poorest of the poor – and do things that traditional voice cannot do
  • Importance of unintended consequences
  • We need more evidence; we need to distinguish between mobility and connectivity; and we need to take the long view
  • We should also resist the use of “M4D” as a research term so as to de-fetishise it – moving the emphasis to the people not the technology; if we keep the term, we need to focus on the “4”


Parveen Pannu (University of Delhi, India) Mobiles and socio-economic life of press workers in Delhi

  • Focus on urban growth in India and the rapid adoption of mobiles, especially among informal sector workers
  • Having clothes ironed is a central part of urban middle class India – the ironing business depends a lot on personal contact and good will (but there is also a press workers union)
  • Survey of households who did ironing work: c.65% had a family mobile ‘phone; cost of ‘phones was major factor influencing price (some received them from their customers); users of mobile ‘phones earned more than non-users, but cause/effect not known; usage – 38% social, 29% work related; most calls were received from the lady of the house who arranged collection/delivery of clothes and finding new companies; 50% were not into texting SMS messages (not comfortable because of English language texting)

Ishita Shruti (IIT Delhi) Remittance behaviour and doing business among Indian rural salesmen in Cambodia

  • New ICTs have played an important role in remittances (both economic and social) – focus of this ethnographic research is on rural salesmen mostly from UP
  • Internet based ‘phone calls are the cheapest means of communicating – so people use internet cafés/’booths’
  • ‘Agents’ are used to deliver remittances – informal network enabled through ‘phone calls (social capital plays an important role in delivering remittances)
  • Mobile ‘phones have also facilitated business, enabling salesmen to interact with family but also to make decisions about their businesses


Jean-Yves Hamel (UNDP) Public interests, private costs: civil society and the use of ICTs in Timor Leste

  • Placed emphasis on the notion of freedoms and the capability approach
  • Highlighted role of FDI from Telstra – supported by UN – and subsequent problems associated with its monopoly position. Monopolies are associated with high costs of ICT provision; regulators are unable to challenge these.
  • Noted the early use of ICTs from 1994 to enable communication of civil society ‘opposition’ with the rest of world
  • Key role of deep women’s networks – links to health organisations, scholarships, women’s rights groups
  • ICTs provide an important window on the world


Nimmi Rangaswamy (Microsoft Research India) The PC aided enterprise and recycling ICT

  • Role of ICTs in expanding small and micro-enterprises in Mumbai slums
  • ICTs can help promote skill building; business are organic and self-sustaining
  • Nice business ecology coming into play – capital, space, skills, hardware
  • Not simply assimilating technology for business, but also creating new systems and processes
  • “There is no ‘for D’ in it, because they are doing it themselves” – not sure I agree with this, surely this is itself a form of development

Jack Linchuan Qiu (Chinese University, Hong Kong) Working-class information society? Open questions about China and ICTs

  • Focused on the “information have-less”
  • Some statistics from China: internet users 2 m in 1998, but 298 m in 2008; 49% of internet users are now not college-educated – so Internet is being used much more widely across different sectors of the population
  • Private sector now accounts for more than half of urban population employment – so people have to find jobs, and this has been associated with a rapid increase in ICTs: does macro-empowermnet lead to (seemingly) micro-empowerment
  • Measuring information needs is complex; fundamental differences between information needs and wants.
  • Bottom of pyramid innovations are firstly social and only secondarily technological
  • Developing a new class analysis based on horizontal networking among workers
  • Chindia as a new path to development – a re-evaluation of labour-centred production


Otgonjargal Okhidoi (Educational Channel Television, Mongolia) Can technology level the inequality in education delivery? Blended technology based education program in Mongolia

  • Mongolian democritisation and economic liberalisation created freedom for flourishing media companies, mostly for profit commercial broadcasting – mostly focus on imported programmes (soaps, sumo…)
  • Educational Channel TV began only three years ago for public sector broadcasting (4-6 hours airtime a day on academic subjects; not for profit and one of only 2 nationwide broadcasters).  Then Internet service and cellphone messaging added on to make it more interactive and provide feedback (focus of project on English language and IT)
  • 93% of total population of Mongolia names TV as the key source of information
  • Inequality of access to education and quality of content – 66% of children live outside Ulaanbatar, and are poorly served by education
  • Almost all schools have computer labs set up by donor funding, and all are connected to the Internet – but there is not much good content available.  So, they used 20 minute TV programmes and followed up with work in class on Internet. Reported that impact on knowledge acquisition was positive, and it enhanced self-learning

S. Subash (National Academy of Agricultural Research Management) Knowledge empowerment of farmers through interactive web-module on dairy innovations

  • Use of ICTs for technology transfer agricultural extension in the field of dairying focusing particularly on web-module (Haryana and Tamil Nadu case study)
  • Training in ICT centres given to farmers; needs of farmers identified and web-based learning module given to them
  • Reported that farmers in Haryana has a 16% knowledge gain as a result of the intervention, and 28% gain in Tamil Nadu – although some concerns were expressed in questions about the impact of experimental design
  • Benefits also gained by extension workers
  • Users requested more interactivity and provision of real-time information; it is important to ensure that content is regularly updated; mobile alerts for farmers should also be introduced

Murali Shanmugavelan (Panos, London) Telecentres and public spaces

  • Substantial amount of recent support for telecentres in India – but “what information is reaching what communities?”
  • How do telecentres interact with village communities – are they reinforcing or changing social structures? Study of 12 telecentres of different kind.
  • ICTs can constrain or expand public spaces (four layers of public: physical, management, human as public, and services) – communication practices can create a chaos in traditional systems
  • Key factors: location influences accessibility; telecentres specifically designed for particular underprivileged groups such as dalits are exclusionary rather than ‘public’; management layer is very influential (recruiting women increases inclusivity); type of service delivery influences usage (and real needs of excluded users are not necessarily delivered); social and cultural factors constrain usage (discrimination against women and dalits; low participation of elderly and disabled communities)
  • There is a real need to map non-users and understand more about why they do not use ICTs – traditional hierarchies

Leave a comment

Filed under ICT4D, ICT4D conferences