Tag Archives: disabilities

Interview with Teledifusão de Macau on ICT4D

It was so good to be in Macau and Shenzhen recently in my role as a member of the Advisory Board of the United Nations University Computing and Society Institute.  During my visit, colleagues at the Institute had arranged for me to participate in Teledifusão de Macau (TDM)’s prime time Talk Show with Kelsey Wilhelm.  This was a great opportunity to share some of my current thinking about the interface between digital technologies and humans, and Kelsey made sure that it was a lively and fun half hour discussion – really grateful to him for this!

The show is now available on YouTube, and begins with an overview of the current state of ICT for development, before going on to discuss

  • ways through which people with disabilities can be empowered through the use of technology,
  • the importance of new technologies being inclusive, because otherwise they lead to new inequalities,
  • working “with” the poorest and most marginalised rather than for them,
  • the role of new technologies such as AI and blockchain in serving the interests of the rich rather than the poor,
  • cyborgs and the creation of machine-humans and human-machines, and finally
  • some of the ethical issues that need to be discussed if we are to balance the benefits of new technologies whilst limiting their harm.

I very much hope that what I have to say is thought-provoking and interesting.  We need much wider public debate on these issues!


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Filed under ICT4D, Inequality, poverty, United Nations, Universities

Summary of Keynote for COL’s PCF7 in Abuja

Despite limited digital connectivity, I just thought I would upload a short summary of my upcoming keynote at the Commonwealth of Learning’s Seventh Pan-Commonwealth Forum this afternoon to encourage productive debate!  Its central argument is that we are not delivering as effectively as we could in using ICTs for education at all levels, because of very explicit interests that are serving to limit this effectiveness. (Later on 17th December: the slides that accompanied the keynote have now been made available by COL)

Good practices

I begin with a short overview of ten good practices that need to be in place to ensure effective use of ICTs in education:

  1. It’s the learning that matters, not the technology
  2. Teachers must be involved from the beginning
  3. Sustainability built in from the start
  4. Supporting infrastructure must be in place
  5. Appropriate content must be developed
  6. Equality of access for all learners
  7. Continual monitoring and evaluation
  8. Appropriate maintenance contracts
  9. Using the technology 24/7
  10. Good practices, rather than best

So, why are these not done?

I focus here first on the observation that ICTs generally increase inequalities unless very specific actions are taken to ensure that the poorest and most marginalised are able to benefit.

I then explore the various interests that tend to limit delivery of the above ten practices, focusing especially on the activities of the private sector, and especially hardware and software companies, connectivity companies and content developers.

In so doing, I also draw on some of the increasing amount of empirical evidence that the use of computers in education is actually damaging learning.

Implications for innovation

In the final section, I explore some of the implications of these trends for innovation and creativity, paying specific attention to five themes:

  1. Content replication
  2. Memory
  3. Language and literacy
  4. Personalised searching
  5. Privacy and failure

In conclusion

In drawing these reflections to an end, I argue that one way forward is to work towards new and effective models of multi-stakeholder partnerships for education, that address education as something much more important, much more complex, and much more exciting than merely as a vehicle for economic transformation.

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Filed under Africa, Commonwealth, Development, Education, Higher Education, ICT4D

Ensuring disability agendas are embedded effectively in national ICT strategies

At today’s WSIS Forum session on ICTs and disability (#ICT4DD) led by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organsation and the UNESCO Chair in ICTD at Royal Holloway, University of London, more than 35 people in Geneva and some 15 people participating externally came together to explore ways through which accessibility/disability issues can be included more effectively in national ICT strategies.  Three breakout groups came up with some 17 main reasons why disability issues are not more included within such policies and strategies, and then identified 7 practical ways through which these challenges can be overcome.  Details of the outcomes are summarised in the mind map below (click on the image itself for a larger version, or the link below for a full sized version).

WSIS Disability session

Solutions recommended included:

  1. The need to build awareness
  2. Mainstreaming accessibility
  3. Providing incentives, whilst also using regulation and enforcement
  4. Education as a means for affecting cultural change
  5. Using a quality label as a means for creating a minimum standard
  6. Capacity development
  7. The involvement of all stakeholders (Nothing about us without us)

Thanks to everyone who participated, and to all of the session partners including the ITU, G3ICT, the University of Michigan, OCAD University, the Daisy Consortium, and the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure initiative.


Filed under Accessibility, ICT4D

Report on using technology to help at-risk youth and people with disabilities gain employment

Researchers at the Technology and Social Change Group in the University of Washington in Seattle (Joyojeet Pal, Jay Freistadt, Michele Frix, and Phil Neff) have recently released an important report on the impact of technology training on the employment prospects of at-risk youth and people with disabilities in five countries in Latin America.

The report’s findings are “broadly divided by the themes that emerged in the coded transcripts of our conversations on the ground. Under environmental factors, we discuss issues around the prevalent discourse of technology that underlines the ways in which the various stakeholders imagine the role of computers and technology training within the larger social and economic ecosystems. An important environmental factor is the aspirational environment, for the role it plays in peoples’ willingness to participate in such training programs. Finally, structural issues around the labor market form the third set of environmental factors that are extremely important, given that both populations discussed here have histories of geographical and institutional exclusion from formal employment opportunities”.

It is good to see these important issues examined in detail; ICTs can indeed make a significant difference to the lived experiences of people with disabilities and at-risk youth


Filed under Education

Lugano grottos and wines…

Smiley smallThanks to Isabella Rega, I had an opportunity  last week not only to learn much more about the exciting research ongoing at the Università degli Svizzera italiana in the field of ICT4D (NewMinE Lab and webatelier.net), but also to enjoy something of the culinary and vinous traditions of Ticino.

Hence, some additions to my periodic listing of interesting restaurants:

  • Canvetto luganese – this really good small restaurant is owned and managed by the Fundazione Diamante, which provides support and work for people with disabilities, integrating them into a diversity of different enterprises.  Since 2003 it has been recognised by the Osterie d’Italia di Slow-Food, and offers a range of delicious regional foods.  Its handmade pastas and ravioli are particularly good, as was the steak tartare!
  • Grottos – the hillsides around Lugano are replete with small restaurants, originally built around caves (hence the name ‘grottos’), but now offering some excellent freshly grilled meats and local foods in open air surroundings.  I particularly enjoyed dinner at the Grotto Circolo Sociale Montagnola, which had really excellent grilled grilled costine, as well as lunch at the Grotto Ticinese, where we shared risotto, grilled meats and salads, sitting under the trees on an otherwise very hot and humid day!
  • In Lugano itself, La Rosa dei Venti is situated on the lake shore by a small yacht club – a heavy rainstorm forced us inside, but the seafood risotto was good!

Barrell smallAs for wine, Ticino often suffers from rain and dampness in October which has a tendency to cause rot – but sadly not of the noble kind – the Botrytis cineria here in Ticino is far from benevolent! Hence, grape growers have been keen to plant early ripening varieties, most notably Merlot.  In recent years,  these red grapes have also been used to make the white wine Bianco di Merlot, which can have complexity and subtle flavours – when well-vinified they have a fresh acidity that goes really well with the local food.

  • Tenuta Bally & von Teufenstein, with vineyards and winery at Vezia, a short distance from Lugano, produces a good range of interesting wines.  As well as a rich and fruity Bianco di Merlot, their red wines (Cresperino 100% Merlot; Riserva Ernesto 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon) are generally much fuller and with better tannin structure than many of the rather light Merlots that can be found in Ticino.  Their Tre Api Merlot Riserva from the excellent 2007 vintage is made from old vines, and has fine soft tannins with a real richness of flavours – combining redcurrants, blackberries and violets.  They also make a rosati wine (Sarabanda) and a sparkling Spumante di Merlot, as well as a white (La Piana) that combines Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon, and an 100% Chardonnay (La Sfinge)


Filed under Accessibility, ICT4D, Restaurants, Wine