The 3rd ICT4D workshop convened by the Inter Islamic Network on IT (INIT) and COMSATS University in Islamabad, and supported by the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D (Royal Holloway, University of London) and the Ministry of IT and Telecom in Pakistan on the theme of Mainstreaming the Marginalised was held at the Ramada Hotel in Islamabad on 28th and 29th January 2020. This was a very valuable opportunity for academics, government officials, companies, civil society organisations and donors in Pakistan to come together to discuss practical ways through which digital technologies can be used to support economic, social and political changes that will benefit the poorest and most marginalised. The event was remarkable for its diveristy of participants, not only across sectors but also in terms of the diversity of abilities, age, and gender represented. It was a very real pleasure to participate in and support this workshop, which built on the previous ones we held in Islamabd in 2016 and 2017.
The inaugural session included addresses by Prof Dr Raheel Qamar (President INIT and Rector COMSATS University, Islamabad), Mr. Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui (Federal Secretary Ministry of IT & Telecom) and Dr. Tahir Naeem (Executive Director, INIT), as well as my short keynote on Digital Technologies, Climate Change and Sustainability. This was followed by six technical sessions spread over two days:
- Future of learning and technology
- Policy to practice: barriers and challenges
- Awareness and inclusion: strategizing through technology
- Accessibility and Technology: overcoming barriers
- Reskilling the marginalised: understandng role reversals
- Technical provisio: indigenisation for local needs.
These sessions included a wide diversity of activities, ranging from panel sessions, practical demonstrations, and mind-mapping exercises, and there were plenty of opportunities for detailed discussions and networking.
Highlights for me amongst the many excellent presentations included:
- Recollections by Prof Abdful Mannan and Prof Ilyas Ahmed of the struggles faced by people with disabilities in getting their issues acknowledged by others in society, and of the work that they and many others have been doing to support those with a wide range of disabilities here in Pakistan
- The inspirational presentations by Julius Sweetland of his freely available Open Source Optikey software enabling those with multiple disbilities to use only their eyes to write and control a keyboard
- Meeting the young people with Shastia Kazmi (Vision 21 and Founder of Little Hands), who have gained confidence and expertise through her work and are such an inspiration to us all in continuing our work to help some of the pooorest and most marginalised to be empowered through digital technologies.
- The very dynamic discussions around practical actions that we can all take to enable more inclusive use of digital technologies (mindmaps of these available below)
Enormous thanks must go to Dr. Tahir Naeem (COMSATS University and Executive Director of INIT) and his team, especially Dr. Akber Gardezi and Atiq-ur-Rehman, for all that they did to make this event such a success.
A shortened version of this workshop was also subsequently held on Monday 3rd February at the University of Sindh in Jamshoro, thanks to the support and facilitation of Dr. Mukesh Khatwani (Director of the Area Study Centre for Far East and Southeast Asia) and his colleagues. This also focused on the practical ways through which some of the most marginalised can benefit from the appropriate use of digital technologies, and it was once again good to have the strong involvement of persons with disabilities.
Quick links to workshop materials and outputs:
- My short keynote on Digital Technologies, Climate Change and Sustainability given at both workshops.
- Introduction to Technical Session I. The future of learning and technology: understanding the deprived context.
- Introduction to Technical Session III. Awareness and inclusion: strategising through technology.
- Introduction to Technical Session IV. Accessibility and technology: overcoming barriers.
- Introduction to Technical Session V. Reskilling the marginalised: women and technology.
- Mindmap of workshop discussion on How can we best change men’s attitudes and behaviours so that gender digital equality improves in Pakistan?
- Mindmap of workshop discussion on How can digital technologies be used better to support learning in deprived contexts?