Tag Archives: UNESCO Chair in ICT4D

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D is not the same as the UNESCO Chair in ICTD

Geo.tv in Pakistan has recently run the following headline “Pakistani computer scientist Dr Umar Saif appointed UNESCO chair for ICTD”, and in the article that follows has claimed that “World-renowned Pakistani computer scientist Dr Umar Saif has been appointed as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Chair for using Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD). This is the first international UNESCO Chair in the field of ICTD and will help Pakistan become a centre of excellence in using Information Technology for development, especially use of technology to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said a press release issued earlier.”  Other Pakistani media has run similar headlines, such as the Daily Pakistan Global’s “UNESCO appoints Pakistan’s Dr. Umar Saif as first international chair for ICTD”

Umar Saif has himself posted the following on Facebook to wide acclaim, stating that “Dear friends I have been awarded the UNESCO Chair for using ICT for development.  This is a moment of pride for Pakistan and a recognition of our work in the past 10 years”.

Following several comments and enquiries from colleagues in the field of ICT4D who have questioned the veracity of these claims, I write here just to clarify not only the nature of UNESCO Chairs, but also to make it very clear that the first UNESCO Chair in ICT4D was created at Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2007, long before the university that Umar Saif founded in Punjab in 2013 was even created; interestingly that university is named the ITU University (Information Technology University), which itself raises confusion with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).  It is also important here to note that ICT4D and ICTD are very different!

UNESCO Chairs are created as an agreement between a university and UNESCO, and they are the term given for a community of researchers working in a particular academic field.  This can be confusing, because no individual is actually a UNESCO Chair, but rather they are appointed as a Chairholder.  While there are no restrictions on the number of Chairs in any one field, it is usual practice for chairs to be clearly differentiated, so that the majority do not have the same names.

In the light of this, when I was approached by staff at the International Technology University in Pakistan about the procedure for acquiring the status of a UNESCO Chair in 2017, I was happy to offer them some advice about how to proceed.  I had no idea that they would be applying for a Chair in exactly the same name to our own.  On discovering that such a duplicate application had been made to UNESCO, I wrote to colleagues at the Information Technology University in Pakistan suggesting that it might be useful to change the proposed name of their new Chair from ICT4D to something else, so that there would not be confusion.  They wrote back accepting a very minor change from ICT4D to ICTD.

It is up to readers of this post to judge the motives of those involved in applying for a UNESCO Chair in such a similar name to that of a long-established Chair, those on the National Committee in Pakistan who nominated such an application to UNESCO, and those who supported such an application.

To summarise and clarify for the record:

  • The first UNESCO Chair in ICT4D was established at Royal Holloway, University of London, more than a decade ago in 2007; and
  • Umar Saif has recently been appointed as the Chairholder of a UNESCO Chair at the Information Technology University in Pakistan, and is not the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, or in ICTD.

I fear that this confusion sadly does not reflect well either on the political establishment in Pakistan who approved this nomination, nor on the professionalism of those involved in the nomination itself.  I would hope that the Pakistani press and those on social media will recognise this and respond accordingly.  I am sure they will agree that this is not a matter of pride for Pakistan, but actually sadly reflects rather badly on them.

I am somewhat saddened by this and only write to clarify the confusion that has already arisen and has been pointed out to me by colleagues.  It will not make the slightest difference to the ongoing work that my colleagues continue to do in this field.   I should also emphasise that I have many dear friends in Pakistan, and it is a wonderful and beautiful country.  I like and respect very many people in Pakistan, ranging from senior government officials to the many Commonwealth Scholarship Commission alumni who it has been my privilege to know.  The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D has worked with long established research-led universities in Pakistan, such as COMSATS IIT which has a world-renowned reputation unlike some other provincial universities in the country, and it has been an honour to undertake research with them and to promote the effective use of ICTs to support and empower the poorest and least privileged in the world.

Tim Unwin (Chairholder, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D)

 

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ITU and UNESCO Chair in ICT4D session at WSIS Forum 2018: International decision-making in ICT – where are the women?

The ITU is strongly committed to achieving gender equality across its organisational structures, and has been one of the driving forces for achieving gender equality in and through ICTs across the world, not least through its involvement in creating the EQUALS initiative.

One of the key international gatherings convened by the ITU has been the series of World Radiocommunication Conferences held periodically to reach international agreements on Radio Regulations, with new and revised Resolutions and Recommendations.  Traditionally, these have been very male dominated, and the ITU has therefore taken steps to encourage greater involvement of women at all levels in its decision-making processes.  One aspect of this has been the creation of the Network of Women for WRC-19 (NOW4WRC19), led by Dr. Hanane Naciri, which aims to encourage increased participation of women in the conference being held in 2019.  Its main objectives are to have a better gender balance among delegates, to prepare women for key roles in WRC-19, and to grow the women’s community capacity and contribution.

As part of this process, the ITU and the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D convened Session 113 at the WSIS Forum 2018.  This began with a lively panel discussion, opened by Dr Hanane Naciri (Radiocommunication and Software Engineer, Radiocommunication Bureau, ITU), with Sahiba Hasanova (Vice-Chairman, ITU-R Study Group 4 / Leading Adviser, Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies, the Republic of Azerbaijan), Caitlin Kraft-Buchman (CEO/Founder Women@theTable, Geneva, Switzerland) and Brigitte Mantilleri (Director of the Equal opportunities office of the University of Geneva).  The speakers shared some of their experiences of leadership in the field of ICT, commented on the challenges facing women who wish to participate in such events, and suggesting what needs to be done to involve more women at all levels in such processes (summary).

workshop

Building on these inspirational introductions, participants then shared their experiences, insights and suggestions for what still needs to be done to ensure that women contribute fully and appropriately to international ICT decision making, and especially to WRC-19.  Twelve themes were identified, and these were captured in a mind map which is available on the ITU and UNESCO Chair for ICT4D sites:

  • Top leadership and champions: it is essential that top leadership supports the increased participation of women, and that champions are identified who can promote such participation;
  • Ensuring that women are in powerful positions: women need to be supported throughout their lives, and particularly encouraged to take leadership roles;
  • Building and promoting networks: it is essential that we work together in intergenerational networks that can support and advise women participating in such decision-making activities;
  • Involving men: we must have male feminists as well as female ones who are willing to help change attitudes and cultures of oppression;
  • Training: more effective training programmes are necessary, particularly ones that help men to understand the relevant issues;
  • Organisational structures: addressing elements of organizational culture is key, and it is important to equip women to survive and flourish in the environments where they work;
  • Awareness and communication: the need to provide much more information about how women can contribute to such decision-making gatherings, and to confront people who have negative behaviours;
  • Changing norms: the need to address and revisit many underlying assumptions;
  • Incentivisation: the need to provide incentives to organisations and individual women to participate in such events;
  • The role of recruitment: recruitment agents can play a key role in ensuring balanced interview panels and processes, and in supporting a charter code of practice on gender;
  • Remember that inclusion is not the same as diversity: diversity is not enough and we need to be inclusive to ensure that women feel comfortable in whatever environment they find themselves; and finally
  • Recognising it may not happen overnight: given how slow change has been so far, we need to recognize it may not happen swiftly, but we must develop the momentum so that it will happen as quickly as possible.

Participants were committed to supporting EQUALS and working with the ITU to ensure that there is much greater involvement of women at all levels in WRC-19.

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Filed under Conferences, Gender, ICT4D, ITU