I found myself writing today about the ways through which the poor and marginalised are represented in major global ICT4D forums. What I wrote, shocked me, and I fear that when published it will shock most of the readers of my new book as well! I am therefore sharing it here to try to garner some feedback beforehand that can help me recraft and improve the chapter. This short piece is only the beginning of the section, and it does go on to suggest ways through which the voices of poor people can indeed be articulated and listened to, not least through innovative uses of ICTs. However, I would be fascinated to receive any feedback, preferably polite, on my thoughts below:
“… the voices of the poorest and most marginalised are rarely if ever directly present in international ICT4D forums. There is therefore a very real challenge of representation in such meetings. Few participants have anything other than a relatively shallow understanding of what poverty is really like, or have ever engaged deeply trying to understand the needs of the poor, and how these might be delivered through ICTs. To be sure, much research has been undertaken on ICTs and poverty, and some policy makers may have read a little of this literature, but global ICT4D forums remain forums of the elite and the powerful. Some civil society representatives, with their supposedly strong involvement with community groups, are most likely to be closest to understanding the needs of the poorest and the most marginalised, but even then their senior representatives at international meetings are often far removed from the grounded reality of poverty. Theoretically, government officials, with their responsibility for all of their citizens, should be mindful of the needs of their poorest and most marginalised citizens, but all too often government representatives are drawn from ruling elites, in both rich and poor countries alike, and again do not necessarily understand how ICTs might be able to empower poor people. Their interests are often primarily in being re-elected. Moreover, the increasingly close relationship between governments and the private sector mean that all too often governments favour the interests of the private sector over those of the most marginalised, in the mistaken belief that economic growth will necessarily eliminate poverty. Additionally, many of the most capable young ICT Ministers in poor countries are themselves drawn from the private sector, thereby reinforcing this private sector view of how to reduce poverty through the use of ICTs. The private sector itself, including the supposedly munificent founders of Foundations, is primarily interested in driving economic growth and profits, and tends to see the poor and the marginalised largely as customers or an enhanced market. Few representative of the private sector at international ICT4D forums can lay claim to being poor. To be sure, it is inevitable that international forums are populated by elites, and many people who attend them do like to think that they have the interests of the marginalised at heart. Nevertheless, it is important that further consideration is given to this issue, and innovative ways are indeed sought through which the balance of conversation and debate is changed. This short section highlights challenges with three particular areas: the involvement of young people, the highly sexist male-dominated character of the ICT sector itself, and the voices of those with disabilities.”
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:
- The need to build awareness
- Mainstreaming accessibility
- Providing incentives, whilst also using regulation and enforcement
- Education as a means for affecting cultural change
- Using a quality label as a means for creating a minimum standard
- Capacity development
- 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.
The ICT4D Collective hosted a workshop at the WSIS Forum in Geneva today on the key factors colleagues considered to be necessary to overcome four of the most important problems in delivering effective ICT4D partnerships. The idea for the workshop stemmed from the systematic review of the impact of ICT4D partnerships completed by Marije Geldof, David Grimshaw, Dorothea Kleine and myself for DFID earlier this year. This highlighted four main areas where further thought was required:
- How can we best ensure that local communities and interests are involved in partnership implementation?
- How to ensure that intended development outcomes are really addressed?
- How to build sustainability and scalability into ICT4D partnerships from the very beginning?
- What mechanisms can be used to ensure trust, honesty, openness, mutual understanding and respect?
Following an opening presentation by David Grimshaw (Practical Action, and Royal Holloway, University of London), we divided up into four groups (chaired by Paola Uimonen from SPIDER, Peter Drury from Cisco, and Dorothea Kleine and myself from Royal Holloway, University of London), each discussing one of these themes, and the outcome was the following mind map (click on image for larger version) that reflected the collected views of the 30 or so people present, as well as those who joined by WebEx video conferencing services kindly provided by Cisco.
A more detailed .pdf file of the mind-map is available here: WSIS Forum 2011
Thanks to everyone who participated, and helped to make the discussions so interesting.
This week’s WSIS Forum is just about to get underway in Geneva. The organisers have been very eager to ensure that people can participate remotely. Full details of how to watch and engage in the discussions ‘at a distance’ are copied below:
“The WSIS Forum has a multi-stakeholder character. The WSIS Stakeholders include governments, civil society, private sector and international organizations from all parts of the world. Today, information and communication technologies (ICTs) provide the opportunity for representation and inclusion of all stakeholders in the WSIS Forum by way of remote participation. In order to ensure participation and inclusion of all WSIS Stakeholders, remote participation has been designed as an integral feature of the WSIS Forum 2011.
Building on the success of remote participation facilities initiated at WSIS Forum 2010, the organizers are working towards integrating the most user friendly and widely used tools for encouraging remote participation at WSIS Forum 2011. These easy to participate tools will enable two way communication, allowing the WSIS Stakeholders to participate in the WSIS Forum at their own convenience at the same time, disemminate information about the different sessions and happenings at the Forum.
Components of Remote Participation at WSIS Forum 2011
Remote Participation will be a key feature of the WSIS Forum 2011 and you can follow all sessions via the video webcast (registration not required).
Webcast page: http://www.itu.int/ibs/WSIS/201105forum/index.html.
All Forum sessions will feature live reporting via twitter, as part of the iWrite4WSIS campaign.
Adobe Connect Conference Rooms
If you would like to participate actively in this conference as a remote delegate, you can do so by registering to participate via the Adobe Connect (virtual) conference rooms. This will allow you to follow the video feed of the conference room, hear what is being discussed (English channel), see presentations and documents, and put questions to panelists via chat. Each session will have 10-15 minutes for questions from remote delegates. Participation, as a remote delegate, requires registration. (See registration page)
Short Video: Inside an Adobe Connect Meeting Room
The Adobe Connect Conference Rooms are provided below:
You can login to any of these rooms to have a look around, however they will only be active from Monday, 16 May at 08h45(Geneva time)
See also Frequently Asked Questions for Remote Participants
Cisco is generously sponsoring the opportunity for anyone to participate in the session on the Development Impact of Multi-stakeholder Partnerships in ICT4D ( http://groups.itu.int/wsis-forum2011/Agenda.aspx?event=event_60) that the ICT4D Collective is convening from 16.30-18.00 Geneva time (15.30-17.00 UK time) on Tuesday 17th May at the WSIS Forum ( http://groups.itu.int/default.aspx?tabid=856). Please share this information as widely as possible, so that colleagues across the world can join in our discussions and deliberations.
To join the online discussion, please use the following information (best to try to log-on about ten minutes in advance to download the applet and check the systems are working) :
Meeting Number: 608 639 429
Meeting Password: 123
To join this meeting (Now from mobile devices!)
1. Go to https://ciscosales.webex.com/ciscosales/j.php?J=608639429&PW=NYzY4NDE5MjI3
2. Enter the meeting password: 123
3. Click “Join Now”.
4. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen.
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