It was a great pleasure to have been invited to contribute as a panellist to Session 406 of the WSIS Annual Forum on 2nd June 2022 on the theme of “Academic perspectives on WSIS and the SDGs”. This was a hybrid event, and as the picture below shows it was sadly not attended by very many people actually in Geneva! (Follow this link for my short, full presentation.)
However there was active participation online, and it was good to share some reflections on the theme. As ever, I tried to be diplomatically provocative, reflecting on my participation in the original World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva (2003) and Tunisia (2005)…
My presentation in particular emphasised the important need for the UN system to stop replicating and duplicating its efforts to use ICTs for “development” (or should this read “to serve the interests of the rich and powerful” especially the “digital barons“?); it is striking and sad, for example, that the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for digital cooperation and Our Common Agenda make no mentions at all of the WSIS process.
My main argument was that with only eight years to go, it is essential that we start planning now for what will replace the SDGs, especially with respect to the uses of digital tech.
I did, though, also address to other themes: how academics can indeed benefit from the WSIS process (see below) as well as a short introduction to the work that we are now doing as part of the Digital-Environment System Coalition (DESC).
It was great to be part of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D team working with our colleagues at the Inter-Islamic Network on Information Technology (INIT) to convene and host the first session on Accessibility Day (8th April) at this year’s tenth anniversary WSIS Annual Forum held in Geneva. The theme was “Digital technologies and accessibility: from rhetoric to reality”, and our session began with three short opening presentations:
Building on these inspiring presentations, participants then turned their attention to discussing what still needs to be done to turn rhetoric into reality with respect to the empowerment of people with disabilities through ICTs. This was captured in the mind map below (link to a detailed and expandable .pdf file of the mind map):
This discussion highlighted the continuing need for work in ten main areas:
Enabling voices of people with disabilities
Policies and legislation
Differentiation between universal inclusion and assistive technologies
Looking forward to another special set of sessions on accessibillity at next year’s WSIS 2020! Thanks to Gitanjali and her team for all the great work that they did in delivering this year’s conference!
It was a great honour to have been invited – a few hours beforehand – to give one of the inaugural WSIS TalkX presentations last Thursday evening as WSIS 2019 drew towards its close. Seven of us had been asked if we would like to talk about our lives in technology for around 5 minutes. I opted to go last – just before the closing cocktail party. Several colleagues had to leave before the end to get to other commitments and so they spoke first; I knew I would be remaining to enjoy the wine. Before me there were some amazing, inspirational speakers: Stephenie Rodriguez, Joel Radvanyi, Gloria Kimbwala, Ayanna T Samuels, Sebastian Behaghel and Ted Chen…
With little time to prepare it was difficult to know quite what to say. We had been asked to tell our own stories, and so I chose five images as five “scenes” around which to tell my tale. Posting the images on social media, I had hoped that people might be able to see them as I spoke…
In reality, I’m not sure that many people actually saw the pictures, and I know many were rather confused when I began and introduced myself in the persona of one of my aliases. I had, though, been introduced by the Master of Ceremonies as someone learning from the life of Hassan-i Sabbah…
To see and hear what I had to say, click on the image above (or here). Fully to understand it, though, you would need to listen to the other six talks, because I tried hard to link it to what the speakers had to say – especially, for example, about the best university in the world, and the SDGs!
The basic message is simple – if we really believe in empowering the poor and the marginalised through digital technologies we must become their servants…
Thanks so much to everyone who contributed to our workshop this morning at WSIS Forum 2017 in Geneva on what we need to do to ensure that the poorest and most marginalised can indeed be empowered through the use of ICTs.
To coincide with the recent publication of my new book entitled Reclaiming Information and Communication Technologies for Development (Oxford University Press, 2017), the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D is convening a workshop on Friday 16th June from 11.00-12.45 in ITU Room Popov 1 at the 2017 WSIS Forum being held in Geneva. The key premise of the workshop is that the global spread of ICTs has increased inequality, and that the poorest and most marginalised have therefore failed sufficiently to benefit. The workshop will explore whether the continued focus on the ways through which ICTs can contribute to economic growth will inevitably lead to ever increasing, and dangerous, inequality, and will make recommendations as to how different stakeholders can best ensure that the poorest and most marginalised can indeed benefit from their use.
It will begin with short (5 minute) perspectives from some amazing people (listed in alphabetical order of first names):
Alex Wong (Head, Global Challenge Partnerships & Member of the Executive Committee; Head of the Future of the Internet Global Challenge Initiative, World Economic Forum) on The power of partnership
Dr. Bushra Hassan (School of Psychology, University of Sussex) on The wisdom of marginalised women
Charlotte Smart (Digital Policy and Programme Manager, Department for International Development, UK) on The delivery of donors
Michael Kende (Senior Advisor, Analysis Mason, and former Chief Economist of the Internet Society) on The trust in technology
Nigel Hickson (VP IGO Engagement, ICANN) on The design of the domain name system
Torbjörn Fredriksson (Head of ICT Analysis Section of the Division on Technology and Logistics, UNCTAD) on The energy of entrepreneurship
Following these short, and undoubtedly provocative, presentations there will be an open discussion focusing on participants’ thoughts as to what are the most important priorities for action that different stakeholders must take so that the poorest and most marginalised people and communities can indeed be empowered through the use of ICTs.
The workshop is open to everyone with interests in ways through which ICTs can indeed benefit poor people, and there will also be an opportunity after the workshop for participants to purchase copies of Reclaiming Information and Communication Technologies for Development at a 40% reduction from list price.
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).
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
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.
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
iWrite4WSIS 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)
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) :