ICT4D.at at The World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2022 discussing DESC and acting as a HLTF

The final week of the World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2022 (WSIS) from the 30 May to 3 June 2022 was held at the ITU Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The WSIS Forum 2022 represents the world’s largest annual gathering of the ICT for development community. I had the pleasure to attend four days, participate in a panel about our work with DESC and act as a High Level Track Facilitator.

The WSIS Forum hashtag with a heart
Source: The World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2022 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

DESC at the WSIS Forum 2022

Together with Tim Unwin, Knud Erik Skouby, Suay Melisa Ozkula/Oezkula and Carlos Álvarez Pereira I had the pleasure to discuss our current DESC initiative which we joined some time ago and is led by the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D. We had 45 minutes to discuss with the audience what Digital-Environment System Coalition stands for and what we aspire to work on over the next couple of years. We started to answer the question “why do we need to have a new way of conceptualising the interactions between digital and the environment?” and then invited the audience to discuss with us “what are the big questions that you would like DESC to address?”. A broad discussion started about:

  • Why the current IT industry is not sustainable at the core by the definition of their business models and how planned obsolescence is still deeply rooted in the industry.
  • The lack of regulation and consistent measurements in the digital world to ensure the longevity of devices and software as well as the right to repair.
  • Why we need a holistic approach to tackle the climate crisis and not excessive focus on carbon imprint alone as ITs are everywhere and touch all aspects of our planet. While being a big part of the problem, they could also be a part of the solution.
  • How many aspects of environmental impacts of the digital world are not even broadly discussed yet, such as outer space pollution.
  • How can we develop new standards, policies and regulations which have sustainability a the core, offer choice and ensure minimum environmental harm and maximum benefit.
  • How can we take back control from big software companies currently running and exploiting the internet and what decentralization and democratizing the internet again could mean for the environmental impact of the internet

If you are as well interested in these questions and can see yourself contributing to our coalition, then please send us a message to team up. As of today, we only have 7,5 years left to ensure our survival and we are running out of time.

High-Level Track Facilitator

I had the honour to act as a High-Level Track Facilitator (HLTF) and was nominated to moderate the High-Level Policy Session 11 titled “Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content/Ethical Dimensions of Information and Knowledge Societies/Media/ICTs and Gender Mainstreaming”. The High-Level Policy sessions gather high-ranking officials of the WSIS stakeholder community, representing the government, private sector, civil society, academia and international organizations.

After several briefing sessions and preparations I welcomed on the third day several ministers, general directors, activists, CEOs and presidents with a broad spectrum of backgrounds and opinions, you can find the full list here. I must admit that at the beginning I was quite nervous as the panel consisted of renowned experts and/or panellists from the highest ranks of governments. After the first adrenaline rush, I started to very much enjoy moderating the session and it was delightful to hear all their opinions. Taking notes, summarizing their 5 minutes statements and ending the session on time was quite a captivating challenge.

After the session I only had a couple of hours to write a summary. The summary had to be submitted as soon as possible following the conclusion of my session to enable the secretariat to brief the chairman on the outcomes and finalize the WSIS Forum 2022 policy session outcome document. Afterwards I orally summarized session 11 and presented the results to the board of the chairman and I took the opportunity to take a stand for all the key statements underlined during my session. Furthermore, I had the pleasure to summarize the results of Session 11 in an interview you can watch here:

WSIS FORUM 2022 INTERVIEWS: Multi interview High Level Track Facilitators

Written Summary

Find here my written summary for the WSIS Forum 2022 policy session outcome document:

The high level policy session 11 entitled “cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content/Ethical Dimensions of Information and Knowledge Societies/Media/ICTs and Gender Mainstreaming” welcomed a diverse panel of experts mirroring the wide range of topics. The discussion and statements covered WSIS Action Lines C8, C9, C10 and C11 while contributing to SDGs 5, 9, 16 and 17.

Participants of session 11 actively promoted further tightening the collaboration of all member states of the United Nations. The discussed issues concerning the internet, online media, global ethical ICT standards and gender equality are a global phenomenon and can only be solved with close collaboration. Especially a focus on small and middle-sized countries should be encouraged, and their participation should be actively promoted, to allow them to participate on an equal level.

There was a broad consensus that current ICTs and the internet as such are not welcoming and not actively supporting culturally diverse content. It was stated that the world is getting more and more socially divided by culture and languages, especially on the internet. The main challenges for governments are the lack of investment for translations and the limited research conducted on local cultures and languages. Local content creators were several times stated as a way forward, which would grant more people access to local and relevant content. This would especially include the elder and younger generations who are currently widely excluded from accessing content online due to cultural and language barriers. Digital literacy, focused research on local cultures and further educational programs to promote local content creators are of the essence. Tools to work for all languages need to be developed and promoted.

Several panellists raised their concerns about the current state of freedom of speech, equal access to the internet, active censorship, internet shut-downs, freedom of expression and the quality of information online and in modern media. Quality content versus misinformation has become a serious challenge and people lack the essential digital literacy skills to distinguish between them. Only intensive trainings and awareness campaigns can counter the decrease of online quality content and how it is perceived.
Journalists are currently heavily under attack and are facing threats on- and offline, especially women and girls. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press must be ensured. The fragmentation of the internet, the so called Splinternet, is a growing concern and endangers a global internet where people can freely exchange information and connect. A shared belief that the internet must be open for everyone was underlined several times.

The gender digital divide was firmly discussed as the current COVID-19 pandemic exponentially increased online harassment. There is still a lack of data, but first evidence surfaced that ID theft, hate campaigns, sexual harassment, deep fake pornographies and other forms of harassment against women still heavily persist in the online world. It is of the essence to define all types of violence against women to make predators accountable for their crimes. Women and girls need a safe space online to freely express their thoughts, participate online and access quality content. Unfortunately many women are still not aware of their digital rights or are not able to execute them. Further awareness programs are needed to strengthen women’s rights online. Actions conducted by the panellists were local studies all over the world, developing policy guidelines, further promotion of women in ICTs and to create a coalition for safe internet access.

Concerns about ethical aspects of upcoming and current technologies were raised during most of the statements. The erosion of privacy and the lack of data ownership is an increased threat to free societies. Only a few companies are in control of future technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics or the metaverse and will dictate their rules upon their users. Online security, mass surveillance and the impact on businesses pose an additional challenge to the freedom of the internet. Decentralization of the internet to break the power of the big players and promote diversity must be on top of the agenda for the upcoming years.

Case Examples

– World Press Freedom Day Global Conference, Punta del Este, Uruguay organized by the UNESCO
– WSIS Forum 2022 Hackathon — ICTs for Indigenous Languages. ICTs for Preservation, Revitalization and Promotion of Indigenous Languages: Leaving no one behind, no one outside
– UN Women’s actions such as the International Girls in ICT Day 2022: Access and Safety or the Handbook on gender-responsive police services for women and girls subject to violence
– Infopoverty World Conference, The Digital Citizen: Duties and Rights to Build a Fairer Future Society
– EWA-Belt Project, Linking East and West African farming systems experiences into a BELT of sustainable intensification

It was truly an honour and a blast to act as a HLTF. I had a wonderful time with my HLTF colleagues and I would like to once more congratulate and thank the organizers of the WSIS forum for their outstanding work.

I wish that I could report more about all the other sessions at the WSIS Forum, but I was way too occupied with my HLTF duties and could not enjoy many other sessions. One of the few I listened to and I would like to highlight was Session 475: WSIS Gender Trendsetters. As part of WSIS’ work on gender mainstreaming, WSIS Gender Trendsetters have been appointed to act as trailblazers and take action in strengthening gender equality. I very much enjoyed their discussions and hope to hear from them in the future. See you in 2023!

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ICT4D.at at The World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2022 discussing DESC and acting as a HLTF
was published on 19.06.2022 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe, global
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Insights and Impressions of the IFIP 9.4 Conference 2022

You know, I could have been in Lima (Peru). Slurping my fruit smoothie while relaxing on a sun bed. But due to the pandemic, travelling was and is still restricted. Therefore the IFIP 9.4 Conference was first postponed from 2021 until this year with the hopes of a face to face meeting. Different variants of the virus and uncertain developments led to it being held online and I managed to still slurp on my fruit smoothie in my own beach chair but in my not air-conditioned flat in Vienna while enjoying the keynotes, contributions, speeches and presentations of this year’s virtual conference.

The International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) has several technical committees. The working group 9.4 on the implications of information and digital technologies for development is dedicated to research and action on the social issues of sustainable development. This year’s conference topic was “Freedom and Social Inclusion in a Connected World”. 

Introduction and keynote speech

Professor Tim Unwin, with whom we at ICT4D.at had the pleasure to collaborate on various projects such as TEQtogether and DESC, gave the keynote speech. While warning the attendees that he might stir up some thought-provoking discussions, he intended to encourage us to think about the big issues and especially how we understand freedom, rights and responsibilities. His central argument was that we are all in danger of becoming enslaved by the digital barons and their knights. Our responsibility is to work to create ways through which people can break free from the “digital shackles with which they are bound.” Various forms of digital enslavement involve:

– Leasure time being exploited through the extension of the duration of labour

– addiction to the internet and especially social media

– gathering and analytics of user data

– governments enforcing the use of digital systems for government services, disregarding the population that is not connected and/or able to use digital media

– opportunities for mass-surveillance

Digital tech is now used primarily for economic growth. Those in power always used technology to their advantage to maintain their positions of power – why should now be different? Tim Unwin claims that digital barons maximise the exploitation of users of digital media and that freedom in the digital world is an illusion. You can find his insights here and the slides here

Global, local and everything in between

The programme of the conference contained various tracks – from digital platforms to government corruption, artificial intelligence, feminist and queer approaches, entrepreneurship for development etc. Besides the vast topic areas, the event was truly global, with participants from New Zealand, Nigeria, China, USA, Norway, Peru all continents were covered. 

The discourse focussing on inequalities and complexities of the digital world was already given by the circumstances of the conference itself. You were only able to participate if you had a working internet connection, which failed in several cases. Some of the presentations had to be postponed or held by other members of the team that were connected from a different place and device. My impression was also that the common finding of the research was that there are several approaches, but you have to be careful not to impose inputs from eurocentric contexts and to align with the life of those living in developing countries and/or communities. 37% of the world population never used the internet, while 96% of those reside in a so-called developing world. Data are never just a set of facts, but always very political. Governments and institutions make decisions and raise restrictions on what and how should something be done based on them. The technical aspects and the conceptualising are subject to the political and social environment, depending on factors such as morality, the point of power, interconnectivity, dependence… 

Personal impression

A very interesting topic for me personally was Katherine Wyers’ proposal to introduce a queer, trans-feminist, intersectional perspective in ICT4D research and practice. The phrase “to queer up the research” is forever embedded in my mind from now on. The ways how the binary system of software engineering can be disrupted are various.

The idea of “leaving no one behind” contains also the idea of economic inclusion. Hereby the focus of digital entrepreneurship moved away from just profit and shifted more to other values like the desire to promote local knowledge, the wish to become independent from external sources and strengthen local communities. There are different approaches to inclusion and some tensions arise when negotiations are necessary to balance the expectations of the funders (often international organisations with Eurocentric views) and the local ambitions, needs and preferences. To quote Andrea Jimenez and Christopher Fosters’ contribution loosely – inclusion needs a holistic way as a digital turn represents a continuation of some power and privilege structures, mirroring colonial histories and unbalanced representation in decision making.

Besides the interesting presentations, there was enough room to socialise due to round tables dedicated to certain topics and to speed networking, where you were connected to other people for a few minutes and then got switched to a new dialogue partner. All in all, it was a very informative conference for anyone interested in the topic of ICT4D.

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Insights and Impressions of the IFIP 9.4 Conference 2022
was published on 10.06.2022 by Sanja Cancar. It files under global
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WSIS Forum 2022 & ICT4D.at

The annual World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2022 (WSIS) is reaching its final week from the 30th to the 3rd of June. The WSIS Forum represents the world’s largest annual gathering of the ICT for development community. In April I was delighted to be a panellist in the session “ICT’s opportunities and challenges in developing countries – an academic perspective” and you can rewatch it here.

In the upcoming final week I will not only participate in another panel on site in Geneva but was also nominated to be a High-Level Track Facilitator. I will moderate High-Level Policy Session 11: “Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content/Ethical Dimensions of Information and Knowledge Societies/Media/ICTs and Gender Mainstreaming”. High-Level Policy sessions gather High-ranking officials of the WSIS Stakeholder community, representing the Government, Private Sector, Civil Society, Academia and International Organizations. On the 2nd of June ICT4D.at will team up with our partner organization the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D and host a WSIS TalkX Open Space Sessions about our current initiative DESC. We would be delighted to welcome you so please do not forget to register, here’s in short:

  1. Wednesday, 1 June 2022 11:00–12:00 (UTC+02:00) High-Level Policy Session 11: “Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content/Ethical Dimensions of Information and Knowledge Societies/Media/ICTs and Gender Mainstreaming” – Register here
  2. Thursday, 2 June 2022 12:00–12:45 (UTC+02:00) WSIS TalkX Open Space SessionDESC at Exhibition Space, ITU Tower Building

I hope to see many you attending off- or online!

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WSIS Forum 2022 & ICT4D.at
was published on 26.05.2022 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe, global
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The Whitsun Dialogues: Digital Europe. No borders, no limits?

Source: http://www.pfingstdialog-steiermark.at/en/

In the beginning of June at the picturesque Seggau Castle in Austria over 400 experts, academics and professionals attended the “Geist & Gegenwart” Whitsun Dialogue to talk about digital Europe. Our partner organization “European Youth Award” was also invited within the scholarship programme.

The various presentations, panel discussions and workshops dealt with a broad range of topics and tried to address the most pressing questions of our times – how to deal with ethical, philosophical, democratic, economic, social… achievements in times of digitalization. Does the idea of a boundless society threaten our humanistic ideal? Can Europe compete with the American monopolistic private companies and how to loosen our dependency on them? Will we be able to use the countless opportunities digitalization and artificial intelligence offer us in a responsible way?

The prestigious event started on the first day, 5th of June, with interactive workshops for the scholars. As you can imagine a broad range of interdisciplinary and international exchange of experience and knowledge happened. My personal highlight was a presentation by the digital pioneer Tim Cole, who compared the big four (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) and their market dominating, seemingly endless power to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. His call for action included everybody, because “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem“.

The second day began with forums about Europe’s competitiveness and artificial intelligence, followed by workshops about current and future developments:

  • Mobility of the future
  • Digitalisation in healthcare
  • Security in a digital Europe
  • Information and manipulation in the democratic discourse
  • Culture and media – digital and analogue worlds
  • Transformation of job profiles and the economy
  • Digitalisation in production – killing jobs or safeguarding employment locations?
  • Trust in technology

Charlotte Stix, an expert on artificial intelligence, emphasised the necessity for ethical principles and a global perspective since AI and digitalisation know no national borders.

“The concept of Europe entails addressing and preserving fundamental rights and values. These should also influence the digitalisation of our world and the development of artificial intelligence (AI). If that happens, Europe can develop into a leading force: AI with people at the centre.”

Source: http://www.pfingstdialog-steiermark.at/en/charlotte-stix-01-2/

The evening was crowned by a interview of Peter Sloterdijk, who basically stated that we live in the “best of all times” and that people tend to confuse potential risks with real dangers. He gave valuable insights, but ended on a slightly controversial note at the end where he stated that the rising of anti-semitism was due to alarmism. In protest several people left the room. You could argue that his claim for the need of discussion and nowadays “non-willingness” to debate were proven to be right, but I also recommend to read the reaction by the Jewish newspaper Jüdische Allgemeine.

The last day was finished with keynote speeches about the ethics of the digital discourse (and by a last jump in to the pool at the hotel).

Overall my impression is mixed. While a „high-caliber interdisciplinary and international sharing of experience“ with „new insights and perspectives, knowledge“ was promised, I would have welcomed more diversity on the stage – especially with that topic in mind. The event was driven by a kind of technic and future pessimistic view, bearing a lot of fears and possible threats. Only a minority of the speakers shared an inspiring atmosphere when they focused on the chances, hopes and necessities.

You could see there was a big “digital divide” between the old and the young – or to be more accurate the “old worldviews” vs. the “new worldviews”. That is probably the reason why I enjoyed the first day the most where the students and young academics debated in interactive workshops.

Also the topic of ethics in digital era is crucial, the catholic church representing those values not so much. Again – a more diverse approach would have been much appreciated.

The event turned out to be a great networking opportunity though. We even got to meet the Regional Governor of Styria Hermann Schützenhofer:

The prestigious biennially event is hosted by the Styrian Government in cooperation with the Diocese Graz-Seckau and the Club Alpbach Styria.

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The Whitsun Dialogues: Digital Europe. No borders, no limits?
was published on 23.07.2019 by Sanja Cancar. It files under Europe
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WSIS Forum 2019 with TEQtogether

World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2019

I was delighted to visit this year’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum in Geneva. The WSIS Forum is a global United Nations (UN) multi-stakeholder platform facilitating the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines for advancing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, in close collaboration with all WSIS Action Line co-/facilitators and other UN organizations. It represents the world’s largest annual gathering of the ‘ICT for Development’ community. It provides an opportunity for information exchange, knowledge creation and sharing of best practices, while identifying emerging trends and fostering partnerships, taking into account the evolving Information and Knowledge Societies.

TEQTogether Workshop

I was part of a panel with Tim Unwin and Bushra Hassan due to our engagement with TEQtogether and other connected research. We presented and discussed our efforts to change men’s attitudes and behaviours to women & technology. The reality is, that many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are going into the wrong direction and SDG10 aiming at Reduction of inequalities, is one of them. Therefore, it is clear that our current actions are failing on a massive scale. Men’s attitudes and behaviours are at the root of discrimination against women and we need to point our actions towards this reality. This is why we joined TEQtogether, which is part of the EQUALS movement and lead by Tim Unwin and Liz Quaglia.

From the left to the right: Paul, Bushra and Tim

We covered the following:

  • An overview of the work of TEQtogether
    • informing men about how their actions impact digital gender inequality (see Resources and Other Initiatives pages);
    • Identifying actions that men can take to enhance gender equality in the tech workplace (see Guidance Notes)
    • Recommending actions that men can take to reduce digital violence against women
    • Encouraging reverse mentoring through which women mentor men at all levels in tech organisations.
  • I gave an introduction to the Guidance Notes I created within our partnership. They are focusing on running a computer programming workshop.
  • An overview of work on the use of mobiles for sexual harassment by Bushra Hassan (International Islamic University, Islamabad).

After this short introduction we included the audience to collaboratively develop a strategy of what needs to be done to change men’s attitudes and behaviours to women & technology. The final WSIS report can be found here, download the Mindmap here and a more detailed report can be found at the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D blog.

EQUALS

There was a separate session of EQUALS which highlighted their engagement. EQUALS is a committed partnership of corporate leaders, governments, businesses, not-for-profit organizations, academic institutions, NGOs and community groups around the world dedicated to promoting gender balance in the technology sector by championing equality of access, skills development and career opportunities for women and men alike.

The panel underlined the necessity of EQUALS and TEQtogether by the fact that it is still 10% less likely for a woman to own a phone on this planet and 23% less likely to then also have access to the Internet. No phone and no access to the Internet results in a lack of basic Information. Therefore, this results in no chance to take knowledge based decisions, lesser political and economic power and being incapable of properly raising your voice. An uniformed human being cannot be a free person.

EQUALS offers a successful webinar series: Business and Leadership for Women in the Technology Sector and nominations are already open for their 2019 EQUALS in Tech Award.

Other great WSIS Sessions

Exciting sessions included Cyber Ethics, Education and Security: Serving Humanity with Values. Where the panel tried to illustrate their practical implementation of ethics. GlobEthics was part of the session. The relationship between security and freedom was discussed where most societies try to find a balance. The panel was concerned by the fact that the world is currently moving in the direction to give up their freedom to trade it for more security. The panel concluded that individual responsibility is also a necessity and the question was raised if everyone should delete WhatsApp due to its heavy privacy violation. Luckily I’m already WhatsApp free for years and solely use Signal.

Human human rights in connection with ICTs were discussed in the session Technology 4 Human Rights – The opportunities presented and methods already in evidence for the role of advanced technology, including blockchain, for promoting human rights.

Wonderful to see were also the mBot kids workshops by Techlabs and other exhibitions.

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WSIS Forum 2019 with TEQtogether
was published on 16.04.2019 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe
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UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week? Actually Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Development

Source: UNESCO MLW

Today I had the pleasure to be part of the first day of the Mobile Learning Week (MLW) in Paris with its keynotes and discussion rounds. Last year the conference was focused on education in a mobile context with the focus on Skills for a connected world, as the MLW title implies. It seems, that this year it was hijacked by the trending ICT topic Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the education part was left out a bit. I can only assume why, but it seems that the UNESCO is shifting its focus and tries to spicy up their events with more buzzwords. AI is a trending topic and, besides its real significance, used most of the time to sell/promote things to people who have no glue about it. A couple of years ago it was the buzzword Blockchain Technologies to trigger interest and as far as I can remember, before that it was Cloud Computing. Yes, all of these technologies did or are changing the way we use and live with technology, but as before, most people are using the term AI more like this wonderful meme:



To be fair, AI and Machine Learning are much more than just statistics, read more here.

I am reporting from the MLW only from the first day, which is called “Principals for AI: Towards a Humanistic Approach” and the discussed AI topic fits more into this definition. To be fair, the next upcoming days will apparently stronger focus on education in combination with with AI and will have sessions such as “How can AI improve learning?”, “How can AI boost education and learning management systems?”, “How can AI be harnessed to reduce the learning inequitability?”, or “Will AI promote equity and gender equality?”.
Therefore, this blog post is not about Mobile Learning, but rather AI itself and summarizes some of the statements. I am pleased that at least some of the speakers were asking questions in the right direction and I hope this will continue in the upcoming AI-Education sessions. AI is happening and used world-wide, but as it is with every technology, it is just a tool and only gets a meaning or purpose when used by us. The question is not for what we should use AI and what it can do. This will be figured out anyway by the private and public sector due to demands by the market and the people. The real questions are:

  • Who is creating the AI, in which context was it created and what are their biases?
  • How transparent is it?
  • Who owns the AI and who has access to its tools?
  • Is it inclusive? Does it really mirror the society and context it is used in? (minorities, gender, sexual preferences, etc.)
  • How can we test and verify the decisions an AI takes for us?
  • Who is responsible for errors and accidents because of AI?
  • How democratic is the use of the AI? Who decided what we ask and for what we use it?

I am sure this list can be extended, feel free to do so, the more discussion the better. Please do not get me wrong, I favour AI and I am exited about the new possibilities AI offers, but I miss often a real discussion about pressing issues and questions. The buzzword topics Blockchain Technologies and Cloud Computing did not have the same impact capabilities as AI has. As a society we need to discuss how we would like to use AI in a democratic way. If we do not, then we will end up like China, where AI is used to control people in an unprecedented way. I personally want to live in a world were AI is enriching my freedom, not used to limit it or just to display me more fitting advertisement on Google or Facebook.

Furthermore, these questions are seldom asked for people in low-income countries. They are excluded from potential benefits of AIs already straight from the beginning. Our main goal must be to use AI to improve the lives of those who need it the most. For me, this would be a real intelligent use of Artificial Intelligence.

Here are some key statements I favoured during the key note and discussion rounds:

“Artificial intelligence is a false term, it’s neither artificial nor intelligent. It is created by us and it is our responsibility.“

“I work in many African countries and some of them have no freedom of press, no mandatory primary schools and a weak economy, but they develop an industry 4.0 and AI strategy for their countries. They don’t want to fall behind, but lack of the basics.”

“IEEE is currently working on Ethical Aligned Design for all who design technology and for the users as well. We work on how to put principal into practice, e.g. use standards to be implemented by the industry which have ethics at the core.”

“Behind every data point are actual people and we should not forget that.”

“Solidarity should be a core principal of AI.“

“African questions have to be taken into the context of an African problem. The design of an AI must take the people and their context into consideration”

“Many people say, that we need more women in AI”

“The current AI situation is reflecting the unfair distribution of wealth in the world. Definition, access and implementation are key.”

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UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week? Actually Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Development
was published on 04.03.2019 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe, global
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2018 IFIP WG 9.4 and an Interactive Workshop about Sexual Harassment via Mobile Phones

In the heart of the beautiful Tirana, the capital of the surprising modern and dynamic Albania, the IFIP WG 9.4 conference took place. I was invited to present my work and also co-chair with Tim Unwin a paper and demo session regarding Equality and Safety issues with Digital Innovations. Tim and I wanted to mix up the session a bit to try out something unusual.

Before the conference, we started to discuss the issue of sexual harassment via mobile phones, after I read his blog post concerning the findings of their research. I proposed a, as we call it now, flawed solution to the problem. I designed a simple mobile application to register sexual harassers and warn victims. I wanted to start a discussion. Quite quickly all the drawbacks of potential abuse, legal implications, data management/ownership, etc arose. So, we got stuck in finding a good solution to empower victims of sexual harassment (via mobile phones) in developing countries.

We then decided to bring the topic to the table of the conference and use the participants to brainstorm for other and foremost better solutions. The goal was to break my programmed engineering thinking and use the diverse minds of our demo and paper session track to come up with something much better. The goal was not a technology, but anything which could empower the victims. The topic was intentionally set very broad to not limit the flow of ideas. This was also challenging, since there were no boundaries and many questions arose during the brainstorming. Furthermore, solving this complex in just workshop is unrealistic, but we were willing to try our best.
We formed groups, I introduced the concept of the Brainwriting-Pool (see our IFIP workshop slides for an explanation) and we tried to generate as many ideas as possible. We only had 45 minutes to discuss and brainstorm together. While some groups kept stuck in great discussions, others were quite productive and proposed many ideas of what we could do. One of the participants opened her heart and shared her story of harassment via mobile phones, which gave us a much better understanding of the topic. This once more showed the importance of including the targeted user group in the design process. Of course, we did not solve the issue in the 45 minutes, but many key points and ideas were stated. Ideas were put out to

  • create an anonyms social network for victims to connect with others and find help.
  • To visualize the harassment to show that this is a big issue and to illustrate that victims are not alone.
  • Make it easier for victims to defend themselves by offering information material on how to legally fight back. Illustrate the rights of every person.
  • When harassed by mobile phones, then the harassment is actually documented by call logs and text messages. This offers a new way of using this as a prove of harassment against the harasser and visualize the attack.
  • Translate sexual rights and women rights into pictograms and make them accessible to everyone.
  • Better illustrate that sexual harassment is not the fault of the victim and that they have a right to dignity.
  • Create mobile awareness campaigns.
  • Provide a quick help by offering options to victims to protect themselves.
  • A place where victims can share their story anonymously. To make it first possible to talk about the incident in a safe environment and also help others to understand that they are not the only ones going through such a difficult time.
  • Provide call centres with no charges and ensure anonymity.
  • A self-defence Drone you can launch to film your harasser and document the incident.
  • Better offer statistics about incidents to trigger a discussion and create awareness.
  • A “one button click” to connect one victim to another to reach out for help and understanding.
  • Create a SMS based one/two-way communication with empowering and motivating messages. Also offer a smart phone application.
  • Implement a general filter to block harassment content entirely form your platform. Have a “Right to delete” content on the Internet.

Many more issues, problems and ideas were discussed and mentioned. The possibilities and challenges are there, the sensitive topic of sexual harassment is too often ignored and our workshop underlined that we need to put a spotlight on this issue. ICT can do good, but also too often bad. It is our responsibility to also discuss the dark side of the technologies we promote and to be aware that ICTs are not always shiny and golden.

All of this was possible due to Kutoma Wakunuma and Sirkku Männikkö Barbutiu who also presented their profound work in our track. They agreed beforehand to shorten their presentations to give us the stage to carry out our workshop. I would like to again express my gratitude and recommend reading their valuable contributions:

Kutoma Wakunuma: Hey women can play dirty too! Social media Building and Construction – A tale of empowerment in the developing world

Sirkku Männikkö Barbutiu: A Facebook Account of Ones Own

I would also like to thank Endrit, the conference chair, who gave us the opportunity and a big thank you to Tim, for supporting me in my work.





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2018 IFIP WG 9.4 and an Interactive Workshop about Sexual Harassment via Mobile Phones
was published on 09.07.2018 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under eastern and central europe, global
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Mobile Learning Week 2018

Mobile Learning Week is UNESCO’s flagship ICT in education event. Digital skills are critical for jobs and social inclusion in a universality connected world – an estimated 95% of the global population living in an area covered by at least a basic 2 G mobile cellular network [MLW Concept Note].

MLWs provide a platform to share and expand knowledge, innovations and good practices in mobile learning on an international base. It is an excellent event for exchanging knowledge about achievements in skills targeted to Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). The conference is co-organized by UNESCO and International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for ICT.
Topic of the 8th MLW, scheduled from 26-30 March 2018 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris was “Skills for a connected world”, focussing on digital skills and competencies for a connected economy and society.

Presenters for the 17 workshops were selected from a wide range of international organizations, NGOs, governmental agencies, research, projects and digital skills development programmes. While Margarete participated in former MLWs, this year she was accompanied by Paul Spiesberger. Furthermore, Margarete was invited to participate in workshop-presentation together with Prof. Mohamed Ally from Athabasca University, topic: “Developing Females and Teachers’ Digital Skills in Ghana”. She reported our project implemented from 2012 -2014, pointing out the very successful follow up developments organised by students participated in our workshops. It is important to note that girls represented quite often the majority of participants in our workshops. This can also be observed when looking at their blogs, videos and photos. The outcome of our engagement in Ghana shows that inequalities and gender divides can decreased with similar activities in digital skills programs.

Download Margarete’s presentation here.

Included in Margarete’s presentation was also a follow up project of former participants. In cooperation with Django Girls ICT4D.at’s former workshop participants organize workshops on programming in Python, especially tailored for women. Attendees don’t need any previous knowledge about programming and there is no age limitation. Coaches, speakers or organizers are volunteers; one female and one male tutor are former participants in the project presented. Additional activities were organized as Barcamps, workshops for students of nearby schools etc. Read more here.

Margarete and Paul took their chance to discuss possibilities with experts from UNESCO (Steve Vosloo) and representatives from all over the world for future projects in partnership with ICT4d.at. They gained insights in outstanding projects and programs in various countries. Discussions about successful and independent activities of students brought up new visions and ideas, how the group in Ghana could be encouraged for further developments on a larger scale.

Next to Margarete also other outstanding project were presented eKitabu which “Delivers accessible digital content for quality education” and Room7 – a network for coding schools, are two great examples. We also discovered a very successful project from Brazil, Laboratoria, which trains “Female tech talent from Latin America to the world”.

Adapting MOOCs for local demands seems to be a promising option. ICT4D.at will continue with cooperation and work on this issue to increase the chance for youth in Ghana to develop digital skills independently. Visions are continuously discussed via Skype with of the Mobile learning Society. Together we continue to inform our readers about further activities in Ghana.





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Mobile Learning Week 2018
was published on 08.05.2018 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe, global
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IFIP WG 9.4 Euro 2018 Conference

We would like to emphasize the next 2018 IFIP WG 9.4 European Regional Conference on the Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries in Tirana, Albania from the 22nd to 24th June 2018. The conference is organized by Organised by IFIP WG 9.4, the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway University of London and the European University of Tirana. They recently opened their call for papers and the first deadline is approaching:

Abstract Submission Deadline: 20 March 2018

This year’s theme is Digital Innovation for Sustainable Development and they are particularly interested in submissions related to innovation agility, indigenous innovation in developing countries and digital innovation for sustainable development. However, they are soliciting submissions across the full range of topics of interest to IFIP Working Group 9.4 in the broad areas of technology and sustainable international development, focusing but not limited to the following areas:

  1. Digital innovations for poverty and inequality reduction
  2. Technology-enhanced education
  3. Equality and human rights
  4. Digital technologies and forced international migration
  5. Technology, automation and decent work
  6. International business and economic growth
  7. Sustainable and innovative cities and communities
  8. Responsible consumption and production
  9. Digital governance, peace and justice
  10. ICT4D in South-East Europe

The organizers are eager to encourage as many people as possible from Europe and elsewhere to contribute and offer papers. So don’t miss out this chance to hand in your work or simply participate to take an active role in the ICT4D movement.

ifip conference logos





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IFIP WG 9.4 Euro 2018 Conference
was published on 05.03.2018 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe
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9th ICT4D Conference 2017 – From Innovation to Impact

ICT4D Conference Poster

A week ago, I had the pleasure to dive deep into the world of ICT4D at the 9th ICT4D Conference in Hyderabad, India. On short notice I got the confirmation for my ticket while being in Bangalore with one business card, no fancy shirts and an insufficient amount of underwear. So I booked a flight at the same day, the first hotel which popped up on the net (brick-wall-view as I found out later) and went cloth shopping at the airport. I also managed to shift some work load from my company and worked during coffee breaks on other things. I replaced business cards with a smile and pined my last one on my chest – so people simply took pictures. Busy and exhausting four days, but exiting as well. I would like to give here a short overview on what is going on in the world of ICT4D, summarize the talks I enjoyed and state my personal experiences.

Two topics were ubiquitous this year, agriculture and IT support for NGOs. This focus was already underlined in the keynote when one of the main sponsors of the conference, Microsoft, spoke about their engagement with ICRISAT – International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Topics. They use their cloud computing power and Cortana to provide weather forecast for farmers to communicate when to seed out or harvest (and more) to increase crop yield for farmers. The IT support aspect for NGOs was visible due to the high amount of companies offering technologies (hardware, software, data) in order to make their life easier or to collect/organize data in the field, which is also inline with the this year’s conference focus:

This year we focus on using data to accelerate achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

I would like to split this blog post into two sections. Firstly, I will give you an overview of talks and discussions regarding ICT4D projects I discovered. This will be just a peak of what was going on, most of the time more than 10 talks were happening simultaneously. Secondly, I took one full day to visit all sponsors and exhibitors at their stands and discusses with them their products, projects and ideas.

 

 

Projects, Talks & Discussions

Leveraging Tradition and Science in Disaster Risk Reduction in Mongolia
Erkhes Batbold
is a project with a goal to reduce the risk of dzud (a Mongolian term for a severe winter in which large number of livestock die, primarily due to starvation due to being unable to graze, in other cases directly from the cold) to herder communities and rural economies in Mongolia through on-demand weather information and increased local planning and risk reduction capacity.
They implemented a national wide SMS based weather forecast system to provide access for everyone with a mobile phone. The speaker underlined the lack of smartphones in rural areas and the importance of a demand requested system to make it sustainable in the long run. They interviewed users on camera to describe their positive experience to spread the word, which worked best for them. The speaker, Erkhes Batbold from Mercy Corps listed some helpful technologies they used to build the system: engagespark.com, darksky.net , ona.io and lts2sms.com. For me, this talk was one of the most interesting, since it is related to my research as well, and as they started to use a Android phone as a SMS gateway to forward the requests to a server and respond then with the weather forecast.
more

‘SMS Quicklearns’ enhances women’s parenting skills in Sri Lanka
Maria Berenguer & Divakar Ratnadurai
SOS Children’s Village Sri Lanka empowers women at grass-roots through mobile technology using “SMS Quicklearns” to enhance women’s parenting skills on the benefit of their children. The feasibility study showed high mobile penetration at the grass-root level and being mainly fishing communities needed cognizance on various social skills to assure a safe and caring home environment for the children. Text To Change Programme disseminates information on child-care, child rights & protection and managing family income with a view to change their behavior for the well-being of their children & families.
This project is as well SMS based and spread information via mobile phones. Users also had weekly meetings to discuss the received lessons which enabled access for mothers without a phone. They also had a trainer visiting the parents. These limitations made it only possible to work in closed groups, but the speaker stated, that they would love to open it to everyone – but as always, the budget is the limit…

e-Monitoring system: Strengthening government school monitoring system
Ruxana Parvin Hossain
e-Monitoring System specifically designed for the use by school monitors to improve the accountability and governance of public primary school system. To strengthen the government school monitoring system of Bangladesh, the Sponsorship program of Bangladesh Save the Children created an Android enabled school monitoring application based on the existing paper based school monitoring checklist and also developed a browser based school inspection data analysis dashboard with various analytical interactive reports. The data is public, the source code is close since it is very specialized.

Education & Livelihoods Track Panel: Learning-People, Processes or Platform
Chris Benner, Anindya Chattopadhyay, PS Gohil, Jodi Lis & Laura Moats
The panel discussed the process to bring education to people with the support of technology. Technology which can help you in your educational project highly depends on your user and your needs. It is crucial to put community and people first, the technology will just support you and is not the key to your success. The panel defined the following steps:
1. Identify and setup the platform/technology you will use.
2. Build up your content, use open resources or create it yourself
3. Implement the e-learning – this is the hardest part.
The discussion shifted then to MOOCs which can be helpful but very difficult to implement. Guidance and personal interactions are very important for beginners. The main problem with MOOCs is, that most of the time already educated users use the service and leave out the target group. They underlined that learning is a social process!
Furthermore, the panel stated that having test groups straight from the beginning is very important. The fact that it is almost impossible to get proper feedback from failed e-learning users. This is very challenging and they have no solution yet to reach out to these important group to simply find out why they failed. The last conclusion was to show the demand to the users. Create motivation by giving an insight what the learners will get from their education. Jobs and placement are most of the time the goal.

There’s no app for that: Preparing for a tech implementation
Aleksa Krolls, Piyasree Mukherjee, Frank Nankivell, Alexie Seller
Ready to implement a new technology — trade in the paper for smartphones, start administering surveys via SMS, transition to a new CRM system? Worldwide, social impact organizations are seeking technology solutions to better manage data, measure performance, report to donors, & address inefficiencies in programs/operations. When it comes to implementing a new tech tool, how do we gauge whether an organization is “ready”? What happens when the technology implementation – inadvertently or advertently – leads to upheaval in the organization’s processes? How can we ensure that technology is a tool underpinning quality delivery, with the focus on impact rather than on the tool itself?
Vera Solutions discussed with three NGO partners on how they worked together to implement a certain technology to support their work. Pollinate Energy, FMCH – Foundation for Mother & Child Health and Liberty Asia all used IT support to streamline and analyse their processes, collect information on the field and/or get more paperless. All agreed on the profound advantages IT can have. “Why do we need a new Technology” is crucial to ask straight from the beginning to really get the solution which fits best. Start with the people, not the Technology.

Digital Village Harisal: Connectedness is the Key
Prashant Shukla
The Maharashtra government and Microsoft have collaborated to develop a strategic framework for smart village adoption and to identify an impact-driven, public-private partnership-enabled implementation model to transform Harisal into India’s first smart village. Connecting a village to the Internet is one of the key elements to make a village smarter. This can be quite challenging due to the GSM coverage in rural areas and land lines are still rare as well. This project uses TV band white spaces – unused VHF and UHF TV channels that can be used to deliver broadband access over wider areas than possible using today’s Wi-Fi spectrum. They connected villages with this technologies and enabled better access to communication, health and education tools.

SESAMA – Mobile application to turn trash into cash
Mita Julinartati Sirait
Waste in the big cities has always been a problem and needs serious handling. Jakarta City every day produces 7000 tons of waste and only about 5200 tons can be transported to the final disposal (TPA) Bantar Gebang by 720 garbage trucks. Of the total trash, 47% is industrial waste and 53% of household waste with a composition of 67% of organic waste; 32.8% inorganic and plastic waste; and 0.2% other debris. In order to support urban waste management, WVI has developed android applications called SESAMA to connect residents with nearby waste bank and help the waste bank managing its administrative works. This application allows residents ordering picking up, tracking their waste amount and checking their money deposit in real time. On the other hand, the waste bank will be able to monitor the waste deposit amount, money deposit, customer’s data and trends of their transaction timely and regularly.

Play.Connect.Learn: Learning to read by playing with apps
Meenakshi Khanna
Play.Connect.Learn, is a digital app that was developed by Sesame Workshop India (SWI) to determine whether exposure to innovative, interactive digital reading content on smart phones would improve the reading skills of children in Grades 1 and 2 who are reading below grade level. SWI leveraged its library of materials to develop 3 packages of reading materials for the app. The app, developed in Marathi, is being used in 4 districts in Maharashtra by low income families. The app includes packages of stories, rhymes and games that become increasingly more complex in content and skills.
They stated that nothing can replace a good pedagogy, but the application is a good tool. Even parents started to learn and like the fact that they use the Sesame Street Puppets in the application. They acknowledged that children lean it many different ways and tried to offer different learning approaches in the application.

Feeding the world with Raspberry Pi
John Anker
The last talk I joined at the conference was about the wonderful Raspberry Pi. John Anker from the Catholic Relief Services simple introduced the mini computer and showed its possibilities. I use the Raspberry Pi as well in my work to teach computer science and attended the talk out of curiosity. The highligt was the Raspberry Pi operated anti mosquito laser gun – pretty cool stuff. I would also like to underline here that the Raspberry Pi is a very good computer for development work. Cost effective and fully operable – surf the Internet, create textual documents (and more) and program for just $30!

 

Sponsors & Exhibitors

a small overview of companies, NGOs and NPOs at the ICT4D conference:

esri – GIS Resources for Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Response
Esri’s Nonprofit Organization Program provides conservation and humanitarian nonprofit organizations around the world with an affordable means of acquiring ArcGIS software and services for organized volunteer effort.
esri.com/nonprofit

Digital Globe – Space Imagery and Geospatial Content
analyses images and processes them for catastrophy management and are partners of Esri. They use the power of the crowed to provide necessary information. Ushahidi from the other side…
http://www.digitalglobe.com/

OMPT – Reducing Worldwide Poverty Through Video Education
provides projector sets with speakers to enable mobile video training. 2 hours of battery life are included, but you can charge the gear with a external battery or from your car to and teach anywhere.
http://www.ompt.org/

Quest Alliance – We design learning experiences that inspire and empower educators and learners alike.
Quest Alliance is a not-for-profit trust that equips young people with 21st century skills by enabling self-learning.
http://www.questalliance.net/

Mango Logic and D-Tree
Mango Logic offers a sophisticated technology to solve complex decision making. Everyone can create a decision tree and a mobile application without programming a single line of code. That’s what D-Tree is doing, they use the technology to provide better Decisions which save lives. D-tree International is harnessing the potential of mobile technology to improve the quality of healthcare provision in the developing world.
http://mangologic.com/ | http://www.d-tree.org/

Social App Hub – India’s largest repository of mobile Apps
Most of the software a NGO needs is already out there and they created a collection of apps for a social cause. Social App Hub helps to find IT solutions for NGOs.
https://knowledge.socialapphub.com/

Anudip – Empowering individuals through digital and workplace skills development
Anudip’s diverse training, mentorship, and employment support empowers marginalized individuals to change their lives by providing training for illiterate people to find a placement. The work directly with the people and use training centers equipped with computer and Internet connection.
http://www.anudip.org/

Akvo – Capture, Understand and Share
Akvo is offering mobile applications to collect data in the field and analyse the outcome. They also have very nice tools of measure water quality with a Android phone.
http://akvo.org/

Open – Security enabled Networks
provides networks in the field and ensure their security. The Swiss based company offers a portable server infrastructure to connect and control the data flow.
https://www.open.ch

Nasscom – Empower NGOs with Technology
NASSCOM Foundation, by leveraging the capabilities of the IT- BPM sector, is meeting the technology needs of NGOs so that they can: scale up operations, be more efficient, increase reach, deliver effective results; and hence realize the goals they are meant to.
http://www.nasscomfoundation.org

Diona – Mobility Solutions
transform mobile devices such as phones and tablets into tools for helping your NGO move closer to achieving its mission. Whether it’s greater efficiency, happier clients, more productive caseworkers, or tracking progress of your projects and clients for better outcomes, we work together to help make your mission happen.
https://ngo.diona.com/

Software Group – Finance
is a global technology company that is specialized in delivery channel and integration solutions for the financial sector, especially in the micro finance sector.
http://softwaregroup-bg.com/

aWhere – Agronomic Data & Agricultural Data Management
Data Management harnesses agriculture analytics to create unprecedented visibility and insight from farm level to national policy. Their algorithms create 41000 weather stations out of 87  Indian weather stations and support local farmers with their technology.
http://www.awhere.com/

Good Bye

Enregistrer





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9th ICT4D Conference 2017 – From Innovation to Impact
was published on 28.05.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under global, south asia
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