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ICT4D: In Whose Interests?

March 29, 2012
04:30PM - 06:00PM

Annenberg School for Communication, Room 500
3620 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, 19104

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Categories: Seminar

Abstract: This seminar explores some of the taken for granted assumptions about the use of Information and Communication Technologies for Development, focusing particularly on the interests that gave rise both to the concept and to the activities delivered in its name. It argues that all too often ICT4D initiatives have failed to deliver on the real needs of poor people and marginalised communities, and that ICTs have to date frequently actually tended to increase inequalities at a range of scales rather than reduce them. Having established the divisive character of such technologies, the seminar will then examine ways through which such technologies might indeed be used creatively and disruptively to change the balances of power that underlie such inequalities, drawing particularly on research in Africa and Asia undertaken over the last decade. It concludes by arguing that while the market may provide for the majority, states have a crucial role to play in ensuring that the benefits of ICTs can indeed be experienced by everyone in any given society, and that multi-stakeholder partnerships have a particularly important role in achieving this.

About the Speaker: Tim Unwin (born 1955) is Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (http://www.cto.int), Chair of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK (http://cscuk.dfid.gov.uk), UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, and Emeritus Professor of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. From 2001-2004 he led the UK Prime Minister’s Imfundo: Partnership for IT in Educationinitiative based within the Department for International Development, and from 2007-2011 he was Director and then Senior Advisor to the World Economic Forum’s Partnerships for Education initiative with UNESCO. He was previously Head of the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London (1999–2001), and has also served as Honorary Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers) (1995-1997). He has written or edited 15 books, and more than 200 papers and other publications, including “Wine and the Vine” (Routledge, 1991), “The Place of Geography” (Longman, 1992), as well as his edited “Atlas of World Development” (Wiley, 1994) and “European Geography” (Longman, 1998). His recent research has concentrated on information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D), focusing especially on the use of ICTs to support people with disabilities, and to empower out of school youth. In 2011, he spent three months in China teaching and undertaking research on the use of mobile devices for learning by farmers in Gansu and people with disabilities in Beijing. His latest collaborative book, entitled simply ICT4D, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. He is a Fellow of Education Impact and Honorary Professor at Lanzhou University, China.


For more information about the ICT4D@Penn Seminar Series, please click here