The annual ICT4D Conferences have proven to be an invaluable opportunity for NGOs, private sector organizations, universities, governmental agencies and foundations to share their experience in using ICT to increase the impact of development programs and to learn from each other. In 2016, 750 individuals from 76 countries and 320 private sector and public sector and civil society explored the ways to harness the full power of digital solutions to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Our thanks to Accenture, Catholic Relief Services, Esri, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, iMerit Technology Services, Inmarsat, IS Solutions, Making All Voices Count, Mercy Corps, Microsoft, NetHope, Oxfam, Pandexio, Qualcom Wireless Reach, RTI International, SimbaNet and World Vision for making that possible.
In a world that is fast becoming digitalized, having access to technology is not a luxury, instead it is progressively becoming a basic necessity. As well-intentioned organizations push for digital service delivery for improved and efficient governance, accountability and transparency - it is crucial to understand 'digital economies and politics' in various different contexts. It is a fact that despite the progress in making technology more available, accessible and affordable, the inequalities and inequities across and within various intersections of populations, countries and communities are still looming large. As the recent World Development Report 2016 highlighting the inequalities of digital dividends states that the 'traditional development challenges are preventing the digital revolution from fulfilling its transformative potential'.
As an innovative consortium, MAVC's work model brings together a diverse group of organizations, communities and people in all ideas implementation chain. We have one of the most innovative technology companies (Ushahidi) collaborating closely with an international development organization (Hivos) and an academic research institute (Institute of Development Studies UK), supporting community-based organizations in the Global South to improve local governance structures through community-driven ideas. Through three years of implementation of this model, MAVC is well aware of the digital divide even across the developing countries of the Global South. One of our major learning for ICT4D is that more than making the reach of ICTs universal, we should be improving depth of ICTs and how they engage with traditional development challenges of inequality to be able to facilitate achievement of SDGs.
For example, a 45 year old woman working in a garment factory in Bangladesh may have access to a mobile phone but for her to effectively engage in local workers' union, which are often dominated and led by male workers, to demand her rights and hold the authorities accountable, a mobile app organizing the union is not enough. The app developers must dive deep into the social and cultural dynamics of her engagement as a middle-aged woman in the specific context of Bangladesh i.e. keeping her language, literacy, education, family and social set-ups as active factors of how the ICTs are developed, distributed and used. Furthermore, this app might be open-source but the same code might not apply to a similar case of female garment workers in Ghana. In this classic development context, how might we maximize value of ICTs in achieving global SDGs?
Some of the questions we would like to address through this forum include:
1. Problems around governance are usually long term, entrenched and cultural how can we use technology to kick start engagement between citizens and governments?
2. When technology in governance/accountability projects are scaled/replicated across regions/countries and contexts, how much is replicable and how much is to be contextualized? How realistic are we about such contextualization that might be a laboring process?
3. How can we create dynamic civil society groups that are inclusive, intersectional and can bring depth to the application of technology to traditional development challenges?
This is My Backyard by Platypus Productions, Liberia
Open content in Kalimantan by Perkumpulan Wikimedia, Indonesia
Digital mapping for social accountability by Kwale Youth Governance Coalition, Kenya
Engaging Citizens in Service Delivery Performance Data by Bahawalpur Service Delivery Unit, Pakistan
Format of Panel + Discussion
Participants will be assigned roles once they enter the discussion room. These roles will include: technologist, policy maker, an illiterate daily-wage citizen, a female teacher from rural area, a young private school-going male teen, an NGO worker specializing in social protection issues etc. Each participant will be asked to reflect on the discussion from the standpoint of the assigned roles and ask questions, contribute thoughts of the panel accordingly. The panel will be documented by MAVC through blogs, tweets and as a learning report.