RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017

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171 Decolonising ICT4D - Digital for development : Critiques and Reimaginings (2): Changing economic patterns - new inequalities
Affiliation Digital Geographies Working Group
Convenor(s) Julia Verne (University of Bonn, Germany)
Dorothea Kleine (University of Sheffield, UK)
Chair(s) Dorothea Kleine (University of Sheffield, UK)
Timetable Thursday 31 August 2017, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Room RGS-IBG Drayson Room
Session abstract From the late 1990s onwards, the proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has spawned a parallel drive to leverage ICTs for international development practice. The emerging new field has been labelled ICT4D – ICTs for development or, more recently, digital development, and covers the use of e.g. radio, computers, social media and mobile phones. On the one hand, digitization and datafication are doubtlessly shaping economic and social structures and can offer great opportunities for service delivery (in e.g. education and healthcare), democratic engagement, and activism. On the other hand, ICT4D has been criticised as an overhyped discourse underplaying continuing structural inequalities (Carmody & Murphy 2015) or as, in parts, a naive replaying of modernisation discourses and technodeterminism of earlier phases of international development practice (Kleine & Unwin 2009; Verne 2016).

In this session we seek to apply a postcolonial and decolonial lens to the ICT4D discourse. We welcome papers which e.g.

- critically examine the role of ICTs in past and present imperialist and (neo-)colonial projects
- use Science and Technology Studies (STS) approaches to deconstruct Enlightenment notions linking science and technology to development and progress
- deconstruct the „D“ in ICT4D, ask what models of development are being implied and gauge the potential for reframing these
- examine the spatial patterns and political economy of knowledge production and innovation
- critically study the “aid industry” and/or the role of technology firms in integrating digital hardware, software, and data capture in development practice
- analyse the patterns of exclusion leading to ongoing digital divides along gender, age, race and class inequalities
- report on or imagine ways in which ICTs can still be used in alternative/subaltern imaginings of the "good life“ and diverse futures

Note: Paper added – Anand Sheombar: “A Brief Critical Analysis Of Social Media Use By Development NGOs: Empowering & Connecting People?”
Linked Sessions WITHDRAWN - Decolonising ICT4D - Digital for development : Critiques and Reimaginings (1): Realities and impossibilities
Decolonising ICT4D - Digital for development : Critiques and Reimaginings (3): Decentering Knowledge Production?
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2017@rgs.org
A Brief Critical Analysis Of Social Media Use By Development NGOs: Empowering & Connecting People?
Anand Sheombar (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
This paper focuses at the social media adoption and use by Dutch international development NGOs. International development NGOs can be classified based on their historic advance and organisational goals (Korten, 1987). The observation of the increasing use of social technologies for development purposes led to this research that follows the arguments from scholars like Thompson (2008) to further empirically examine the application of social media to serve developmental aims.

Masetti-Zannini (2007) argues that NGOs have struggled for a long time to build effective participation mechanisms in the developing world, but social media may provide empowering effect to people in the developing world that reflect their local realities and meet their aspirations and needs. This empowering effect needs to be corroborated. It is not clear that the western development NGOs meet that aim.

The research has a theory building design based on the methodology of Glaserian grounded theory method combined with multiple case study. The study has analysed 14 Dutch international development NGOs and their social media use in development projects.

The findings provide clues of the impact and issues related to social media use in the field of international development The practical implications of this research are based on the identification of social media applications related to the various goals of these international development NGOs. For the social implications a postcolonial and/or decolonial lens is applied to critically assess the alleged benefits of these social technologies.
The research has potential value to both the ICT4D research and the development studies community, as well as the practitioners active in the international development NGOs.
Development or Divide? Information and Communication Technologies in commercial small-scale farming in East Africa
Peter Dannenberg (Universität zu Köln, Germany)
Madlen Krone (University of Cologne, Germany)
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are seen as a key element which can fundamentally improve the economic and social development of developing countries. Recent studies, however, outline different risks and negative aspects of the rise of ICTs. This is especially the case with the use of ICTs by small scale businesses to integrate themselves into international value chains. By focusing on the example of commercial small scale horticultural farmers in Kenya and Tanzania, this study offers explanations as to why such apparently contradictory perspectives exist and suggests a differentiated look on the capabilities and characteristics of farmers and the different types of ICT usage.
The study outlines how ICT usage can lead to improvements for farmers regarding their access to knowledge and their integration in different distribution systems. However, the influences of ICTs depend on the different ICT usage types and thus the capabilities of farmers to use them. Farmers who do not use ICTs face risks of marginalization and a long term loss of commercial markets. This chapter offers a refined view on the several potential causalities and factors (i.e. gender, age, income and education) influencing the effects ICT use can have on small scale farming. The results contribute to the current applied and conceptual debate on market access for smallholders, ICT4D, and understandings of changing business organizations in changing socio-technological regimes.
Connected in Cuba: Space, Device, and the creation of economic opportunities
Ilona Brannen (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Internet access is now considered to be an important part of any country's economic development. At a macro level, connection is widely seen as enabling integration into the digital economy and leading to the development of new economic opportunities. It is often overlooked, however, how at the micro level both the space in which users engage with the internet, as well as the types of device they use to connect, affect what they use the Internet for and this fundamentally shapes the potential outcomes of connection. Drawing on primary research in Cuba carried out in 2016, this paper examines the interplay between the nature of different connected locations such as Wi-Fi hotspots and local internet spaces, on the one hand, and the different devices used by users in both on the other, to explore how these two factors influence people's behaviours and use of the Internet, both directly and indirectly.
Selling accountability? – Digital technologies between data capture and “development”
Christiane Tristl (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany)
In 2008 a multinational water pump manufacturer decided to tap the “bottom of the pyramid” as a new market by developing “automatic water dispensers” in Kenyan villages. Replacing the water kiosk attendant, the latest version of the dispenser is equipped with a touch screen where users have to place smart cards to tap water. Furthermore the units are connected to a Water Management System (WMS) via internet. Together with prepaid smart cards which can be recharged by mobile money, the goal is a cashless, closed system of revenue collection. Soon realizing that the dispensers did not earn enough revenue from the villagers in order to fulfil the vision of a fully commercial product, the company found that the device is attracting capital from other sources, namely philanthropic organizations. Describing the phenomenon of philanthrocapitalism, foundations are increasingly run like businesses, counting on data capture and evidence based spending. In this context the technology manufacturer describes the WMS as the “major value proposition” of the product.

Drawing on fieldwork in Kenya, I show how such systems of data capture are working to generate global spaces of rational, smooth data circulation, whereby the social and political struggles of the target population are shifted to other, often more invisible, and private domains. I’m tracing in how far the water dispenser together with the WMS can be described as an infrastructure that is catering foremost for the demands of philanthrocapitalists, like “accountability” and “measurement” rather than for the needs of the villagers. Furthermore I demonstrate how the working towards these rational spaces is remoulded, amongst others, by imaginaries inscribed into the system about Kenya as the land of ubiquitous mobile money and internet connectivity.
Corporations Left to Other Peoples’ Devices: A Political Economy Perspective on the Big Data Revolution in Development
Laura Mann (The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
This article brings a political economy perspective to the field of Data for Development (D4D). It first provides an overview of D4D, describing how many projects involve extracting data from African-based organisations for expert analysis in advanced economies. This extraction is justified on the basis that it is being used for humanitarianism. Key actors like the UN Global Pulse and World Economic Forum have lobbied for a governance framework emphasizing greater emission, personalization and centralization of data. The article shows how this framework enables the strategies of multinational corporations aiming to become data custodians about Africa’s emerging economies. Little attention has been paid to the geographical distribution of capacity-building nor to the ways in which data-driven restructuring may alter existing livelihoods. As African economies become increasingly ‘digital,’ data will increasingly become a source of power in economic governance. Current frameworks amount to a kind of industrial policy that supports the learning and innovation of foreign firms. The article aims to move D4D away from the focus on humanitarianism towards economic development, considering the opportunities for African citizens to benefit from their data as a source of revenue, knowledge and power. The conclusion suggests lines of inquiry for taking research further.