RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017

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207 Decolonising ICT4D - Digital for development : Critiques and Reimaginings (3): Decentering Knowledge Production?
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 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
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: Dorothea Kleine: Digital Creativity, Solidarity and Othering 2.0: Doing ICT4D-related “sustainable development” research in the global North
Linked Sessions WITHDRAWN - Decolonising ICT4D - Digital for development : Critiques and Reimaginings (1): Realities and impossibilities
Decolonising ICT4D - Digital for development : Critiques and Reimaginings (2): Changing economic patterns - new inequalities
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2017@rgs.org
“Made in Africa, for Africa” - How to perform Silicon Valley’s imaginary of technological innovation in Nairobi
Alev Coban (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany)
Although ICTs are still at the forefront in the discourse around digital technologies solving problems of the poor, ‘digital fabrication’ (e.g. 3D printers) and ‘makerspaces’ (e.g. FabLabs) gain increasing attention as practices and places of innovative knowledge production in the Global South. Those places include the first makerspace in Nairobi which offers the usage of high-quality machines to professional entrepreneurs. They develop high-tech prototypes in order to attract investors and start mass production. Differing from post-industrial contexts, the space uses digital fabrication tools to strive for an “industrial revolution”. Being funded by a mix of tech firms and development organizations, Nairobi’s makerspace is entangled in the dominant discourse about technological innovation.
Therefore this paper elaborates on the global imaginary of innovation which is highly influeced by Silicon Valley as well as the constant negotiations between this globalimaginary and the local specificities of innovating in Nairobi. Hereby, the focus is set on how expectations are created, like developing technologies “made in Africa, for Africa” or serving the needs of the poor with technologies that have social impact, and how those affect Kenyan developers and their innovative projects.
Overall, the aim of this paper is not to simply dismiss euro-centric and technodeterministic approaches toward innovation, but to emphasize the multiplicities of utopian imaginaries, criticisms as well as daily life practices dealing with digital technologies at innovative places.
Decolonising the Information Systems Curriculum - A contrapuntal postcolonial theory approach
Pitso Tsibolane (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Irwin Brown (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
In South Africa the #RhodesMustFall and the #FeesMustFall student movements of the last two years have sparked a renewed focus on how eurocentrism and coloniality continue to shape university curriculum in postcolonial societies. The curriculum has become the centre of contestation because it is understood to be a power structure through which western values, epistemic traditions and knowledge assumptions are transmitted explicitly, implicitly and covertly. The field of Information Systems (IS) evolved from the need of western corporations to efficiently manage the application of computer systems in the 1960s. The formalisation of the IS curriculum by Euro-American bodies such as the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) and IFIP (International Federation of Information Processing) in the 1970s was primarily to equip IS professionals with technical and managerial skills to design and analyse computer systems. This development of the IS curriculum over the last six decades has primarily centred Euro-American values, cultures and naturally privileged the West as the apex site of IT progress. The more recently formed AIS (Association for Information Systems) is another manifestation of this hegemony. This research aims to propose a six stage approach to decolonise the IS curriculum in South African universities through a process of rethink, reshape and re-imagination based on postcolonial critique. This approach is informed by the work of the postcolonial feminist critique of education and research by Rosser (1994, 1995, 1997, 1999). This will be underpinned by Said’s (1993) contrapuntal analysis. Contrapuntal analysis seeks to take into account the perspectives of both the colonised and the coloniser, their intermeshed and overlapping histories, their discursive entanglements while not privileging one over the other.
Towards a Transformative Teaching Discourse: The State of Education in Postcolonial South Africa
Gwamada Mwalemba (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Pitso Tsibolane (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Digital Creativity, Solidarity and Othering 2.0: Doing ICT4D-related “sustainable development” research in the global North
Rita Afonso (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Dorothea Kleine (University of Sheffield, UK)
A relational understanding of geography (Massey 2005) breaks up empirically untenable but discursively powerful binary conceptualisations of developing/developed countries or Global North/Global South. Internationally, an important shift has taken place from Millenium Development Goals applicable to only developing countries to Sustainable Development Goals now applicable to all countries. This paper argues that while the task of decolonising our language and thinking is colossal and likely to be a lifelong process, it is possible to change our current practices of engaged geographies. The ESRC-CONFAP Food Futures 2.0 project framed both Brazil and the UK as developing countries by the standards of sustainable development. It brought together academics and NGOs working in favelas in Rio and on the housing estates of South London. Using Freirean critical pedagogy, young people from these areas learnt how to create their own digital films on what they viewed as sustainable food futures. The winning teams of the subsequent film competition travelled to the other city to present their film and meet young people there. The paper reflects on the many inspirational experiences that made this project so rewarding, but also on the contradictions that arose, such as international as well as intra-national patterns of material inequality and symbolic violence; the superior artistic skill and cultural capital of the economically more disadvantaged group; the solidarity and friendships as well as the dissolving, continued, and re-constituted intersectional “othering” of one another.
Decolonising ICT4D - Discussion
Julia Verne (University of Bonn, Germany)