On March 24 and 25, 2021, the Research Technical Assistance Center hosted the two-day RTAC Virtual Conference on Public Interest Technology for International Development with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory™ at Arizona State University. The four 2-hour sessions offered participants the opportunity to learn, network and collaborate with other experts in the public interest technology and international development fields. This workshop allowed attendees to see how these two specialties could be utilized for the advancement of human wellbeing in the global development space.
More than 25 different speakers of the RTAC network made special presentations, as well as Dr. Ticora Jones and Dr. Aubra Anthony of USAID, and ASU faculty members. Breakout sessions focused on a variety of pressing contemporary issues including:
- Education and technology, with lessons from the COVID-19 experience
- Disinformation, media literacy, and the digital gender divide
- Democracy and human rights
- Agriculture and technology, with lessons from agricultural production and food processing
Dr. Katina Michael gave the keynote address, Public Interest Technology (PIT) and Global Development. Her presentation explored the concept of leveraging technology and expertise to advance the public good and the need to listen to communities and work with them to create sustainable changes.
Additional presentations included:
- A Case of Agriculture and Food Security in Kenya During Pandemic (Ms. Susan Nungu)
- Cash Transfer, Loss Framing and SMS Nudges: Experimental Evidence on Alternative Cost-Effective Interventions to Improve School Attendance (Dr. Abu Sonchoy)
- Bridging the Digital Gender Divide in South Africa (Ms. Sara Abou Ibrahim, Ms. Cath Croxton, and Ms. Nomvula Buthelezi)
- Gamification in Higher Education Engineering Curriculum in Lebanon (Dr. Ali Ammouri).
Dr. Faheem Hussain’s keynote presentation focused on how information and communication technology can be utilized to help educate displaced communities, and how additional considerations of bias, poverty, and access to technology must be addressed.
Additional presentations included:
- Lack of Data Regarding Human Trafficking (Dr. Vanessa Bouche and Ms. Madeleine Bailey)
- Demonstrating the Nexus Effects of Online Videos, Research Outputs, and Investments to Knowledge Absorption Using Linguistically Adopted Animations (Dr. Jane Payumo, Dr. Julia Bello-Bravo, Mr. Barry Pittendrigh)
- Online learning: Experiences of graduate students at Makerere University Business School (Dr. Diana Ntamu)
- Antioxidant Probiotics & Yogurt Production (Dr. Ekam Akpakpan and Dr. Evans Egwim).
Dr. Netra Chhetri, an assistant professor at Arizona State University, delivered the keynote address, PIT, Grassroots Knowledge, Technology and Agriculture, to begin the second day of the workshop. Dr. Chhetri explored the concept of grassroots innovation as it pertained to agriculture, with a specific focus on community seedbanks, solar powered irrigations systems for climatically challenged areas and biochar as a soil amendment for marginal land. These innovations are critical to sustaining rural livelihoods and contribute to the food security of rural populations.
Breakout sessions included:
- Public Interest Lost: The Ugandan Education Sector During Covid-19 (Dr. Godwin Kwemarira, Dr. Diana Nandagire Muwanga, and Dr. Waswa Balunywa)
- Increasing Agricultural Yield Through Monitoring, Early Control Measures and Precise Decision Taking Using Secure Sensor Network (Mr. Joseph Owusu)
- Removing Policy Barriers Across the Food Value Chain (Dr. Muhammad Subhan Qureshi and Mr. Zeeshan Saeed Shah)
- Disinformation and Media Literacy (Ms. Susan Abbott)
The final session of the workshop saw Dr. Mary Jane Parmentier of Arizona State University present on Democracy, Human Rights and Public Information Technology. The presentation examined public interest technology’s relationship with the government’s role in the safe keeping of human rights. Dr. Parmentier encourages the audience to consider what power governments have to control what information is available to the public through information and communication technology (ICTSs).
Final breakout sessions included:
- A Feasibility Study on Computer Adaptive Testing Performance for Postgraduate Certification in Education Assessments (Dr. Jumoke I. Oladele)
- The Role of Knowledge Management Systems in Implementing Agricultural Interventions in Southern African Development Community Member States (Dr. Fallys Masambuka-Kanchewa and Dr. Alexa Lamm)
- Digital Security for Civil Society (Mr. Sam De Silva and Mr. Alex Linton).