In July 2021, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) hosted a three-day workshop for development experts from academia, government and non-profit sectors from around the world to explore the role of digital technology and the digital ecosystems on international development. Digital ecosystems are comprised of stakeholders, systems, and an enabling environment that, together, empower people and communities to use digital technology to access services, engage with each other, and pursue opportunities. However, the concept of inclusive digital development recognizes that not all people or communities have the same access to digital resources. As such, the goal of this gathering was to identify research gaps and questions to guide future research to help promote equity in the world of digital development.
The three main themes focused on during the workshop examined: Broadening Perspectives, Addressing Harms, and Identifying Levers of Change.
The goal of Broadening Perspectives was to explore how cross-cultural differences in conceptions of fairness, inclusion, and equity shape digital ecosystems and the innovation that occurs within them. Participants overwhelmingly believed there was a strong need to contextualize and operationalize these concepts in each setting and to avoid approaches that might not be appropriate for certain demographics, depending on age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and education among other factors.
The objective of Diagnosing Harms was to understand how the use, experience, and consequences of digital technologies vary across intersecting marginalized groups and brainstorm solutions for maximizing benefits and minimizing harms. Workshop participants found if digital technologies are not properly and effectively designed or utilized, they can cause harmful impacts in certain communities and more discussions need to be had that consider impact on society.
The work of international development demands we ask ourselves hard questions to see where we might be lagging behind to help with our decision making and ensure inclusive digital development is not just a concept, but a guiding principle of our workRTAC Project Director Sutherland Miller III
The aim of Identifying Levers of Change was to consider how stakeholders in digital ecosystems—communities, civil society, researchers, the private sector, and government—produce and use evidence for inclusive innovation. This could include norm-building, local capacity development, policy interventions, and implementation practices to increase inclusivity, transparency, and accountability vis-à-vis digital technologies. Participants in the workshop stressed the importance of monitoring and evaluating systems, which is often absent from digital development approaches. They believed it is critical for holding systems accountable for the benefits claimed when digital development approaches are (or are not) realized.
“Events like these are important in a world where globalization is rapidly expanding and quickly evolving digital technology and ecosystems become an even greater fixture. We must examine how this affects others, particularly the communities that might not have a voice. The work of international development demands we ask ourselves hard questions to see where we might be lagging behind to help with our decision making and ensure inclusive digital development is not just a concept, but a guiding principle of our work,” said RTAC Project Director Sutherland Miller III.
To learn more about the Third Annual Workshop on Increasing Research Impact: Inclusive Digital Development, be sure to read the full conference report.
Inclusive Digital Development, Workshop Report
December 20, 2021In an effort to address and reflect upon the role of digital technology on international development, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) hosted a joint workshop from July 19-21, 2021.