by Maria Pawelec
Work of the author is supported by the Institutional Strategy of the University of Tübingen (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, ZUK 63)
Bridge International is a for-profit chain of private (pre-)primary schools employing technology to allegedly provide “high-quality, affordable education” in the Global South. Like many other actors, Bridge (cl)aims to bridge the global digital divide and to use information and communication technologies to realize development (“ICT4D”), in particular in sub-Saharan Africa. But are such projects really allowing the region to “catch up” with the rest of the world and strengthen its weak global standing? Not necessarily. Many projects’ implementation mirrors existing global power inequalities and may even reinforce them. Moreover, the technologies employed themselves augment these imbalances. The present contribution illustrates this, using Bridge as a case study.
by Jessica Heesen, Maria Pawelec and Laura Schelenz
Work of the authors is supported by the Institutional Strategy of the University of Tübingen (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, ZUK 63)
In the Global South, private corporations and development aid programs are widely implementing information and communication technology (ICT). Stakeholders export infrastructure (including satellites, drones, and white spaces technology) as well as mobile and internet services (mobile money services, zero-rating), following the proclaimed goal to close the global digital divide. They particularly target under-connected regions in Africa, as Africa shows the lowest levels of internet connectivity (cf. International Telecommunications Union 2017). According to companies and development aid programs, these digitalization efforts in the Global South are key to development and security. However, an ethical perspective points to concerns about the practice of digitalization in the Global South. One central concern is that certain values are inscribed in ICT, and that they may be indirectly implemented through technology in the importing countries. Thus, the export of ICT by Western companies and development aid programs to the Global South may have a „neo-colonial“ character. This raises ethical questions about global justice.
Most face-to-face interaction with other IR types happens at conferences, and it’s easy to break conferences down by profile and inclusiveness. The ISA annual conference is supposed to rate pretty highly on both, and almost everyone has been a few times by the end of their post-grad careers. Then there are the conferences that are high profile but less inclusive. APSA, BISA, the ISA regional conferences, and the newly constituted EISA are fairly high profile in that most IR professionals have heard of them, but they’re less inclusive in that few of us would cross broad bodies of water and long customs lines to participate.
Many have recently noticed how this concentration of conferences in the (global) North and the (ominous italics) West means that none of them are very inclusive, and the association with prestige is a problem. Even more recently, many new conferences have started popping up to be more inclusive in a global sense. These efforts to expand the scope of participation in the discourse are bound to fail, and I’m going to argue that they’re going to fail on purpose by accident. (Yes, I proofread.)