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Workshop DigDivDigHum

From its inception, the World Wide Web endeavours to be an open and free space for all for information and knowledge sharing and informed public democratic debate (see for example the ACM Turing Award lecture by Tim Berners-Lee at WebSci’18), in other words, “to serve humanity”. Still, there are many barriers and obstacles to this ideal, a situation commonly characterized as the Digital Divide.

Several billion people especially in the Global South do not have access to Internet/Web for reasons of lacking (affordable) infrastructure, poverty, low literacy, lack of digital skills, language, etc., and are thus digitally excluded.

But “the fringes of the Web” are not just a matter of the Global South. In the Global North, despite being technologically “advanced”, we also see severe digital inequalities and power disparities, in part for the same reasons and in part due to the Web being exploited as a centralized surveillance and money-making machine, controlled by big parties such as states and big corporations, thus creating further inequalities and exclusion.

In this workshop, we aim to bring together ongoing research on the Web and the Digital Divide and on what to do about it. Apart from empirically grounded (case) studies and theoretical analyses of mechanisms behind digital inequalities, we also seek,  in view of recent initiatives such as Digital Humanism or Tim Berners Lee’s SOLID initiative, programmatic or solution design-oriented work from multiple disciplines, and concrete experiences on what scientists and professionals can do to help redress matters of digital inequality and exclusion. We encourage work rooted in the Global South, as both topics of interest for and authors from the Global South are underrepresented in Web Science, but also welcome work addressing matters of the Digital Divide and underprivileged communities in the Global North.

The Sixth International Symposium

This annual Symposium “Perspectives on ICT4D” aims to gather a broad community of researchers and practitioners to discuss and reflect on barriers and paradigms that hamper information sharing for billions of people in the world. With this event we want to facilitate a reflective debate that should include the people at the “other” side of the digital divide, whose voices are all too often ignored.

This year’s theme was how to tackle “Global Challenges” in a collaborative, trans-disciplinary way. Food Security is one of the Global Challenges. With a rapidly growing population in West Africa, expansion of food production is extremely important. In recent years rapid technological advances have been made in agro-technology how to produce high quality and high yield cereal seeds that can feed a growing population.

In Mali high quality seeds (semences de base) are distributed to farmers, with support from the government, research institutes and international development agencies, seed certification agencies and the private sector. However, the local organization of the value chain, the match between offerings and demands is still an important issue to be solved.

In this symposium we discussed how the seed value chain might be improved from the grassroots perspective. We aimed to better understand the role of information and communication technologies and networks for development, and how this could be embedded in the local context to serve local needs, for example of African farmers in Mali, or rural communities in Sarawak, Malaysia.

Students in the ICT4D course 2019 have built models and prototypes to support the work of seed producing farmers in rural Mali. They gave demos and short pitches and discussed their group projects in a poster session.

With this annual symposium we aim to provide a forum for interdisciplinary debate around the challenges presented. We will explore technical, social and economical barriers as well as opportunities in search of practical, innovative, socially acceptable and meaningful solutions.

The Symposium was also part of the ICT4D master course for students Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Information Science.

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