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Digital public infrastructure and the future of African statehood: South-South circulations of new techno-imaginaries [CRG Africa in the World] 
Mayke Kaag (African Studies Centre Leiden)
Alena Thiel (IT University Copenhagen)
Bidisha Chaudhuri (University of Amsterdam)
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Anthropology (x) Infrastructure (y)
Philosophikum, S84
Friday 2 June, -
Time zone: Europe/Berlin

Short Abstract:

The panel invites critical examination of transnational commercial actors, technology experts and other forms of digital labour that condition the circulation of digital public infrastructure projects between Africa and the world, unleashing new forms of (digital) statehood.

Long Abstract:

Contemporary digital public infrastructure projects are significantly shaping the future of statehood in Africa. Following large-scale investment in biometric ID projects across many African countries, we currently observe a new orthodoxy of platformization, customizability, open APIs and application development - often intimately tied into new forms of digital entrepreneurship. This panel explores the South-South circulation of material devices, associated forms of labour, organisation, capital, and patterns of thought (e.g. techno-optimist imaginaries) that is shaping or will shape the trajectory of digital statehood in many African countries. For example, the Modular Open Source Identity Platform (MOSIP) developed in Bangalore with the promise to roll out digital identity solutions in contexts of low IT capacity, has gained currency within the continent. Further contributions may focus on open source or commercial digital health and welfare platforms, applications for monitoring public sector performance, among others. Situating these circulations within South-South relations, we bring focus on new actors and their influence on imaginaries of African Futures in ways that are qualitatively different from earlier narratives and projects of development originating from the global north. How then do circulating model systems such as India's Aadhaar along with the future imaginaries of progress and care inscribed in them shape the expansion of digital infrastructural platforms in African statehood?

We invite papers on digital infrastructure in Africa that focus on

• Transnational actors and networks in digital public infrastructure

• Digital entrepreneurship in public goods and services

• New labour processes in digital public infrastructure

• Platformization of the state

• Digital Public Finance

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Friday 2 June, 2023, -