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Econ18


Interrogating ‘digital transformation’: datafication and digital rights in African futures 
Convenors:
Peter Chonka (King's College London)
Rosemary Okello-Orlale (Strathmore University Business School)
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Discussants:
Gianluca Iazzolino (Global Development Institute, University of Manchester)
Stephanie Diepeveen (University of Cambridge)
Format :
Panel
Streams :
Economy and Development (x) Futures (y)
Sessions:
Thursday 1 June, -
Time zone: Europe/Berlin

Short Abstract:

This multi and inter-disciplinary panel interrogates the increasingly powerful discourse of 'digital transformation' in African contexts and explores the implications, potentials and risks of datafication in relation to the aid sector, the future of work, and state-society relations.

Long Abstract:

This panel is a product of a research network formed in 2020 to explore ongoing digital transformations of social, economic and political relations in East Africa (datarightsafrica.org). From mobile money and blockchain in aid, data-driven responses to climate change, expanding fintech markets, and the ever-growing digital gig economy in the region, this network of researchers, advocacy groups and tech sector practitioners has examined questions of digital rights and power in contemporary African societies. These realms are increasingly converging through the use of shared digital platforms, and interactions between states, non-governmental actors, and tech/telecom companies. International donors and corporate actors place particular emphasis on the notion of ‘digital transformation’, which is emerging as an hegemonic discourse to steer the trajectory of innovation. This (fuzzy) discourse celebrates a technocratic approach in the name of sustainable development, environmental resilience and socio-economic inclusion, while often obscuring politics. This panel seeks to instigate a multi- and inter-disciplinary reflection on the implications of digital transformation for rights in Africa. A key dynamic here relates to the tension between (positive) narratives of digital ‘inclusion’, and the increasing capacities for state, corporate, and humanitarian surveillance that engagement with such technologies enable. We welcome papers that interrogate digital transformation (and datafication) in Africa from both theoretical and empirical perspectives. How should ‘digital transformation’ be conceptualised? What do different approaches highlight and obscure? What does digital transformation look like, and how can the realities of power and inclusion around digital processes/applications help to inform the imagining of African (digital) futures?

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Thursday 1 June, 2023, -