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Digital development 
Convenorss:
Richard Heeks (University of Manchester)
Jaco Renken (University of Manchester)
Negar Monazam Tabrizi (The University of Manchester)
Shamel Azmeh (University of Manchester)
Richard Duncombe (University of Manchester)
Christopher Foster (University of Manchester)
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Stream:
Justice, peace and rights
Format:
Papers
Location:
Library, Seminar Room 2
Sessions:
Wednesday 19 June, 15:30-17:00, 17:30-19:00, Thursday 20 June, 9:00-10:30, 14:15-15:45 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

Conceptualises, analyses and evidences the emergence of "digital development" as new digital technologies - platforms, data, industry 4.0, etc - change the development landscape: opening up social, economic, political opportunities; but also reinforcing old inequalities.

Long Abstract

The nature of the relationship between digital technologies and development is changing. The disruptive potential of digital is increasingly being felt, and the terminology of "digital development" is associated with this potential paradigm shift. This change has positive aspects: opening up opportunities in social, economic and political development. But there are also many problems; especially reinforcing old inequalities and creating new ones.

We are seeking papers that help us to conceptualise, to analyse, to evidence, to critique and, overall, to build a picture of what this new "digital development" looks like; mapping emergent patterns - ways in which new digital technologies are changing the processes and structures of development, developing new theoretical perspectives, and linking to local and global trends.

We welcome papers on all aspects of digital development but include four examples of its elements:

• Platforms and Development: not just the growing role of digital platforms within all aspects of development but also the growing mediation of development through platforms.

• Data and Development: the shifts in development possibilities and practices as many new forms of data - big data, open data, real-time data, etc - become available and facilitate the datafication of development processes.

• Digital Inequality: the changing form of inequality as we move beyond old conceptions of a "digital divide" based on technology access towards inequalities based on who gains value and power from the growing use of digital.

• Digital Capacity: the changing human capabilities and organisational capacities necessary to make most effective developmental use of new digital technologies and systems.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Becky Faith (Institute of Development Studies)

Paper short abstract:

Mobile for good programmes can serve as a collision point where pervasive narratives of mobile phones empowering women come crashing into the realities of the ways that technology can reproduce and further entrenching existing axes of inequality.

Paper long abstract:

mNutrition is a five-year global initiative supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) to use mobile technology to improve the health and nutritional status of children and adults in low-income countries. In Tanzania women receive information about breastfeeding and child nutrition via SMS. This paper draws on data from a multi-year qualitative evaluation of the programme in Tanzania. Whilst women in the target regions have clear knowledge gaps in these areas and struggle to access credible information to address these gaps, the effectiveness of the programme risks being hampered by persistent gender inequalities which limit women's access to mobile phones. As poor, uneducated, rural women these women face multiple, intersecting inequalities. This paper illuminates both the direct value of these services in meeting women's information needs, but also the ways that these multiple axes of inequality - of gender, geography, access to energy and poverty - intersect, and are amplified by inequalities in technology access and use.

Author:

Karishma Banga (IDS)

Paper short abstract:

This paper takes the case of Indian manufacturing, and empirically examines the impact of digitalisation on firm-level product and process upgrading in global value chains. Overall, the results indicate that digitalisation can help firms upgrade and and capture higher-value added in GVCs.

Paper long abstract:

This paper takes the case of Indian manufacturing, and empirically examines the impact of digitalisation on firm-level product and process upgrading in global value chains. Data on over 7000 manufacturing firms is drawn from the Prowess dataset for the period 2001-2015. GVC firms are identified as those that are simultaneously importing intermediate goods and exporting. The digital capability of GVC firms is estimated using principal component analysis on the share of software, technology and infrastructure assets in total sales of the firm, and on the share of skilled labour. For capturing product upgrading, the study matches product-level data in Prowess to trade data in WITS, and constructs average firm-level product sophistication using Hausmann's product sophistication index. Process upgrading is captured through estimation of firm-level total factor productivity (TFP), using the Levinsohn-Petrin methodology. The study then employs System-GMM to deal with econometric issues of endogeneity and selection, and controls for other factors affecting upgrading strategies of firms. The study finds that product sophistication in GVCs is positively and significantly affected by digital capability of firms, along with R&D intensity, industry concentration and firm size. Digital capability is also found to have a positive and significant impact on firm-level productivity growth. These results are robust to alternate model and lag specifications, as well as methodologies of fixed effects and propensity score matching. Overall, the results indicate that policies for improving digital capabilities in firms can help them upgrade and and capture higher-value added in GVCs.

Author:

Ram Kiran Dhulipala (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics)

Paper short abstract:

From mobile based weather advisory services to e-markets, agriculture development has experimented with digital interventions for the betterment of smallholder farmers in developing countries. My presentation will give an overarching framework to understand these trends and map future possibilities

Paper long abstract:

Michael Porter's Value Chain Analysis was originally designed to understand how organizations create value and to identify the important information linkages between various departments that could give organizations a comparative advantage. This paper applies Value Chain Analysis to small holder farming to understand the important information linkages and derive an overarching framework that helps to identify digital design that could position small holder farmers on the path to economic prosperity. Based on the analysis, a notable distinction of small holder farming is the fair amount of dispersion of various activities across very loosely coupled institutions. For instance, every organization has an R&D department which is listed as one of the support functions by Porter. This department aspires to bring technological edge and efficiency across the enterprise. In the case of small holder farmers however, R&D is done by public and private institutions and universities which then rely on traditional Agriculture Extension Systems for transmission of R&D outputs to small holder farmers. There have been various digital interventions that have attempted to supplement and complement the traditional extension systems. While some of these interventions are evolutionary in nature, off late we are witnessing disruptive innovations.

Based on the analysis, the paper identifies five broad areas where digital tools can have a transformative effect: Knowledge dissemination, Peer to Peer collaboration, Governance, Market Linkages (Input and Output) and Agriculture Operations. The paper highlights the possible evolutionary and disruptive interventions in each of these areas and identifies recurring sub-themes that underpin these digital interventions

Author:

Gianluca Iazzolino (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Paper short abstract:

My paper discusses the emergence of new labour subjectivities and forms of protest among Nairobi's Uber drivers through the lens of digital invisibility ('going Karura'). It argues that labour relations should be understood in terms of 'precarious formalisation' and 'financialisation of precarity.'

Paper long abstract:

My paper discusses the emergence of new labour subjectivities and forms of protest in Nairobi's ride-hailing industry. It focuses in particular on Uber, the world leading digital peer-to-peer transport platform.

My qualitative study seeks to grapple with new aspirations, dependencies and contestation practices emerging as the algorithmic logic of digital platforms interacts with local socio-economic processes related to urban mobility.

To tease out these aspects, my paper engages with the meanings that going off the digital grid ('going Karura', in the parlance of Nairobi's taxi drivers) assumes for Uber drivers - as a source of anxiety, as a livelihood strategy and as a form of industrial action. Through this expedient, I show the relationship between platforms and workers as dynamic, and map it onto the broader political and economic context.

I argue that labour relations in the Kenyan platform economy should actually be understood in terms of 'precarious formalisation' and 'financialisation of precarity': drivers are rendered digitally traceable, vulnerable to the vagaries of the market and legible to financial institutions. Confined in a space outside both formality and informality - in a driver's words, 'a Jua Kali (the Kenyan informal economy) with taxes' - drivers are increasingly entangled in a web of financial relations that erode their incomes and limit their agency.

At the same time, digital workers reclaim their negotiating power by resorting to both individual creative strategies and grassroots mobilisation. In so doing, they collectively develop a critique of narratives of digital disruption.

Author:

Randhir Kumar (Indian Institute of Management Calcutta)

Paper short abstract:

It empirically examines the labour agency and strategy of resilience, reworking and resistance of the driver partners working on digital platforms of Uber/Ola cab aggregators. It examines driver partner's experiences of labour market injustice mediated through the digital platform and algorithm.

Paper long abstract:

Cab drivers working on the digital platform of cab aggregators have a unique employment relationship, where the production process is effectively 'unbundled' from formal occupation and the workers are referred as 'driver partners' or 'independent contractors'. Cab drivers on digital platforms have limited legal protection and are deemed to be workers without employers working for the shadow corporations of the gig economy. The digital platform intermediary is considered to undermine the collective agency of labour through individualized performance linked pay and incentive system. By having digital platform and Algorithmic Management as intermediary, most of the angst between labour and capital is either redirected towards algorithm's obstacles or in devising means to ingeniously optimize individual's gains within the boundaries of algorithm. While effective in asserting control over labour process, a recent spate of strikes at multiple Indian cities highlights the undercurrent of worker's activism against the cab-aggregator's digital platform. Using empirical evidence from city of Mumbai (India), this paper conceptualises the potential of collective action of labour agency and its scope to renegotiate, rework or resist discriminatory practices or perceived injustice of the platform economy. On a related note it reveals the strategy of the cab-aggregators to maintain the status quo and mitigate the business risks posed through the labour collectives. Overall the paper attempts to theorize the conflict and negotiation between the cab-aggregators and driver partners.

Author:

Shonali Banerjee (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

In an increasingly digitized development sector, crowdfunding platforms look to bridge the gap between individual donors and local development projects. My research explores the complicated relationships and power dynamics between individual donors, crowdfunding platforms, and local NGOs in India.

Paper long abstract:

The development sector has long been in dire need of alternatives to mainstream international aid, with increasing emphasis placed on expansion of digital capacities. Technological advances and prominent global access to the Internet have revolutionized how individual donors interact with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and philanthropic giving. My research focuses on digital crowdfunding platforms and their influence on NGO fundraising from individual donors, or "micro-philanthropists", in India. Through the lens of Indian platform LetzChange and their NGO partners, this paper discusses the complex realities of online fundraising, and how NGOs are attempting to use the "assets" of increased digital presence to appeal to individual donors.

Bishop and Green laud crowdfunding platforms as digital equalizers in a world of altruistic billionaires, arguing they afford the average individual with the same "hyper-agency" as Bill Gates when directing their philanthropic donations (Bishop and Green, 2010). However, during my field research I discovered that while crowdfunding platforms may function as equalizers from the donor's perspective, local NGOs do not see them as egalitarian. My paper further examines how Indian crowdfunding platforms use algorithms and user data to determine visibility, inherently favoring tech-savvy partners who are highly active on social media. NGO partners had access to the same technological services from the platform but only the most digitally proficient organizations were able to succeed in appealing to individual donors. I discuss this unique system of digital inequality, more intricate than straight-forward digital divide, which reflects the nuances and power struggles of an increasingly digital aid sector.

Author:

Jaime Echavarri (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona/Sheffield Institute for International Development)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the changes that development policies in education face vis-a-vis industry 4.0 policies fostered by governments in the Global South. It aims to uncover the digital development opportunities these policies promote, and how these support sustainable mechanisms of inclusion.

Paper long abstract:

Globally, education policy has devoted considerable attention to the development digital competencies and skills within students. The focus on creating new skills for digital disruption and adaptation to technological changes, is vehemently pushed across education systems by international development agencies and global consulting firms amongst other actors.

Simultaneously, global initiatives have mimicked Germany's "Industrie 4.0" to address the challenges of a fourth industrial revolution. Within these initiatives, higher education institutions are partnering with economic agents to set up dual education systems, where education does not only take place inside the classroom but fundamentally at the manufacturing facility and where digital skills are an essential part of the learning process.

In the State of México (Mexico), the local government implemented "Education-Productive nodes", a similar initiative to cope with the digital catch-up and take part in the dynamics of digital development. Using evidence from this initiative, this paper seeks explore the different configurations that development policies in education have acquired as a consequence of the digital transformation. In doing so it will seek to uncover what kind of digital development opportunities are these initiatives opening up for deprived populations in the Global South and how are these initiatives contributing to promote sustainable mechanisms of inclusion. By exploring the implications of integrating education with industry vis-à-vis the digital transformation this research seeks to contribute with a deeper understanding about how digital development challenges are addressed in the Global South.

Authors:

Marco J Haenssgen (University of Warwick)
Giacomo Zanello (University of Reading)

Paper short abstract:

We study the behavioural implications of health-related mobile phone use among marginalised villagers in rural Thailand and Laos. Original survey data shows that mobile phones and social network support influence health behaviours in similar directions.

Paper long abstract:

The seeming "ubiquity" of mobile phones does not equate to widespread use during health emergencies. This paper studies digital inequality as a result of selective health-related adoption in low- and middle-income countries. Our research question is, "How does mobile phone use influence rural healthcare-seeking behaviours among marginalised groups?"

We hypothesise that (1) resource constraints drive marginalised groups towards informal healthcare access, and that (2) mobile phone use and social support networks facilitate access to formal healthcare with a bias towards private doctors. We analyse representative survey data from 1,158 villagers in northern Thailand and 983 in southern Laos. Through multilevel regression analysis of access-to-healthcare models, we present evidence that:

(a) People who use mobile phones during an illness are less likely to be marginalised, whereas this is not the case for people activating their social network during an illness.

(b) Marginalised groups have idiosyncratic behaviours when they experience an illness or accident.

(c) Among marginalised groups, mobile phones and social network support influence health behaviours in similar directions with increased access to public healthcare providers.

Our findings confirm comparable research from rural India and China. However, while mobile phones appear to advantage more privileged groups, they do not yet seem to crowd out social support. The analysis leads us to conclude that mobile phone diffusion on our field sites appears to have a mildly positive effect on rural healthcare access among the poor, but risks persist that socially excluded groups are left out of these developments.

Author:

Rashmi Arora (University of Bradford)

Paper short abstract:

The gender gap in access and usage of financial services remains pervasive across all the countries in South Asia. In this study using Financial Inclusion Insights Survey, we examine gender discrimination in access to digital financial services in South Asia.

Paper long abstract:

A large literature has identified financial inclusion as an important factor in poverty reduction, inequality and achieving high inclusive economic growth. Several studies have (Park & Mercado 2017) showed that financial inclusion impacts poverty and income inequality and higher levels of financial inclusion lead to lower poverty and income inequality. Latest figures from global findex database reveal that globally the number of adults with account at a financial institution was 51% in 2001 which increased to 64% in 2017. Overall as in 2017, 72% of men and 65% of women had account at financial institution; in developed countries the gap between men and women ownership of accounts is marginal, however in developing countries about 41% of women still do not have access to accounts.

The gender gap in access and usage of financial services remains pervasive across all the countries in South Asia. Patriarchal societies, low or absolute lack of women in decision making, low empowerment of women, no voice in the family have been primary factors. In this study using Financial Inclusion Insights Survey, we examine gender discrimination in access to digital financial services in South Asia. This data derived from financial inclusion insights surveys is available only for the years 2013 to 2016 and is mainly available only for three countries in the region - Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and India to a certain extent.

Authors:

Sirkku Männikkö Barbutiu (Stockholm University)
Thilini De Silva (NSBM Green University Town)
Kutoma Wakunuma (De Montfort University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper highlights the role of social media that women entrepreneurs are using to empower themselves in developing countries like Sri Lanka and Zambia. It discusses opportunities offered and how the women are bypassing established social and cultural structures to claim their own digital space.

Paper long abstract:

The use of digital technologies is taking shape in developing countries. The ease of use and availability such technologies has seen a rise in the use of social media particularly in both urban and rural settings which has opened opportunities for many women in developing countries to be able to use these technologies to their advantage. Digital technologies has made it possible for technology use to be no longer the preserve of a few (Ukpere et al, 2014) in terms of their accessibility, availability and use. As a result, women entrepreneurs are now taking advantage of digital technologies afforded by social media to be able to better themselves. For instance, our study which is in progress of women entrepreneurs' use of social media in Sri Lanka and Zambia shows that there is a concerted use of social media in business domains where women have normally inhabited such as the beauty industry but also in domain areas such as the construction industry where men have normally dominated. From this snapshot, it is evident that the use of social media as a digital platform has presented women entrepreneurs the ability to be able to create their own digital spaces in order to excel as entrepreneurs in a bottom-up innovative way in their own right without having to rely on established social and cultural structures that have to a large extent denied them the ability to thrive.

Author:

Michael Canares (World Wide Web Foundation)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that data for development projects should move from a perspective of data rights to data empowerment, where people can access data that interest them, are empowered to use data to promote theirs and the public's good, and are free to exercise control over their personal data.

Paper long abstract:

This paper argues that the discourse on data needs to be framed using a rights-based approach. This means that (1) policies, programs, activities in the collection, access and use of people's data should be aimed at fulfilling human rights; and (2) that initiatives need to be developed to strengthen the capacities of rights-holders (the people) and for duty-bearers (governments, corporations, non-state actors) to meet their obligations.

However, this paper also argues that this is not enough. Enabling conditions need to be made to ensure that people are aware of their rights, able to exercise them, and are able to demand for redress when these rights have been violated. Thus we argue that significant investments need to be made in order to enable people to actualize their rights; thus data empowerment.

People need to be made aware of their right to privacy and how they will be able to exercise it to protect themselves and their relations. People also need to be capacitated not only to demand disclosure of data about key issues that interest them, but also be able to use the data to exact accountability from public institutions, including governments and the private sector.

This paper argues that data for development actors should employ a data empowerment lens in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of data for development projects to ensure inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability.

Author:

Atika Kemal (Essex University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper signifies the relevance of adopting a more interpretive approach in defining datafication for social justice, and whether current approaches are actually 'just' in socio-economic development initiatives.

Paper long abstract:

Whilst current research on data justice primarily aims to establish the nexus between datafication and socio-economic development in developing countries, there is limited understanding on how datafication may also create disparities leading to data 'injustice'. As government organisations collect and share 'big data' on populations to make them visible to undertake development initiatives, such an approach is deemed to be data-centric that is rooted in objectivism and reduces people to mere data artefacts. Hence, the study proposes an alternative framework that aims to demystify any current approaches on data justice in order to interpret the data justice 'reality' through the interpretive lens of citizens. It theorises that the datafication process caters to the diverse interests of multiple actors in society /institutions. It favours a citizen-centric approach on defining datafication that reflects the perceptions of society. As contribution the study signifies citizen's concern for data visibility, especially 'visibility for whom' within a data driven economy, so whether datafication is actually 'just'. This discourse becomes particularly meaningful when citizen data is shared with other institutional partners without citizen's knowledge or consent. The study takes a critical and ethical stance in questioning the fundamental principles and values of data justice in a country like Pakistan, especially in the absence of any legal and regulatory framework for digital data protection and privacy. Hence, the study has implications for public/ private organisations and regulatory institutions in influencing policy-making and practices concerned with the legal aspects of datafication in promoting social justice.

Author:

Shyam Krishna (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

By using Indian case study of Aadhaar this paper seeks to understand development under biometric and digital scrutiny by casting surveillance as a necessary part of inclusion and conceptualising inclusion itself as a complex aspect of social justice with cultural, economic and political dimensions.

Paper long abstract:

By studying Aadhaar - India's digital biometric identity program, this paper seeks to understand inclusion as a matter of social justice under surveillance. Using the lens of 'abnormal justice', inclusion is conceptualised as 'parity of participation' - the ability to freely, justly and equitably participate in the society - which rests on underlying entwined dimensions of cultural recognition, economic redistribution and political representation. This is contextualised by engaging with theorisation of surveillance - particularly of 'banopticon' - establishing recognition as the social function of surveillance. As the marginalised population seeking inclusion see their relationship to the state mediated through Aadhaar as the banopticon, this paper seeks to present a means to engage with wider implications using in/justice framing to understand both negative and positive outcomes of surveillance and the complex nature of digital development it promises. Ultimately the paper seeks to contribute justice dimensions as a novel theoretical lens to understand inclusion especially under surveillance dialectically.

The paper undertakes an analysis of the complex rules of digitally enable inclusion presented under Aadhaar's use of 'JAM trinity' (Jan Dhan Yogana, Aadhaar and Mobile trinity). Further using on-going empirical data collection (Jan-Apr 2019) in understanding the mundane practices of banoptic surveillance, the discussion will be focus on welfare-oriented state processes of inclusion to highlight how the state recasts citizenship and welfare under digital technologies. The research subjects for this are traditionally marginalised informal workers commonly finding employment in the South Indian urban setting of Chennai and Bangalore cities.

Authors:

Silvia Masiero (Loughborough University)
Soumyo Das (International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore)

Paper short abstract:

We research how the 'cashless' economy set up in India post-2016 affects the country's informal sector. Drawing on fieldwork on street markets in Bangalore, we illustrate three forms of injustice - design-related, informational, and economic - experienced by informal sellers in a cashless system.

Paper long abstract:

In November 2016, the Government of India suddenly banned the majority of the nation's banknotes in a move known as 'demonetisation', aimed at combating the diffusion of black money. The move anticipated the Government's shift towards a 'cashless' economy, designed to combat illegal money flows by making transactions traceable through digital technologies. As diffusion of cashless transactions has rapidly increased since 2016, it is important to understand its effects on actors of the informal sector, whose transactions are largely held in cash. To do so we conduct a case study of street markets in Bangalore, characterised by an extant dichotomy between sellers owning digital means of transaction (mainly digital wallets running on smartphones) and sellers not owning them. Our guiding research question is therefore, 'how has cashlessness affected street sellers in Bangalore?'

Combining theories of information poverty with emerging theorisations of data justice, we find three forms of injustice experienced by street sellers in the observed context. First, digital wallets are mostly not designed for the basic needs of street sellers, who need immediate notification of transactions and easy-to-use interfaces. Second, knowledge on usability of digital wallets is discontinuous, with street sellers being exposed to incomplete and conflicting sources of information. Third, costs of exclusion from cashless transactions have increased over the last years, with competition from e-marketplaces generating a new important source of economic distress. Based on the empirical account provided, we draw implications for countries with large informal sectors transitioning to cashless economies.