Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Technivism and a Random Paragraph About Shoes

L-R: Me, Melissa - MAVC, Mercy BHESP, Maya & Hannah - Tactical Tech and Nida - MAVC
I got to know (and love) Tactical Tech in 2013 - its  a great non-profit organisation that advances the use of information and digital technologies used by advocates and activists worldwide. I particularly love and subscribe to the very cool toolkits they have developed for activists and NGO's around how to take stock of their advocacy or activism work and their digital security (or lack of it for that matter). I particularly love the Security-in-a-Box Toolkit with a multiplicities of cool tips and tricks on internet and web vulnerabilities that we encounter in daily tech lives as activists.

I recently took part in a discussion and sharing of research findings that Tactical Tech undertook with the Kenyan LGBTI community (with support from a very cool organisation called Making All Voices Count Fund.) The study is called The Möbius Strip: How LGBTQ Kenyans use technology to negotiate visibility and anonymity

Here is an excerpt of the summary of the study:

"Technology in enabling development (often referred to as ICT4D), activism and in transparency and accountability initiatives (T4TA), are the subjects of new interventions and innovation......However, they aren't the users of T4TA initiatives as recent research by the Institute of Development Studies suggests; that it is the 'usual suspects' who are most likely to engage in these kinds of technology projects, that is, usually middle class, educated men who are part of the social mainstream. What are the factors that limit the use of technology by marginalised people? And, if so, what are the possibilities for overcoming them? How do these factors manifest across lines of class, gender and sexuality?...."

It was interesting and unusual to get this feedback. I now realise just how many studies and research tend to be conducted in global South on women's issues or key populations from all corners but none of them make good of the pledge to report back its findings once the study is concluded. I would particularly like to laud Maya Ganesh and Hannah Smith from Tactical Tech for making this pledge good by scrapping up tight resources to come back to those who informed their study. I also felt that the quorum for this session could have done with more participants from the Kenyan community, especially those who were involved in the actual study but then again, I am sure like me, they would not have expected follow through of involving all stakeholders in a study beyond pure 'extraction' for information involvement. Kudos to Tactical Tech for setting a great standard.

One interesting element I took away from the discussion was the need for more technology support, resources and infrastructure for 'dumb phones' rather than the constant push and pressure for new, for innovative and 'very smart' ICT... Overall, there are close to 4.5 billion world phone subscribers, meaning that nearly 65% of the world’s population has some sort of phone which isn't smart (thus the word dumb :-) )...So who exactly are we trying to reach if we are always looking for newer, sleeker, tech-ier ways to connect the world?! I also feel that we totally downplay 'old techie' like radio as ways to engage wider audiences around advocacy, awareness building and activism efforts. There are over 2.4 billion radio receivers and over 51,000 radio stations worldwide. At least 75% of global south households have access to radio.  We need to ensure that the evolving of our activism and the use of techie to anchor this work carries the old and new; If we do this we are likely to bridge gaps of information, access and build a more meaningful discourse and engagements around human rights work locally and globally.

This week we have a huge converging of Techies and human rights activists in Sweden attending the Stockholm Internet Forum 2015. Hopefully the meeting is useful in making more connections, sharing, learning but also taking stock of the old and the new! I look at old and new techie like shoe shopping, some of us can't wait to dump our trusty old shoes into the shoe box and leave the store with spanking new ( !!!and not broken into!!!) shoes....I just hope we do not entirely lose the gains and traction drawn from old by getting distracted solely (ok that was a cheeky pun slotted there) with the new innovations around ICT!

Have a great tech week! Like your shoes, embrace ALL your tech be it old or/and new!

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