Internet Geographer


Posts tagged open development
Power, politics and digital development (our DSA 2016 sessions)

We’ve pulled together a fantastic group of papers for the upcoming DSA meeting in Oxford:


  • Richard Heeks (University of Manchester) email
  • Mark Graham (University of Oxford) email
  • Ben Ramalingam (Institute of Development Studies) email

Short Abstract

Covers the broad intersection of power, politics and digital development including both directionalities - the impact of power and politics on design, diffusion, implementation and outcomes of ICT application; and the impact of ICT application on power and politics - and their mutual interaction.

Long Abstract

Digital Dividends" - the 2016 World Development Report - finds the benefits of digital development to be unevenly distributed, and identifies emergent “digital ills”. The cause in both cases is inequalities of power in economic and political arenas including vested interests, digital monopolies, lack of citizen voice vis-a-vis the state, and other factors.

This panel invites papers at the broad intersection of power, politics and digital development including both directionalities - the impact of power and politics on design, diffusion, implementation and outcomes of ICT application; and the impact of ICT application on power and politics - and their mutual interaction.

We welcome work anywhere along the spectrum from the micro-exercise of power within individual ICT4D initiatives through the politics of national ICT-using organisations and institutions to global Internet governance. Other topics for papers might include but are not limited to:

- The organisational politics of ICT4D

- Digital resources as foundations of power in development

- Reproduction and transformation of power and inequality through digital development

- Digital development discourse as a source and reflection of power

- The institutional logics that conflict and contest to shape digital development

- How national and international ICT policies address and express issues of power


U.S. Foreign Policy and the Internet: Chronicling the Shift from Circumvention to Connectivity

Author: Deniz Duru Aydin (University of Oxford)  

Short Abstract

This paper investigates the evolution of Internet-related U.S. foreign policy and development agenda from Internet freedom to today’s Global Connect Initiative. The reasons for this policy shift are analyzed within the broader global context such as Snowden revelations and the recently adopted SDGs.

Configuring the users adapting the system: participation and ICT4D in Afghanistan

Author: Melanie Stilz (Technical University Berlin)  

Short Abstract

Participation is still almost exclusively defined from a donor perspective. How can those offering their help and resources enable participation by those receiving the support? In this paper I examine how “participation” is interpreted and executed in ICT project in the Afghan education sector.

Critical Agency in Digital Development

Author: Tony Roberts (United Nations University) 

Short Abstract

This paper uses critical theory to extend Sen’s capability approach and to argue that key to digital development should be enhancing people’s critical-agency i.e. their ability to critique and act upon any power and political constraints on their development.

Digital Politics, Institutional Logics and Development

Author: Richard Heeks (University of Manchester) 

Short Abstract

This paper illustrates, explains and draws conclusions from the six patterns that emerge from growth of digital politics in the global South; patterns of Copy, Spread, Curve, Boost, Shift and Hybrid between dominant competitive and subordinate cooperative institutional logics.

Digital technologies, power, and intermediaries in Myanmar and India

Authors: Elisa Oreglia (SOAS University of London)  
Janaki Srinivasan  

Short Abstract

Digital technologies that can disintermediate markets are now common in Myanmar and India and yet intermediaries and traditional practices still dominate rural markets. We explore the resilience of intermediaries and how digital technologies reinforce, and more rarely challenge, existing power hierarchies.

From Open Data to Empowerment: Lessons from Indonesia and the Philippines

Author: Michael Canares (World Wide Web Foundation)  

Short Abstract

Using case studies in the Philippines and Indonesia, this paper explains how and why open data can affect the spaces, places, and forms of power and how it provides avenues for citizens to exert efforts to reclaim its space in decision-making, agenda-setting, and meaning-making.

Identity, transparency and other visibilties: A liquid surveillance perspective of biometric technologies

Author: Shyam Krishna (Royal Holloway, University of London) 

Short Abstract

This paper studies ‘Aadhar’ – India’s national biometric digital identity program under a ‘liquid surveillance’ lens exploring surveillant power and associated politics of the project which seeks a seeming trade-off between citizen privacy and its modernist and developmentalist purpose.

Institutional isomorphism and organized hypocrisy in aid information management systems (AIMS): Case of Indonesia

Author: Kyung Ryul Park (LSE )  

Short Abstract

The study highlights the complexity of aid information management systems (AIMS), and explains its implementation and shutdown. By doing an in-depth qualitative study in Indonesia, it shows that AIMS is not mainly driven by a search for managerialistic gain, but motivated by external pressures.

Points-of-presence: Cloud giants in the datacenter-periphery

Authors: Rupert Brown (Prodiga Research)   

Short Abstract

We show the incursion of the big three cloud providers into African networks and illustrate flows and caches between regional peers. An investigation of Bandwidth-delivery and Security-ownership shows shadow technology, with services and instances, sidestepping local and national control.

Political Power and Digital Payments in a Government Social Social Cash Programme

Author: Atika Kemal (Anglia Ruskin University UK)   

Short Abstract

This paper investigates the effects of political power on the design and implementation of digital payments in a government social cash programme in Pakistan. It adopts an interpretive case study methodology to collect primary data through qualitative methods.

The Dialectics of Open Development

Authors: Yingqin Zheng   
Becky Faith (Institute of Development Studies)   

Short Abstract

This paper aims to provide a critical literature review on open development, explore the ideological assumptions, political foundations and economic forces behind open development, examine the challenges and unintended consequences, and consider the dialectics of boundaries in openness.

The Digital Politics of Development and Anonymous Online Power

Author: Brett Matulis (University of Leicester) 

Short Abstract

Development is an inherently political act that is both promoted and disputed through online media. With the rise of the “darknet” and anonymous digital activism, we are witnessing an important shift in power relations and a new phase in digital political resistance to development projects.

The Networkers of Outrage: a Demographic Survey of Indonesian Twitter Activists

Author: Lukas Schlogl (King’s College London) 

Short Abstract

This paper explores Twitter protest during a nationwide political controversy about Indonesia’s local direct elections. Drawing on novel survey data, it analyzes geo-demographic and socioeconomic determinants of political Twitter use and evaluates Twitter’s impact on Indonesia’s democracy.

The Struggle for Digital Inclusion: Phones, Healthcare, and Sharp Elbows in India

Author: Marco Haenssgen (Nuffield Department of Medicine) 

Short Abstract

I use an India-wide household panel to explore healthcare marginalisation among digitally excluded and included groups in rural areas. I find that phone diffusion creates a struggle that sharpens the elbows of those who are able to use the devices—provided the health system permits such use.

Unique Identification Number To A Billion Indians: Politics Around Identity, Data Sharing And Analytics

Authors: Ranjini Raghavendra 
Shirin Madon (LSE) 

Short Abstract

The paper focusses on issues of Identity, Data Sharing and Analytics within the world’s largest social identity programme namely Aadhar, in India.

What is Free about Free Basics?

Author: Jenna Keenan-Alspector (University of Colorado - Boulder) 

Short Abstract

Investigating how industry giants leverage power and increase inequalities, further straining the resources of the poor; a new ‘digital ill’ has risen: the emergence of the drug dealer of mobile broadband, Free Basics.

Call for papers: The Data Revolution in International Development (Sri Lanka, May 2015)

Richard Heeks and I are organising a track at WG 9.4: Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries on the topic of “The Data Revolution in International Development." 


Richard Heeks (University of Manchester, UK)
Mark Graham (Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, UK)

Many have pointed to a “data revolution” occurring in business, science, and politics.  As ever-more and ever-faster information is available about trends, patterns and processes, then related decision/action systems will be significantly affected.  This track focuses on these changes in the context of international development, given the likelihood that the post-2015 development agenda will include a greatly increased role for data.  This was particularly identified in the 2013 High-Level Panel Report – “A New Global Partnership” – one of the foundations for post-2015 discussions.  The report explicitly calls for a data revolution in international development, and suggests data-related targets for inclusion within the new development goals.

In some ways, the High-Level Panel reflects a reality already underway, and this track invites papers on any aspect of the data revolution in international development, such as:
  • Technical research on new techniques specifically required for capture, input, storage and processing of developing country data.
  • Socio-technical research on the specific issues that arise in analysis and presentation/visualisation of developing country data.
  • Socio-organisational research on the developmental value of new data, and on the transformation of development processes and systems that new data can enable.
  • Critical research on the politics and discourses of the data revolution.
We identify four main strands within the data revolution, which papers might address:

Open development data: the greater availability of developing country datasets for general use.  By far the biggest growth area has been open government data which is particularly linked to improvements in transparency, accountability and service delivery.  But open data can apply equally to private sector firms, markets, NGOs, and other development actors and systems.

Big development data: the emergence of very large datasets relating to phenomena within developing countries.  One main source has been mobile phone call records but there are growing numbers of survey-based, transactional and other large datasets that can offer new insights
into development.

Real-time development data: the availability of developing country data in real time.  To date, lagged models have been dominant within developing country data and decision-making, with data becoming available months or years after the events that it describes.  The growing diffusion of ICTs within developing countries is reducing this lag significantly as crowdsensing – everything from humans reporting via their mobiles to field-based sensors – becomes a reality.  The use of (near) real-time data for development decisions could enable a move to agile methods in development.

Other data trends: open, big and real-time data are three main elements to the data revolution but there will be others that form part of the post-2015 agenda.  These include increases in geo-locatable data, mobile data, bottom-up data, and qualitative data.

Submissions Due: 3rd October 2014

For more information, please contact richard.heeks[at]
Open Development: Networked Innovations in International Development

The book, Open Development: Networked Innovations in International Development, has just been released under an open CC-BY license. The book emerges from a stimulating conference organised by Matthew Smith and the IDRC in Ottawa a few years ago.

The volume also contains a chapter by Håvard Haarstad and myself:

Graham, M. and Haarstad, H. 2013. Open Development through Open Consumption: The Internet of Things, User-Generated Content and Economic Transparency. In Open Development: Networked Innovations in International Development. Eds. Smith, M. L., and Reilly, K, M. A. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 79-111
    You can download the full book here.
    New paper published: Transparency and Development: Ethical Consumption through Web 2.0 and the Internet of Things

    A paper that I co-wrote with Håvard Haarstad has just been published in a special issue of ITID on Open Development.

    Commentators are now pointing to the potential for a globalization of knowledge and transparency that will harness the power of the Internet to allow consumers to learn more about the commodities they buy. This article discusses the potential for emergent Web 2.0 technologies to transcend barriers of time and space, both to facilitate flows of information about the chains of commodities, and to open up potential politics of consumer activism, particularly to influence the way goods that originate in the Global South are produced. We argue that these prospects are ultimately tempered by a number of persistent barriers to the creation and transmission of information about commodities (infrastructure and access, actors’ capacities, the continued role of infomediaries, and intelligent capture and use by consumers).

    You can download a copy of the paper from the link below:

    Transparency and Development: Ethical Consumption through Web 2.0 and the Internet of Things