Corporate actors, civil society and government stakeholders are increasingly implementing information and communication technologies (ICT) in the Global South, purportedly to improve the quality of life and well-being of individuals in less connected regions. Sub-Saharan Africa has been identified as such an “under-connected” world region and has become a major focus of technology-based development initiatives. Examples range from free access to specific content on the internet (“zero-rating”) to e-health, e-education, e-government and e-agriculture programmes, as well as mobile banking applications and ICT infrastructure such as drones or white space technology. With growing activity in the fields of digitalisation and ICT for development (ICT4D) in Africa, critical questions have to be raised: What are the motivations behind ICT export and digitalisation programmes? How are technologies used, who is excluded from ICT use and why? Bearing in mind that technologies are not neutral but have certain values inscribed in them, how are digital technologies designed, and what impact does this have on individual opportunities for action as well as societal futures? In which ways do ICT change (moral) norms of action, cultural traditions and the distribution of power? Does the export of ICT by Western companies and development programmes have "neo-colonial" effects? Other relevant topics concern local content, gender dynamics, and the values of privacy and access to information.
The goal of the conference is to connect scholars and practitioners working on topics relating to digitalisation in Africa and the wider Global South, the use of ICT for development (ICT4D), and its ethical implications. We wish to foster an interdisciplinary and intercultural exchange between scholars and practitioners from all continents, and particularly welcome contributions from sub-Saharan Africa. At the conference, we wish to discuss questions about the practice of digitalisation in Africa and its (ethical) implications for human development, questions about the value-ladenness of ICT and its potential influence on individual users and societies, as well as questions of global justice. A comprehensive conference programme aims at an inclusive, innovative, and lasting advancement of research on the ethical implications of digitalisation in and ICT export to the Global South.
The International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW) is an interdisciplinary research hub for applied ethics at the University of Tübingen in Germany. The centre works with partners from around the globe – including actors in research and higher education, government, and civil society – in addressing fundamental ethical questions of our times. Ethical challenges debated at the IZEW relate to the fields of security, technology, media, education, and sustainable development.
The IZEW is one of only a few actors that have recently begun conducting research on the complex ethical issues arising from the implementation of information and communications technologies (ICT) in Africa. The project “Ethical Implications of ICT Export to sub-Saharan Africa” (ELISA) considers ethical questions pertaining to technology design, development cooperation, and global justice. In so doing, the project draws on contributions from different fields, including Philosophy, Science and Technology Studies, Development Studies, as well as Communication Studies.