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Cluster

Digital and Technology

Advancing knowledge, shaping policy and inspiring practice on digital development is critical to achieving the our vision of a more equitable and sustainable world, where people everywhere can live their lives free from poverty and injustice.

The digital revolution has ushered in transformative changes to the ways we communicate and organise, with cascading effects across social, economic and political spheres.  Mobile phones and internet technologies are being used positively by women and marginalised groups to access information resources, increase their agency and well-being, and to influence policy and political change. However the same technologies are also used for surveillance, distortion of democratic discourse and to dampen dissent by civil society.

Our cutting-edge research and analysis on the reality of digital development provides insights and ideas for policymakers and practitioners within development and humanitarian organisations seeking to better understand and realise the promise of the digital revolution for poor and marginalised communities.

We focus on three interconnected themes;

  • Gender and technology:  Mobile phones and other ICTs can contribute to women’s economic and political empowerment but the same technologies are often sites of gender exclusion and online violence. Our research looks at these barriers and the pathways to womens’ active participation in digital economies as creators, innovators and entrepreneurs.
  • Innovation and ‘frontier technologies’: Frontier technologies  hold the potential to rapidly address large-scale economic, social or political challenges. However they may also involve the displacement of existing livelihoods and social relations and so carry considerable uncertainty and risk. If technology choices in international development are to be based on more than vendor and media hype then new sources of digital and technology expertise must urgently be made available to development decision-makers.
  • Digital citizenship: New digital public spheres are opening up online, often in response to the closing of offline civic spaces. This is becoming the new frontier on which development policy debates and narratives are being formed. We explore new ways to accelerate innovation in the field of digital citizenship to enable the democratic potential of ICT to amplify citizen voice to be realised.

Collaboration for impact

The quality and impact of our work depends upon us collaborating with governments, philanthropic foundations, academic institutions and civil society organisations to transform approaches to progressive social, political and economic change.

Consulting services

Our consulting services focus on our clients’ most critical issues and opportunities surrounding digital strategies for human development. We bring strong technical, cross-disciplinary expertise grounded in real-world experience and are known for bringing a holistic lens that acknowledges the economic, political and social contexts of digital development. Recent clients include the Digital Impact Alliance, The Malala Fund, UK Department for International Development, USAID, German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) and Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

People

Image of Amy Cowlard
Amy Cowlard

Senior Project Support Officer

Image of Becky Faith
Becky Faith

Research Fellow

Image of Deborah West
Deborah West

Project manager

Image of Inka Barnett
Inka Barnett

Research Fellow

Image of Kevin Hernandez
Kevin Hernandez

Research Officer

Image of Pedro Prieto Martín
Pedro Prieto Martín

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Image of Tony Roberts
Tony Roberts

Research Fellow

Projects

Project

African Digital Rights Network

Many countries in Africa are experiencing a closing of civic space. This network brings together activists, analysts and researchers from seven African countries.

Project

Covid-19: Disconnected Workers and Rapid Digitisation

From patients accessing health services through telemedicine to school children only being able to attend classes through remote learning, the rapid digitization of services and activities across social and economic life during the COVID-19 pandemic (especially in its early months) has provided...

Recent work

Opinion

State surveillance of citizens reaches far beyond Pegasus

The Pegasus spyware story is just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond the software developed by the Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group, there is a multi-million-pound global market in which companies compete to profit from helping states to illegally spy on their own citizens. Rightly there has...

23 July 2021

Impact Story

Connecting the digitally disconnected

Covid-19 has highlighted more than ever the great importance of digital connectivity. Yet, as research by the IDS Digital and Technology Cluster shows, persistent digital inequalities in the UK and the US threaten to exclude the most marginalised. Services and activities across many areas of...

28 June 2021