Recap: Digital Citizenship and Participation | Leave No One Behind

A boundary-testing session exploring digital citizenship and participation from the angle of Leave No One Behind

agenda May 1, 2020

What is digital citizenship and who is a digital citizen? What does digital citizenship mean in regard to Leaving No One Behind? Is digital citizenship a right or a privilege? These questions and more were explored in this LNOB platform’s boundary-testing, challenging, and a productive session on digital citizenship and participation.

The right to connectivity
As digital citizens, we are exposed to new opportunities, yet at the same time we see the rise of a ‘digital gap’, digital activism, and critical discussions regarding ethics, digital participation, and even talk of the emergence of ‘digital imperialism’. Caroline Williams, the founder of The Do Good Only Company, passionately expressed her ideas on these issues as she reflected on digital citizenship in today’s day and age, and the consequences of digital inclusion/exclusion. Williams pointed out how even in countries like the Netherlands there are plenty of people who have limited digital access. Something which becomes more evident during the current coronacrisis. How will households without laptops be able to work at home, or how can these households let their kids learn or do exercises for schools? Digital disparities have significant repercussions and form contributing factors to socio-economic inequalities. To counterbalance the digital divide and reduce digital disparities, Williams suggests digital citizenship must address the following nine themes.

“Connectivity should not be a privilege, it should be a right for every member of society!”

Dangers of Digital Colonialism
According to Williams, the data that we produce and the data that we consume are not neutral. Often, we give away our data to gain access to the digital world. However, this comes at a price, as Williams stated, “the only thing free is the data being collected”. Williams believes that tech companies must build digital solutions in collaboration with the people for which they are meant, suggesting that solely ‘building for’ rather than ‘building with’ helps maintain power dynamics that enable things like digital colonialism. See also the principles for Digital Development.
Williams concludes by emphasizing the importance of the non-digital, suggesting that despite our current conditioning, technical solutions are not always superior and that “actual change and engagement still only occurs when you get away from your computer screen and go out and engage”.

Online Tools for Participatory Processes
In addition to Caroline William’s critical reflection, founders Raoul Kramer and Leo Hart of the company Enabl.ist presented about how online tools can strengthen participatory processes and IT innovations. Enabl.ist helps organizations create more participatory, safe and transparent IT structures and data. In their presentation, Kramer and Hart outlined lessons-learned from cases in which Enabl.ist helped a political party, a council, and an NGO increase their (digital) participation with their members and citizens.

Overall it was a thought-inspiring and critical session with a diverse group of 24 people participating! Ideas were shared and discussions took place, leaving participants with a real sense of the importance of the subject and need for digital and non-digital solutions.

Further Information:
Presentations: Enabl.ist Presentation, Do Good Only Company Presentation 
Other Resources: Digital Colonialism: a Global Overview Video, Good Things Foundation Coronavirus and Digital Inclusion Information Webpage, Ethics Advisory Group 2018 Report on Digital Ethics

Save the Date! Our next virtual session will be June 11th from 15:30-17h. Spread the word! We look forward to seeing you there!

We recorded the session for those who would like to have a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm7b00w5izU

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