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Technology and development: the contribution of OER

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This seminar will explore the roles of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in development. All too often these are seen as a ‘silver bullet’ that has the potential swiftly to lift people out of poverty. Instead, it is argued that, as with many other technologies, they normally serve primarily to enhance the positions of those in power. Of even more concern, they tend to be used primarily to impose external solutions on ‘recipient’ communities. Open Education Resources (OERs) are widely championed as being an alternative way through which ICTs can indeed be used by such communities for their own benefit and ‘development’. However, the reality is that advocacy of OERs all too often falls into the same traps that other ICT for development initiatives have previously encountered. The seminar closes with some suggestions as to how such programmes may be able to overcome this challenge, and draws on initiatives currently being implemented by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation.

Tim Unwin (born 1955) is Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (, Chair of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK (, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D , and Emeritus Professor of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. From 2001-2004 he led the UK Prime Minister’s Imfundo: Partnership for IT in Education initiative based within the Department for International Development, and from 2007-2011 he was Director and then Senior Advisor to the World Economic Forum’s Partnerships for Education programme with UNESCO . He was previously Head of the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London (1999–2001), and has also served as Honorary Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers) (1995-1997). He has written or edited 15 books, and more than 200 papers and other publications, including “Wine and the Vine” (Routledge, 1991), “The Place of Geography” (Longman, 1992), as well as his edited “Atlas of World Development” (Wiley, 1994) and “A European Geography” (Longman, 1998). His recent research has concentrated on information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D), focusing especially on the use of ICTs to support people with disabilities, and to empower out of school youth. In 2011, he spent three months in China teaching and undertaking research on the use of mobile devices for learning by farmers in Gansu and people with disabilities in Beijing. His latest collaborative book, entitled simply ICT4D , was published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. He is a Fellow of Education Impact and Honorary Professor at Lanzhou University, China.

This talk is part of the Centre for Commonwealth Education (CCE) series.

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