Digital Society, Social Justice and Academic Education

This panel investigates approaches that have their roots in direct collaboration from academia with outside (underprivileged, marginalised) communities as an integral element of research and education

Target group:
For academics, For society, For students
Pilot domain:
Digital Society & Global Citizenship

Date and time: Tuesday, March 23, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. (17:00) Central European Time (UTC+1) Panellists: Saa Dittoh (UDS, Ghana), Narayanan Kulathuramaiyer (UNIMAS, Malaysia), Anna Bon (VU Amsterdam, the Netherlands) Moderator: Hans Akkermans (, the Netherlands) An important open question of Digital Humanism is how ethical and social aspects of digital technologies and associated matters of human values and social justice can be handled appropriately in academic research and education. A possible approach is to create interdisciplinary courses on ethics and philosophy of technology such as “Tech Ethics”. This panel investigates approaches that have their roots in direct collaboration from academia with outside (underprivileged, marginalised) communities as an integral element of research and education. Case examples and experiences from three different continents are discussed, giving some perspective on the simultaneous universality and contextualises of human values and social justice.


Knowledge for Service: Digital Technology Positives and Negatives in African Rural Societies Saa Dittoh

Many decades ago (and possibly now in some areas) in rural Africa, communal methods of information sharing were not always face-to-face; some were virtual, through high-pitched voices and loud sounding “talking drums” that gave “coded information”. No wonder that many African rural societies have no reservations about adopting appropriate modern digital technologies. The rapid advance in digital technology has been positive in many ways. Still, several harmful and damaging aspects threaten the values, cultures, and even the very existence of some African rural societies’ very existence. In this talk, I discuss those threats and suggests ways to counter them. This talk further highlights how knowledge can be put to service and how university students can be engaged in this.

Digital Sociotechnical Innovation and Indigenous Knowledge Narayanan Kulathuramaiyer

In this talk, I will discuss how university research and education on digital technology can empower under-served communities. I particularly describe the eBario program as a long-standing university-community partnership between the rural Kelabit community, one of Borneo ethnic minorities, and the University Malaysia Sarawak. This program to bridge the digital divide started in 1998, with the indigenous Kelabit community taking on the information and knowledge creation pathway as a way forward. Over the past two decades, the program has evolved to become recognised as a living laboratory, influencing practice and policy, with, for example, a role in poverty reduction. eBario, as an ICT for Development model, has been replicated to cover eight other sites across the Peninsula and East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. However, the biggest achievement resides in the development of community scholars and the community-led life-long-learning initiatives that go on till today.

Digital Divide, Inclusion and Community Service Learning Anna Bon

Community service-learning (CSL) is an educational approach that we have further developed in collaboration with universities and stakeholders in the Global South into a research and education model dubbed: ICT4D 3.0. This model combines problem-solving and situational learning with meaningful service to communities and society. In computer science and artificial intelligence education – traditionally purely technologically oriented – ICT4D 3.0 integrates CSL’s societal and ethical principles with user-centred design and socio-technical problem-solving. Being exposed to complex, societal real-world problems, students learn by exploring, reflecting, co-designing in close interaction with communities in a real-world environment. This type of education provides a rich learning environment for “Bildung”.