The complex relationship between technology and social outcomes is well known and has recently seen significant attention due to the deepening of technology used in many domains. This includes issues such as the reproduction of inequality due to the digital divide, threats to democracy due to misinformation propagated through social networking platforms, algorithmic biases that can perpetuate structural injustices, and hardships caused to citizens due to misplaced assumptions about the gains expected from the use of information technology in government processes, and simplistic beliefs that technology can easily lead to social development.
This timely work draws attention to the varying factors by which technology often leads to disempowerment effects. Featuring a Foreword by Tim Unwin, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, Seth makes a call to technologists to burst the technology optimism bubble, build an ethos for taking greater responsibility in their work, collectivize to similarly shape the internal governance of their organizations, and engage with the rest of society to strengthen democracy and build an acceptance that the primary goal of technology projects should be to bring equality by overturning unjust societal structures.
About the author:
Aaditeshwar Seth is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, and co-founder of the social technology enterprise Gram Vaani. He is passionate about building technologies that empower marginalized communities with access to participatory media platforms. Several million people have directly touched these technology platforms. Over 150 development organizations worldwide have drawn upon the work done by Aaditeshwar’s team at Gram Vaani and his students from the ACT4D (Appropriate Computing Technologies for Development) research group at IIT Delhi. Many elements of their work have also been adopted by government departments and have influenced the use of technologies for development in the social sector.