Digital Development Summit 2017 — Experience Report and Pointers

I was fortunate to get a chance to attend Digital Development Summit yesterday at SouthBank Centre London, all thanks to the awesome Suzie Gilbert. The summit was hosted by Institute of Development Studies in collaboration with the World Wide Web Foundation and Nesta with the support of the UK Department for International Development and the ESRC-DFID Impact Initiative.

The theme/topic of the summit was “Future of Work” and the question that everyone was working towards answering was “How can we ensure decent work for all in a rapidly digitising world?”.

The aim of the summit was to look at the rapidly digitising world of today, with intelligent machines becoming the centre of everything. The machines are making decisions for us, they are driving what we see on media and how we interact with the rest of the world. In such times, it becomes critical to evaluate how would the future of work turn out to be and whether this future is inclusive and sustainable towards all groups in our society.

Participants were required to:

  • Explore the current and future impacts of accelerating digital innovations on different parts of the global workforce, with a special focus on women and marginalised groups, and drawing on research supported by the ESRC-DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research
  • Better understand the systemic interactions between technology and employment, and how these might generate different scenarios and outcomes for different sectors, workers and social groups
  • Explore different approaches for ensuring decent work for all in the face of accelerating digital innovation through institutional, policy and skills-based improvements and transformations
  • Identify priorities for future policy and practice including stakeholder-specific agendas for action

The conference had a well-defined agenda with some of the sessions focussed around brainstorming and discussions in groups.

There was a background paper that was shared before the conference to give a better understanding of the theme and expected outcomes of the conference.

Melissa Leach, Director of Institute of Development Studies, opened the first session and setting up context on “Why should we be thinking about the future of work in a digital age?”. She was joined by Anne Jellema (CEO of Web Foundation), Sango Patekile Holomisa (Deputy Minister of Labour, South Africa and quite an optimist) and Prof. Maggie Boden (Research Professor of Cognitive Science at Centre for Cognitive Science at University of Sussex). The panelists brought up a critical point around how most of the countries aren’t investing in digital skill development. They also talked about the lack of systematic framework for protection of digital rights. A very interesting point was around the job of a postman that has almost become redundant because of the proliferation of electronic communication mechanisms. And this was quite interesting for me since India has the largest postal system in the world. You can watch this session here: Digital Development Summit 2017: Opening and Key Note Address — YouTube

This was followed by the keynote address discussing “What do we know already” about this space where Mark Graham from Oxford Internet Institute and Gina Porter from Durham University. Mark’s talk was really interesting — sadly there’s no recording that I know of.

There are some tweets mentioning things that were discussed during this session:

The third session was quite interesting. Titled “How to build prosperity and resilience in the face of digital changes?”, the session required participants to discuss “How will different jobs fare? And how would the future of these jobs look like?”. We were given different personas to work with and the task was to assign them to a grid of exposure vs. adaptive capacity (see below)

For instance: Joe is a truck driver, 22 Male, educated till high school. Where is Joe on this grid and where will he be by 2030?

The exercise seemed easy but wasn’t because there were just so many factors that we had to take into consideration.

One of my favorite sessions, session 4 focussed on discussing “What do different stakeholders need to do to move this agenda forward?” in groups. A lot of interesting discussions happened around each of the stakeholders. Below are screenshots of some of the suggestions for each stakeholder and the dots represent the votes each of these suggestions got.

The last session for the day was a wrap-up panel discussion with Mamadou Biteye (from Rockefeller foundation), Duncan Green (from Oxfam), Anna Byhovskaya (from TUAC-OECD), Kojo Boakye (from Facebook) and chaired by Anne Jellema (CEO of Web Foundation). You can watch the recording of this session here: Digital Development Summit 2017: Final Session — YouTube

Some tweets from this session:

Some more interesting tweets from the event here:

You can see all the tweets from the summit here: #DigiDevSummit — Twitter Search

Please feel free to reach out if you want to know more or have any questions/comments.