In my previous post, I have introduced various initiatives in partnership with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that encouraged usage of ICT tools for “challenging unequal power relations and increasing participation of marginalized girls in social transformation”(UNICEF 2013).

Although there is a short section about Privacy and Protection, statements such as “this is a relatively new area and it is not yet clear where and how information communicated or collected via mobile phones can expose marginalized adolescent girls to additional … risk” raise concerns.

In order to ensure “the safety of all involved” they suggest establishing protection measures for adolescent girls, but I ask: Why do you give a tool to someone and in the same time acknowledge that protection and privacy is not guaranteed?

Digital data protection is not yet a concern for a majority of governments in low and middle-income countries (Greenleaf, 2012) and about less than a third of the information in the digital universe can be said to have at least minimal security or protection and only about half of the information that should be protected is protected (Gantz & Reinsel 2011). In 2011, the amount of information created and replicated has surpassed 1.8 trillion gigabytes growing by a factor of 9 in just five years.

“While 75% of the information in the digital universe is generated by individuals, enterprises have some liability for 80% of information in the digital universe at some point in its digital life. We are seeing this discussion around trust unfolding before us today. Online data collection is becoming more invasive, data mining analytics and big data make it possible for businesses to profile individual consumers, and individuals are expanding their digital shadow through their use of mobile device applications and their participation in social networking sites. As a result, there are increasing calls from advocates, academics, and regulators to amend the current privacy and data protection regimes.”

There are also serious privacy concerns, particularly as firms increasingly sell personal data to other firms. Cerra (2013) notes that ‘these relatively uncharted waters are fraught with challenges as marketers struggle to walk the line between consumer exploitation and empowerment’.

I am by no means underestimating the advantages of the underlying potential, but ultimately we need to be much more critical in identifying what we gain in return for invasions of privacy.



Greenleaf, G. (2012). Global data privacy laws: 89 countries, and accelerating. School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 98 .

Gantz, J. and E. Reinsel. 2011. “Extracting Value from Chaos”, IDC’s Digital Universe Study, sponsored by EMC.

Paul Ohm, Response, The Underwhelming Benefits of Big Data, 161 U. PA. L. REV. ONLINE 339 (2013), http://www.pennlaw review.com/responses/8-2013/Ohm.pdf.

UNICEF. (2013). Integrating Information and Communication Technologies into Communication for Development Strategies to Support and Empower Marginalized Adolescent Girls.

Cerra, Allison, Kevin Easterwood, and Jerry Power. Transforming Business: Big Data, Mobility, and Globalization. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley, ©2013. Accessed August 14, 2017.

ICTs taught, lessons learned…

In 2013 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published a report on the potential and challenges of ICTs in advancing the rights of girls and facilitating their engagement and participation for social transformation. The report highlighted many advantages such as access to knowledge and information, connection, efforts to overcome violence, exploitation and abuse.

One of the projects included “Map Kibera” which enabled awareness about surroundings via digital mapping. Girls were equipped with Geolocation devices to map and identify safe and unsafe places in Kibera, a large slum area outside of Nairobi, Kenya. Even though there exists a printed version of the map, critiques pointed out that the project is heavily driven by technology and the “work on the ground” could not keep up.

Source: Voice of Kibera

The Jokko initiative was launched by Tostan in partnership with UNICEF, which aimed to combat illiteracy while initiating social mobilization and exchanging ideas through text messages. According to the report there was no special focus on girls, although a large number of adolescent girls took part. One of the project managers at Tostan, Guillaume Debarin commented “you can’t just parachute technology into a village and think that it’s going to fix things”.

Source: SMS Africa

Youth Empowerment through Arts and Media (YETAM) is an initiative by Nokia, Plan International, and local partners that seek to give youth the skills and tools to communicate at local, national, and global level about issues impacting on their lives through technology, arts and media. A prerequisite for participation was literacy.  The project has been implemented in 2008 by 6 African countries and even though both girls and boys were included, a key outcome of the project was that girls assumed the role of group leaders, developing the confidence and skills to use technology and speak out publicly. Limitations to the project included lack of technology as “the Internet could be really slow” and schools also had a limited amount of computers (UNICEF, 2013). Additionally language and illiteracy, parental attitudes and tradition were hard to overcome and in rural areas physical distance proved to be a barrier for some girls.

According to a report by Spratt and Baker the risk is that inequalities are increased by the application of big data, with those that can afford the improved interventions benefiting accordingly. Bringing education to those that previously did not have access is a good thing of course, but if the quality of the education received by the relatively wealthy also increases, educational inequalities will remain pronounced (Spratt & Baker, 2015).

“People need access to internet-enabled devices, a good quality internet connection and a reliable source of power. Very large numbers of people in developing countries have none of these things, and could not afford them even if they were available. “

What happens when the digital world of 2.0 meets the 1.5 world of development policy? Sure there is unprecedented potential in the advances of technology, but it has to be relevant and applicable to the audience as well. Digital data protection is not yet a concern for a majority of governments in low and middle-income countries (Greenleaf, 2012) and I had a hard time finding any comments or findings about this particular aspect in the UNICEF report.



Greenleaf, G. (2012). Global data privacy laws: 89 countries, and accelerating. School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 98 .


UNICEF. (2013). Integrating Information and Communication Technologies into Communication for Development Strategies to Support and Empower Marginalized Adolescent Girls.

Hope falls flat?


Actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, for example signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on social media (Oxford University Press, 2017).

The ultimate measure of success is the outcome. How does online versus offline activism result in social change?

There is scarce but an increasing number of research done on the actual effect of slacktivism or online activism and what possibilities the Internet can have when it comes to recruitment and fundraising. The Internet has provided us with an unprecedented opportunity for information flow (Sparrow, Liu, & Wegner, 2011), social influence (Bond, 2012) and democratic revolution (Allagui & Kuebler, 2011).

A study published in the Sociological Science showed an inverse relationship between broad online social movement mobilization and deep participation (Lewis, Gray, & Meierhenrich, 2014). The data presented results from a period of almost 3 years looking at the Facebook application of Causes with an empirical focus on the conflict in Darfur. The study quoted Donovan and Henley stating Facebook is less useful a mobilizing than a marketing tool, which proved to be the case here as well. Although 1 million people registered for the cause in the aforementioned period, the total amount of donations barely reached $100.000, supporting the notion of “fast growing support and diffusion of protest through the Internet is followed by an even faster decline in commitment” (Laer, 2010). Otherwise socially minded participants have little incentive to contribute because they assume that the millions of other members will (Oliver 1984).

Kony 2012 was published on YouTube 5 years ago and up to this date has been watched more than a 100 million times. Joseph Kony was accused for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court  in The Hague, Netherlands in 2005. He is still on the run.

Another analysis on Twitter also established the fact that even though social media is a powerful communication tool, it is less prevalent as a mobilization tool (Guo & Saxton, 2014)

I think it is fair to say that the initial hope to set off social change combined with the possibilities of the Internet is questionable. Did we have too high expectations to what the online sphere could deliver? What is considered a success when engaging in protest for a particular cause? Raising awareness? Recruiting members to a community? Hard cash? The ultimate measure of success is the outcome… Success in my mind is when the will of the majority is represented in changing the direction of course for a social cause.



Allagui, I., & Kuebler, J. (2011). The Arab Spring and the Role of ICTs. International Journal of Communication , 1435-1442.

Bond, R. M. (2012). A 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization. Nature , 295-298.

Guo, C., & Saxton, G. D. (2014). Tweeting Social Change: How Social Media are Changing Nonprofit Advocacy. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly , 57-59.

Laer, J. V. (2010). Activists Online and Offline: The Internet as an Information Channel for Protest Demonstrations. Mobilization: An International Quarterly , Vol. 15, 347-366.

Lewis, K., Gray, K., & Meierhenrich, J. (2014). The Structure of Online Activism. sociological science , 1-9.

Oxford University Press. (2017). Oxford English Dictionary. Forrás: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/slacktivism

Sparrow, B., Liu, J., & Wegner, D. M. (2011). Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips. Science , 776-778.