Gender-Just Digital Innovation in Africa (GeDIA): Uniting women changemakers (and their male allies) to co-design gender-just digital futures

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Social Sciences Research Institutes

Abstract

Digital innovation in Africa (and globally) is taking place in highly unequal societies, and there is a risk that the shift to digitisation will trace or even amplify these inequalities. Gender inequality is one such inequality, and it intersects with inequalities along education, class, ethnicity, location, marital status, sexual orientation and disability lines. Gender equality is a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5) in itself and also has been shown to have significant secondary effects on the achievement of other SDGs.

Thus both women and men stand to gain from more gender equal societies, and yet in project design in the areas of digital literacy, Information and Communication Technologies for development (ICT4D), and digital-related service design, often gender equality is an afterthought, rather than being a key aim from the start. Women are frequently seen as "hard-to-reach", relatively passive participants who need special encouragement to be included. This network seeks to shift this paradigm and instead position women as active agents in their own digital futures. We unite leading women changemakers, and their male allies, in a network that partners with other women changemakers across African countries to develop digital action research with women (alongside men) as central actors.

The network unites academic leaders from the field of ICT4D, Human Computer Interaction Design, digital literacy training, Data Science, with gender equality activists and partners from business (GSMA's network) from NGOs (Oxfam, Malala Fund) and women's networks (Asikana, Coding Space). Participants come from Zambia, Uganda, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, the UK and Sweden, and each bring their own networks. Thus as a network of networks we will be able to share good practice, identify gaps in our knowledge, and develop a joint research agenda. Together we will apply for a GCRF Large Grant which will allow us to undertake impactful action research together.

We seek to explore this overarching question: How can women changemakers in Africa be empowered to co-create a more gender-equal digital future?

Based on our analysis of the structural barriers to women's participation in digital innovation, GeDIA will concentrate on three focal areas where we see vital levers for change:

1) Amplifying advocacy in gender equality and equal participation in civic life by developing training opportunities for activists to better use the new tools of digital civics, social media campaigning, data science and data visualisation

2) Ensuring fair access for women and girls to education, training and careers in IT and Data Science

3) Developing gender-just service design. Developing better co-design processes for digital-related public services (e.g. sensor monitored water, sanitation, hygiene; apps for maternal health) with women as active partners in design.

We will convene a series of workshops and webinars, to bring together the members of the network. Here we will offer each other trainings, share best practice and existing methodologies. We will nurture a GeDIA Academy which supports female academics in African universities through peer support and mentoring. Male allies from Data Science Africa will host a training school focused on women as learners, and male allies from the Zambian Innovation Hub BongoHive will help host our workshops.

A members' directory will allow journalists and conference organisers to find female commentators on Africa's digital future. We have the support of DFID and GSMA who are on our advisory board, and our partners Oxfam, Malala Fund, INIITKenya have together pledged 40 person days to contribute to co-shaping this research agenda. They recognise the urgent need for collaborative research and action if women and girls are to have equal digital rights and participate in Africa's digital future.

Planned Impact

For an overview please see the GeDIA Impact Diagram.

The overall impact of the GeDIA network is to position women as changemakers themselves, rather than "hard-to-reach" groups to be included in digital innovation. In all our gender-unequal societies, women are less represented in digital data, digital participation, digital jobs and design of digital. We thus take a bold, multi-pronged approach to address both digital rights and gender equity together.

The network unites women changemakers (and male allies) from academia (especially from three leading centres of ICT4D research: Sheffield, UCT and Makerere) and from key NGOs Oxfam, Malala Fund (esp. Nigeria), and Asikana Network of Women in IT in Zambia. DFID are supportive and on our Advisory Board, as is the Connected Women team at the global umbrella organisation of mobile phone operators (GSMA) who will facilitate links to industry.

For the Academic Impact, please see the Case for Support and Academic Beneficiaries.
In terms of societal impact, the overall GeDIA network will: As a network of networks, unite women from a) the Sheffield-led GCRF Digital Development network, b) Oxfam's and Malala Fund's networks of women and girl gender advocates, c) Asikana's Women in IT network in Zambia; d) UCT School of IT's women alumni network; e) Data Science Africa granduands and f) GSMA industry networks. GeDIA participants will produce a manifesto recognising women as changemakers in digital futures in Africa. Through a website, blog with video interviews, and a members directory, GeDia will give women changemakers collective and individual visibility, as well as celebrating role models. GeDIA Academy is a sub-network for female academics working on digital at African universities to be supported as future research leaders (e.g. in GCRF projects). The GeDIA network will be the go-to place for media and conference organisers to source female commentators and panellists on digital, thus amplifying the voices of African women changemakers.

Based on three Literature Reviews we will develop an interwoven research agenda and analytical framework taking into account structural factors as well as agency, which will form the basis of an application for a 2nd stage large DIDA research grant. The grant will support research into structural barriers and digital rights for women in the digital era, as well as practical action research, with women changemakers at the centre.

Focal Area 1 will identify data gaps and combine tools (Sheffield, UCT, Oxfam Digital Campaign team etc) for activists to offer data science and social media training. Trainings will be piloted with Malala Fund's network of 38 gender activists and will then be rolled out further, free of charge. Hundreds of gender activists will be more effective in generating and leveraging data in advocacy work.

Focal Area 2 will improve digital literacy curriculum for girls in partnership with Malala Fund. Building on resources from Oxfam and others, GeDIA will develop curriculum relevant to women and girls, with an emphasis on privacy, risk and harassment online, how to deal with trolls and safely participate in online debate, to allow more women to participate in digital civic spaces. This will be integrated in Malala Fund's campaign for more girl-centred curricula. GeDIA will pilot the first-ever version of the Data Science Africa training school focused on women learners.

Focal Area 3 will operationalise a gender-just approach to the design of digital-related public services, in particular in the areas of mobile apps for maternal health and digital network design underlying Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services in South Africa. Methodologies will be developed to be tested in action research in stage 2. Via GSMA industry partners will be invited to collaborate. With the uptake of these methods, a new design paradigm will come into being which benefits women and girls in Africa and globally.
 
Description We have held eight online workshops in which we have come together as a network of 17 partners, shared our work, and explored synergies. We have jointly developed an interdisciplinary action research agenda combining ICT4D and Gender Studies, Development Studies, Data Science, Human-Computer Interaction, Service Design and Gender Studies.

We have formed a network of networks, connecting women changemakers in development (Oxfam, Malala Fund), women in the IT sector (Asikana, Codespace) and networks of academics (Sheffield Institute for Global Sustainable Development, and the Digital, Data and Innovation group there, UCT's network of women alumnae in ICT4D and the Makerere ICT4D group).

As part of the development of our joint research agenda we have commissioned and completed three literature reviews in the area of digital tools for gender advocacy; women and girls in IT and Data Science in Africa.

We together developed a Large Grant application (1.2m Canadian Dollar) for the Canadian IDRC funder, which was successful in a very competitive process. We will be working together for more women in STEM.

As part of the project we have carried out mutual capacity building, drawing on the expertise of different partners. Oxfam and Malala Fund have offered customised webinars to the network. GeDIA Academy is a mentoring seminar series for early career academics at African Universities.

Our website and membership directory is making key African women changemakers visible - www.gedia-network.org.
Exploitation Route We are still in the process of developing outputs and impacts as the grant is ongoing.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.gedia-network.org
 
Description Societal and economic impact of the award 1) Key partnerships have arisen already. Our non-academic partners, including Asikana Network for women in IT in Zambia, Oxfam, the Malala Fund and Code Space have already formed links due to the network. 2) Further, by sharing their experience and approaches to gender empowerment in webinars, they have engaged in the peer capacity building processes in the network. The non-academic partners are also learning from the university partners in the network, and vice versa. Areas of learning include: 1) Gender policies in organisations; 2) Conceptualising gender; 3) Activating male allies; 4) Decolonising knowledge production practices; 5) Leadership and management practices during Covid19; 6) remote research methods during Covid19 3) Joint development of a research agenda through 8 co-production workshops (each attended by approx 15 participants) 4) Using the research reviews commissioned as part of this project, we successfully applied for a £1.2m grant with IDRC Canada, on gender justice for women in STEM. --- Impact on gender - The research agenda we developed centres women and non-binary groups as not just hard-to-reach groups but also as changemakers in digital innovation. - At the Africa data Science School, 80 women and men, professionals and postgraduate students across Africa were trained in Data and gender justice
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Membership in the Scientific Committee advising on the UNCTAD Digital Technologies and Innovation report 2020
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description Senior Expert on the Expert Panel for the European Research Dialogue
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description Pathways to Change: Towards Gender Justice in STEM Research in Africa (GeJuSTA)
Amount $1,200,000 (CAD)
Organisation International Development Research Centre 
Sector Public
Country Canada
Start 01/2022 
End 12/2024
 
Description African Data Science School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The GeDIA Network partnered with the Data Science Africa School to run this year's summer school focused, for the first time on data and gender equity. The gender equity focus was also reflected in the pan-African women organiser team of the event.

Sol Platje University in South Africa hosted the event which took place online, with participants from across Africa.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Co-production Workshop with non-academic stakeholders 1a 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop in Zambia (hosted online due to Covid) united 17 partners from 8 countries to connect international NGOs such as Oxfam and Malala Fund with our research and involving them in the development of our research agenda.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://www.gedia-network.org
 
Description Co-production Workshop with non-academic stakeholders 1b 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop in Zambia (hosted online due to Covid) united 17 partners from 8 countries to connect international NGOs such as Oxfam and Malala Fund with our research and involve them in the development of our research agenda. In this workshop we mapped the conceptual tools for GeDIA to achieve its objectives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://www.gedia-network.org
 
Description Co-production Workshop with non-academic stakeholders 2a 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop in Zambia (hosted online due to Covid) united 17 partners from 8 countries to connect international NGOs such as Oxfam and Malala Fund with our research and involve them in the development of our research agenda.

We developed the plans for research contributions and impact of each focal area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://www.gedia-network.org
 
Description Co-production Workshop with non-academic stakeholders 2b 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop in Zambia (hosted online due to Covid) united 17 partners from 8 countries to connect international NGOs such as Oxfam and Malala Fund with our research and involve them in the development of our research agenda.

We developed documents for each workstream highlighting the proposed research aims and activities to be undertaken in Phase 2 of the grant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://www.gedia-network.org
 
Description Co-production Workshop with non-academic stakeholders 3a 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop in Uganda, hosted online due to Covid by Makerere University, united 17 partners from 8 countries to connect international NGOs such as Oxfam and Malala Fund with our research and involve them in the development of our research agenda.

In the workshop we reported back from the UKRI DIDA Workshop and gave feedback on the planned activities of each workstream.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://www.gedia-network.org
 
Description Co-production Workshop with non-academic stakeholders 3b 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop in Uganda, hosted online due to Covid by Makerere University, united 17 partners from 8 countries to connect international NGOs such as Oxfam and Malala Fund with our research and involve them in the development of our research agenda.

We displayed the work of each workstream on a Miro Board and developed the connections between each focal area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://www.gedia-network.org
 
Description Digital Geographies - international experiences, intellectual traditions and institutional approaches 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A Panel discussing the way different research networks in Digital Geographies had been set up in Germany, UK, US and East Africa.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Expert Meeting for UN 2021 High level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Contributed as an expert and spoke about the risk of leaving women and other groups behind in the digital age. Instead championed women as change makers in the digital futures that are being envisioned and negotiated.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Humangeographische Sommerschule Digitale Geographien 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Drawing on the new partnership from GeDIA, Ulrike Rivett from University of Cape Town and Dorothea Kleine from University of Sheffield ran a session at the Human Geography Summer School of the German Geography Association. We presented research on Digital Development, inclusion and gender justice and facilitated discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Participation in an activity, workshop or similar - Co-production Workshop with non-academic stakeholders 4a 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop in Uganda, hosted online due to Covid by Makerere University, united 17 partners from 8 countries to connect international NGOs such as Oxfam and Malala Fund with our research and involve them in the development of our research agenda. After a dramatic cut in GCRF spending we explored alternative funders.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL http://www.gedia-network.org
 
Description Participation in an activity, workshop or similar - Co-production Workshop with non-academic stakeholders 4b 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop in Uganda, hosted online due to Covid by Makerere University, united 17 partners from 8 countries to connect international NGOs such as Oxfam and Malala Fund with our research and involve them in the development of our research agenda. At this workshop we planned further collaboration and the dissemination videos.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL http://www.gedia-network.org
 
Description Participation in the Digitainable Workshop of the Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Digitainable Project (DFG-funded) at the Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research - Innovation Campus Bonn (University of Bonn) held an online Digitainable Forum (Feb 23-24) with experts from academia, business and civil society mapping Digitalisation on to the SDGs. Dorothea Kleine spoke as a participant, which sparked interdisciplinary dialogue.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description SPIDER DINE - Conference on Digital Development 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact SPIDER DINE, hosted by the GeDIA consortium partner SPIDER - Swedish programme in digital development, is an international conference for practitioners, policy makers and researchers, the vast majority from DAC list countries.

PI Prof Dorothea Kleine hosted a session on gender justice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021