Reflections from #ICTD2015 (May 15 – 18th, 2015)


Earlier this month, members of the OCSDNet team attended the Seventh International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD) ( in Singapore. We hosted an open panel session (video available here) to discuss with those present at ICTD 2015 how open approaches to science might lead to equitable and inclusive change in knowledge production and sharing, particularly in the Global South.


Four of our 12 projects were represented at our open session with the aim to present early insights and share lessons learned. We believed attendees at ICTD 2015 would be open to new ways to research dissemination and new ways of collaborating on research for development and were especially keen to discuss the ethics of ICTD and politics and thinking behind ICTD. Unfortunately, over the four day conference, we were surprised to instead observe quite extractive research presented by some of the researchers, with developing countries as their “subjects”.


This kind of research reminds us about why our network exists. The purpose of our network is to push the boundaries and understandings of ‘Who is the subject?’ ‘Who is a researcher?’ and ‘What constitutes the boundaries of what is science?’. We were disappointed to find that these boundaries are still quite rigid within the ICTD field.


There is still a widely held notion that knowledge or even science production in general is done by experts. Scientific inquiries as practiced by experts are not fundamentally different from inquiries conducted by laypersons in their everyday life. Scientists and ordinary citizens both have specific problems in mind and use various methods to understand and solve them.


ICTD 2015


As we aim to link ‘Science’ to ‘Development’ in this network, we suppose that scientific knowledge will help contribute to the betterment of human conditions through collective action. This means scientists have to serve dual roles, both as producers of knowledge and as citizens of the communities they intend to serve. As a network, we believe that citizens are not only citizens, but can also do the science (sometimes even better than the scientists!). Often, scientists don’t think of themselves as citizens (this is especially true of course when the researchers are in fact, not citizens of the countries they are studying) and only as the producers of knowledge. It is important to combine the notion of citizenship and factual knowledge as we explore the theory and practice of Open Science in Development.


This event has reinforced why we want this network and inspired us to have a manifesto to make the network principles more clear for ourselves and others! We welcome you to join us to discuss the contents of this manifesto through our online forum section. We also welcome any thoughts you may have from ICTD 2015 in the comments section below.


Key reactions to the conference:

– Need for ethical training and methods as well as critical perspective on projects

– Insufficient representation from institutions in the Global South

– Very little space for shared reflection or collaboration, due to structure of the conference and break-out groups

– Open Access should be a key topic raised and discussed by the ICTD community/field since traditional publishing systems potentially restrict access for institutions in the Global South


Arising themes relevant to OCSDNet:

– How can/should the Open Science movement relate/engage with the ICTD field?

– A core component of Open Science is that the intention of the research needs to be transformative. Such ‘transformative’ open science cannot happen within the existing system. Our work should challenge existing structures and flows of knowledge, and aim to offer an alternative way of working. Our way of working must have the goal of increasing equality, which is critical for development.

– We also need to challenge the notion of “science” – particularly around what is science and who is a scientist?


Arising Outputs:

– We want to create an Open & Collaborative Science in Development Manifesto to more clearly articulate more clearly the principles of Open Collaborative Science so that they can be further debated.

– We want to begin to engage other members of the Open Science community, firstly in an open E-conference, and secondly perhaps even in an in-person conference

– We want to generate a series of short and helpful working papers, on specific themes, that will help others in the OCS community with arising challenges (such as Ethics in Open Science, Institutional review, translating concepts, OS and participatory methods, M&E in Open Science, etc.)

– Mapping OS initiatives worldwide (not just geographically, but by activities and themes). The mapping is meant to be inclusive and enable interaction beyond the network.

– We all now have a much stronger understanding of each other’s projects and potential avenues for collaboration

– Camp Alatoo/UCA and HONF plan to begin working together around Open Hardware

– We were able to get good feedback from IDRC, regarding our project and M&E structures