ICT4D Professional Profile: Tim Unwin

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Born in England in 1955, Tim Unwin is an ICT4D professional who has done an incredible amount in the field. He spent 20 years doing research and teaching about development, and spent six months working for a bilateral donor agency. This past year, he received the “Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, UK-China Fellowship for Excellence”, became a visiting scholar at Peking University, became an honorary professor at Lanzhou University, and received an “apple for the teacher award” from the Student Union at Royal Holloway. He has written and edited fifteen books and over 200 papers and other publications, including his most recent book “Simply ICT4D” which was published by the Cambridge Press in 2009. His work has taken him to over 25 countries, and impressively, this is just the short version of his professional training. Tim Unwin is currently the Chief Executive officer of Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO), the Chair of Commonwealth Scholarship Commissions in the UK, an Emeritus Professor of Geography and director of the ICT4D Collective and UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London. Unwin is also currently on the Steering Committee “Online Educa Berlin,” a Fellow of the Education Impact, on the advisory committee of eLearning Africa, and on the editorial boards of Third World Quarterly, Children’s Geographies, Aurora Geographical Journal, and Triple-C.

Within his ICT4D work and research, “in recent years, his research has focused especially on the uses of ICT’s by poor people in Africa and Asia, especially those with disabilities and young people at risk of living and working on the streets”7. He has written many papers and done much research on education and poverty alleviation in the developing world. Unwin explains that, “for me, development is about addressing the appalling inequalities that exist in our societies, and this is something very, very different from the hegemonic view that development is actually mainly about economic growth”. Based on various comments he has made on ICT4D this seems to be one of the reasons he chose to get into the field. Furthermore, he believes strongly in giving the people in developing areas a voice when implementing projects. He suggests that when implementing a development project, “really discover what would… make a difference in the lives of poor people, and then work with them to develop technologies that can really serve their interests”1. He also suggests that it is “much better to contribute to expanding and existing successful initiatives, rather than starting up something from scratch”1 and that “those who determine our research agendas should be the world’s poor and marginalized,”1 which is something I strongly agree with.

Tim Unwin has done an incredible job of sharing his ideas in a widespread and accessible way, and uses ICT very effectively to do so. Most formally, he shares his ideas through countless publications he has written. He also uses social media and has both a blog and a twitter account. Through these more informal ways of sharing his ideas, the reader really gets a sense of how personable he is, and he seems rather down to earth as well. In his social media pages he talks about projects he has worked on, comments on books that he has read, shares discussions that he has been a part of, talks about personal experiences he has had, especially about his travels, and much more. In taking the time to write blog posts on topics that he thinks a wider audience should hear about, it is clear that he truly believes in a wider access to communication and information that is available to all who wish to access it. Not only is he someone that talks about being a proponent for giving everyone in the world, including those in developing countries, access to technology and information, but he puts his beliefs into practice by sharing information on blogs and twitter, with links to other videos and websites with even more information, rather than just sharing his knowledge via publications that are only available to a limited audience. Furthermore, he shares many of his ideas through other special projects, debates, interviews, and keynote speeches.

1. http://unwin.wordpress.com/about/

2. http://www.educationimpact.net/fellows/tim-unwin,-uk

3. http://www.wise-qatar.org/node/1383

4. http://cscuk.dfid.gov.uk/about-us/roles-and-functions/

5. http://twitter.com/#!/timunwin

6. http://pure.rhul.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/tim-unwin_bfad958b-8f3b-410a-9073-9645be169a85.html

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