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Centre for Development Informatics


Read about activities taking place in the Centre for Development Informatics.

Call for funded case studies: urban data in the global South 

We are issuing a call for funded case studies: critical analyses of urban data in the global South that will help build the evidence base on "data justice"; particularly relating to those living in slums and informal settlements.

We are seeking proposals of 500-1,000 words by Friday 23 Nov 2018. Those selected will be published as working papers and build an agenda for future research. We will seek opportunities to publish the collection as a journal special issue, and for papers to be presented at a project workshop. A payment of £2,500 per case will be made, with the case studies forming part of a Senior Research Fellowship funded by The University of Manchester's Sustainable Consumption Institute.

For further details on the background, required case study, proposal format, and timetable, see: call document.

Decent digital work project 

CDI is part of a four-way collaboration between the Universities of Cape Town, Manchester, Oxford and Western Cape researching work standards for digital platform labour (Uber, Upwork, etc) in the global South. Funded by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council, the 30-month project aims to (i) improve working conditions for digital platform-workers in low- and middle-income countries; (ii) develop a certification scheme designed to set minimum standards for decent work and actively certify platforms through a newly-created "Fairwork Foundation"; and (iii) create a Code of Practice for South African platforms.

We are currently hiring a post-doc to work with us, based in Cape Town. Closing date for applications of 31 August 2018. More details

Social media analysis research and training (SMART@Manchester)

Led by CDI's Riza Batista-Navarro, with Richard Heeks as Co-I, the SMART project is analysing social media to inform socio-politico-economic issues. Alongside projects to analyse customer engagement of energy companies, and influences on election outcomes, Richard and Riza will be collaborating on research undertaken by Victoria Ikoro to analyse perceptions of digital gig work.

This will look particularly at the concerns of digital gig workers in light of the "decent digital work" agenda, including comparisons between global North and South, and male and female workers.

New digital economy papers

New papers published as part of the "Development Implications of Digital Economies" research network, funded by UK ESRC, include:

Archived news

Funding award for research network

Funding was awarded for the "Development Implications of Digital Economies" strategic research network, which ran during 2017 and 2018, led by Richard Heeks and with a number of CDI staff and associates as members.

The network was funded by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund initiative and developed a research agenda and capacity particularly around digital enterprise and digital labour in the global South.

"ICT4D North" inaugural workshop

The inaugural workshop of “ICT4D North” – a network of researchers in North-of-England universities working on digital technologies/data and international development – was held on Friday 23 June 2017. The workshop was co-sponsored by Manchester’s Centre for Development Informatics and Sheffield’s Digital Technologies, Data and Innovation group.

The network has over 80 members of whom 25 participated in the workshop, with concentrations at the universities of Manchester and Sheffield and other members drawn from Liverpool, Lancaster, UCLAN, Salford, MMU, Bolton and Sheffield Hallam universities.

The main aims of ICT4D North are to foster intellectual exchange between members; to support the experience of our PhD and post-doctoral researchers; and to create the conditions for inter-university collaborations including joint research grant applications. ICT4D North will be holding a second workshop in spring 2018.

Journal special issue on "Social Media for Development"

CDI members Brian Nicholson and Yanuar Nugroho, together with Nimmy Rangaswamy, are editors for the recently-published special issue of Information Technology for Development journal, on "Social Media for Development": 

CDI participation in "Digital Dividends" World Development Report launch

Richard Heeks participated in the UK launch of the 2016 World Development Report - "Digital Dividends" - for which he was an Advisory Panel member:

New book from CDI authors: Socially Responsible Outsourcing

Socially Responsible Outsourcing: Global Sourcing with Social Impact is a new book co-edited by Brian Nicholson, Professor of Information Systems within CDI. It explores how and why global sourcing clients and providers have embraced social responsibility. There has been a spectacular growth in the scale of global sourcing with many new entrant nations now challenging India’s previously undisputed leadership as the leading provider of outsourced services. A plethora of outsourcing clusters are now located in both developed and developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America/Caribbean.

The improvements in the price, capacity and pervasiveness of computing and telecommunications now present a scenario where almost anywhere where bandwidth and skills are available may be a potential candidate for an outsourcing centre that may over time develop into a cluster. At the same time, the rising importance of CSR in business generally has seen many of the major IT services firms engage in CSR as part of trading with clients.

The new book, co-edited by Dr Mary Lacity from the University of Missouri St Louis and Dr Rob Babin from the Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, is structured as a compilation of contributions from eminent thinkers in the field of socially responsible outsourcing. In particular, it develops the concept of 'impact sourcing' which has gained increased commercial and academic interest in recent years.

Scientific American Feature Article for Prof. Richard Heeks' 'Gold Farming' Research

Ground-breaking research from the Centre for Development Informatics has led to a feature article in the January 2010 issue of Scientific American, by Prof. Richard Heeks.

The research shows how online computer games have opened up a whole new industry in developing countries; providing jobs for up to 1 million workers.

This industry – known as 'gold farming' – sees impatient computer gamers paying workers in Asia to go online into games such as World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings.  The Asian gold farmers build up a supply of the virtual currency (called 'gold'), which they then sell to other gamers via e-commerce websites.

The Scientific American feature shows how the gold farming industry has progressed over time.  Originally a US-based cottage industry during the 1990s, it became a sector of super-profits and millionaires when work was first outsourced to China in the early 2000s.  More recently, the profit bubble has burst as competition has forced virtual currencies to devalue an average 85% against the US dollar.

Nonetheless, gold farming continues to grow, providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of urban unemployed and rural migrants.  It represents an initial example of "cyber-sourcing": the sub-contracting of virtual world activities; something that may present a growing opportunity for livelihood creation in developing countries.

The impact of computer gaming and virtual worlds on developing countries forms part of the research agenda for CDI.

2009 International Conferences on ICTs-for-Development

The CDI Directors, Richard Heeks and Brian Nicholson were co-chairs for the two major ICTs-for-Development conferences of 2009; respectively:

The ICTD2009 International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development 

17-19 Apr 2009, Doha, Qatar

Proceedings for this conference are available:

Further details of the conference:

The IFIP working group 9.4 international conference on Assessing the Contribution of ICT to Development Goals 

26-28 May 2009, Dubai 

Papers for this conference, a PDF of the proceedings, and further details are available:

CDI Wins Major Research Grant on ICTs, Climate Change and Development

CDI members Richard Heeks and Angelica Ospina will lead a major new research project on ICTs, climate change and development, funded by Canada's International Development Research Centre.  The two-year project will produce foundational thematic and regional position papers on the use of ICTs in mitigation, monitoring and adaptation to climate change in developing countries, leading into COP 17 to be held in South Africa in 2011. 

Those working in this field are invited to join NICCD, the Network on ICTs, Climate Change and Development that has been set up in conjunction with the project. Emerging ideas from the project are being published on the project blog.