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Prato 2008: ICTs for Social Inclusion: What is the Reality?

5th Prato Community Informatics & Development Informatics Conference 2008: ICTs for Social Inclusion: What is the Reality?



Please follow the link to the conference archive online. It includes the conference CD and multimedia materials.

The Centre for Community Networking Research, Monash in conjunction with researchers and practitioners from many countries, has held highly successful events in 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007 in Prato, as has supported associated workshops over the years, in the UK, France, and Portugal.

We are very grateful for support from Turabo University, the University of Illinois-Champaign, and University of Milan.


ICTs for Social Inclusion: What is the Reality?

Community Informatics is an emergent discipline with a number of focusses including, the conduct of research about the relationship between the design of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) for communities, and second, the implementation of ICT projects and projects involving such things as community economic development and social development in conjunction with local stakeholders.

The implementation of ICT in developing economies involves constraints not applicable in developed regions. Constraints cover a wide range from technologies and infrastructures (energy grids, networks) to human aspects such as poverty and illiteracy. We seek to exchange experiences and possible solutions to address such problems.

Since the inception of the Community Informatics Conferences in Prato in 2003, we have explored issues such as theory, action, and community memory. Online communications have the potential to build strong and purposeful on-line and off-line communities, with shared values, goals, and interests. There is constant interplay between all of these aspects around attempts to promote social inclusion and social development through effective use of ICTs.

In fact 'social inclusion' has become a buzzword in a number of western countries, but it is also equally relevant to the development of ICT programs in developing countries. For example, the Scottish Government defines it as 'is about reducing inequalities between the least advantaged groups and communities and the rest of society by closing the opportunity gap and ensuring that support reaches those who need it most.'

Social inclusion is also closely linked to ideas about 'social cohesion', which according to the Canadian academic Judith Maxwell, is 'building shared values and communities of interpretation, reducing disparities in wealth and income, and generally enabling people to have a sense that they are engaged in a common enterprise, facing shared challenges, and that they are members of the same community'.

How then is 'social inclusion' or e-inclusion understood as it applies to communities in their interaction with technology? Are governments, funders and policy makers understanding the link between 21st century technologies and social development, or are they re-branding past policies such as 'digital divide' that was in favour a number of years ago?

Possible topics to be addressed include, but are not limited to:

Community Informatics:

• Design and decision-making processes for projects for social inclusion.
• ICTs for inclusion on a global or local scale: can the market provide solutions?
• How does social inclusion fare with a social justice approach to ICTs?
• Inclusion in different of societies and the role of ICTs.
. Public spaces for ICTs-libraries, internet cafes, and other opportunities
. Mobile technologies and in/exclusion
. The interface between e-government and community informatics
• The evaluation of community-informatics projects for social inclusion.
• Values and reality-checks: the interplay between project ideals and implementation reality.
• The incorporation of other values into the planning and implementation of inclusive activity engaged with ICTs, including non-western/gendered/disability/ perspectives.
• Is it really all hype? Can social inclusion be achieved via ICT projects?
• Social cohesion and social censorship: is the desire for social harmony a danger to a free internet?
• Is Web 2.0 inclusive, or is it creating a new gap?
• What are examples of technological opportunity that have led to real social change?
• Internet governance, social inclusion and deliberate exclusion: free speech, pornography, terrorism and moral frameworks.
• The moral dimensions of inclusion: what of the undeserving poor and marginal?
• Self-exclusion.
• Sustainability and ICT inclusion.

Development Informatics

• Web technologies - eg. synchronisation with off-line systems
• Human Factors (Human Computer Interaction) - e.g. interfaces for limited or non-literate users
• Online communities
• e-Governance
• e-Democracy
• Education
• Agriculture
• Healthcare
• Telecentres and Multi-Purpose Community Centres
• Rural connectivity
• Multi-language systems
• Systems implementation and sustainability in developing countries
. Infrastructure issues and support networks
. Cross-cultural issues in system design
. How NGOs understand ICTs

Papers on other topics within the community informatics realm are also most welcome, including topics such as:

• Community enterprise and community business.
• Theoretical contributions on all aspects of community informatics, including information theory or the relationship between the body, technology, and community.

Conference Committee (partial)

Don Schauder, Monash Univ, Fiorella de Cindio, Univ of Milan. Co-chairs
Ann Bishop, Univ. of Illinois
Gunilla Bradley, Royal Institute of Tech., Sweden
Irwin Brown, University of Capetown
Wallace Chigona, University of Capetown
Fiorella de Cindio, Univ. of Milan
Barbara Craig, Victoria Univ. of Wellington, NZ
Peter Day, Univ. of Brighton, UK
Leopoldina Fortunati, University of Udine, Italy
Graeme Johanson, Monash Univ.
Sarai Lastra, Turabo Univ., Puerto Rico
Dario Maggiorini, University of Milano
William McIver, Jr, National Research Council Canada
Michel Menou, Somos@Telecentros (Ecuador)
Aldo de Moor, CommunitySense, the Netherlands
Laura Ripamonti, Univ. of Milan
Jacques Steyn, Monash Univ., South Africa
Antonio Soares, INESC, Porto, Portugal
Beverly Trayner, Eudaimonia, Portugal
Andy Williamson, Hansard Society, UK
Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla,Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
Larry Stillman, Monash Univ., Conference Organiser

Inquiries: prato2008 AT Abstracts via registrations site.