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

Digital platforms and development papers

Conceptualising Digital Platforms in Developing Countries as Socio-Technical Transitions” by Juan Erasmo Gomez-Morantes, Richard Heeks & Richard Duncombe demonstrates how the multi-level perspective approach can be used to analyse the lifecycle of digital platforms: the process of innovation, rapidity of scaling, and development impacts relating to resource endowments, institutional formalisation, and shifts in power.

Digital Platforms and Institutional Voids in Developing Countries” (open access) by Richard Heeks, Juan Erasmo Gomez-Morantes, Brian Nicholson and colleagues from the Fairwork project, analyses how digital platforms change markets through their institutional actions.  Using the example of ride-hailing, it finds platforms have formed a market that is more efficient, effective, complete and formalised.  At the same time, though, they have institutionalised problematic behaviours and significant inequalities.

Analysing Urban Platforms and Inequality Through a ‘Platform Justice’ Lens” by Richard Heeks & Satyarupa Shekhar, introduces a model of “platform justice” through which to analyse the impact of urban digital platforms.

Competing Logics: Towards a Theory of Digital Platforms for Socio-economic Development” by Silvia Masiero & Brian Nicholson, seeks to contribute to the nascent literature on platforms in development, unpacking a human-centred development logic as an alternative to the market logic that animates most of the platforms discourse and relying on it to lay the foundations for an emerging theory of platforms for development.

Digital Platforms, Surveillance and Processes of Demoralization” by Sung Chai, Brian Nicholson, Robert Scapens & Chunlei Yang, conceptualises the theoretical link between platforms and morality drawing on an interpretive study of a hotel in Vietnam to examine surveillance.

Digital humanitarianism papers

Digital Innovation by Displaced Populations: A Critical Realist Study of Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh” by Faheem Hussain, P.J. Wall & Richard Heeks, uses a critical realist approach to understand the three mechanisms the underpin digital innovation by Rohingya refugees.

Lessons On The Digital World From The Charity Sector: The Corporate World Has A Lot To Learn” (open access) by Brian Nicholson, Lisa Kidston, Cris Sachikoyne & Dane Anderton, argues that African charitable organisations and those like the national Citizens Advice in England and Wales are leading the way when it comes to demonstrating exemplary digital leadership.

Data-for-development report

The Rise of the Data Economy and Policy Strategies for Digital Development” (open access) by Shamel Azmeh, Christopher Foster & Ahmad Abd Rabuh, expands on policy debates around digital development.  It examines the emergence of the data economy and potentials of strategic policy and/or industrial policy in the global South.  Based on a global policy analysis, it identifies four key “policy pathways” by which countries can look to strategically capture value in the data economy.

Agricultural platform papers

Ag-Platforms in East Africa: National and Regional Policy Gaps” (pdf) by Aarti Krishnan, Karishma Banga & Joseph Feyertag identifies national and regional governance deficits (gaps) in the diffusion of digital agricultural platforms, and consequently how Ag-platforms bridge national and regional policy gaps.

Platforms in Agricultural Value Chains: Emergence of New Business Models” (pdf) by Aarti Krishnan, Karishma Banga & Joseph Feyertag explains the various models of digital agricultural platforms that exist, and provides policy-makers with a roadmap that supports the proliferation of sustainable Ag-platforms.

Urban data justice case study collection

We have published a collection of ten case studies analysing new urban data in Latin America, Africa and Asia from data justice/rights perspectives.

Social media and educational development paper

WhatsApp-Supported Language Teacher Development: A Case Study in the Zataari Refugee Camp” (open access) by Gary Motteram, Susan Dawson & Nazmi Al-Masri through a thematic analysis of WhatsApp exchanges, explores how Syrian English Language teachers working in refugee camps in Jordan work collaboratively on teacher development.

Digital trade tracker

A new website from CDD members, Chris Foster and Shamel Azmeh, provides a resource tracking digital trade globally - with a focus on the justice and development aspects:

Platform responses to gig workers during Covid-19

The Fairwork project – in which CDD is a participant – has just published a report analyzing how platforms are, or are not, responding to the need to protect the lives and livelihoods of their workers during Covid-19, including a set of recommendations.  Find a summary here.

"ICT4D 3.0" papers published

Two papers analysing the future of digital development - what might be called ICT4D 3.0 - have been published.  You can find them online as "ICT4D 3.0 Part 1" and "ICT4D 3.0 Part 2".

How to apply the concept of 'data justice'

A new open-access paper by Richard Heeks & Satyarupa Shekhar has been published: “Datafication, Development and Marginalised Urban Communities: An Applied Data Justice Framework”.

It provides a new analytical frame for those wanting to undertake data justice research. And it shows how datafication is impacting inequality in the global South.

New rating system highlights best and worst digital platforms for workers' conditions

An academic team involving the Centre for Digital Development has published the world’s first-ever rating system for working conditions in the digital economy.

The rankings look at how platforms like Uber and Taxify perform against five standards - fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation. These include whether a company pays the minimum wage and ensures the health and safety of its workers.

The intention is to guide customers, workers, investors and others to make more informed decisions in relation to decent work standards in the digital economy.

Decent digital work project 

CDD 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 and Germany's GIZ, the four-year 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.

Archived news

Social media analysis research and training (SMART@Manchester)

Led by CDD's Riza Batista-Navarro, with Richard Heeks as Co-I, the SMART project analysed 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 collaborated on research undertaken by Victoria Ikoro to analyse perceptions of digital gig work.

This looked 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:

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 CDD 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 Digital Development 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"

CDD 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": 

CDD 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 CDD 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 CDD. 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 Digital Development 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 CDD.

2009 International Conferences on ICTs-for-Development

The CDD 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

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

CDD 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.