AH Young Scholar of the Month of April 2021

Meet our Scholar for the Month of April, Oarabile Mudongo from Botswana.

Oarabile works with Research ICT Africa, his research interest hinges on diversity and inclusion in technology and digital policy, but he’s passionate about scholarly work that supports technological expertise in service of the common good with a focus on marginalized communities and needs. In his words —”my work encompassed supporting and strengthening open knowledge communities, human rights and social justice movements and communities of practice. While my work intersects between public interest tech and social justice, I believe in developing policies and approaches and creatively solving problems combined with policy expertise and building together with community needs in mind for the public good”.

Academic and Scientific Achievements

Oarabile holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computing from Teesside University and is currently studying towards his Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Digital Knowledge Economy Studies at the University of Witwatersrand. This is a research-based program where he’s examining AI surveillance technologies and their implications to society in South Africa. In other avatars, while incorporating, Oarabile worked in B2B sales & marketing across the technology and Saas industry helping companies generate revenue. In 2019, Oarabile decided to transition his career into the tech policy and social justice space by joining RIA as a Communications Assistant focusing on developing and improving RIA’s communications strategies and brand for its research work.

While at RIA he contributed to the AI Research Policy Center proposal which was successfully got funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and International Development Research Center (IDRC). He was selected in 2019 for the Citizen Lab Summer Institute, a program for technology and policy researchers focusing on network interference and freedom of expression by the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public policy University of Toronto. He was awarded the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 Ford Foundation / Media Democracy Fund Tech Exchange fellowship grant as one of the 15 emerging technology leaders in the global south working with civil society organizations at the crossroads of digital technology and social justice.

His attempts to combine tech policy and academia includes policy briefs (under review) – anthologicaly addressing facial recognition technology and its intersection with artificial intelligence and society. He’s been published in different media spaces, interviewed in local and international media, and asked to speak at various fora on digital rights and tech policy issues. Among other successful projects, Oarabile collaborates with Paradigm Initiative and led research efforts to map digital rights policies, legislative and legal developments in Botswana to be featured in the 2020/2021 Digital Rights and Inclusion report publication. He has also contributed to the DETECTIVE research project exploring the politics of big data with the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam which produced “COVID-19 from the Margins: Pandemic Invisibilities Policies and Resistance in the Data-field Society” book.

Current Research/Projects

Oarabile is currently working as a Research Fellow with the AI4D team at Research ICT Africa in the Africa AI Policy project mapping artificial intelligence (AI) usage in Africa and associated governance issues affecting the African continent. The project is funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC). The project approach combines rights and political economy perspective to assess what normative and statutory frameworks are emerging to safeguard human rights – ensuring, not just data governance compliance in terms of data protection and privacy – but also promoting data justice.

Following a dynamic and interactive mapping exercise, RIA undertook an analysis of the data from a political economy perspective to understand the interplay between the state, markets, and citizens about the delivery of public services, particularly those that are public goods by public and private providers.

This entails mapping initiatives from 14 African countries such as digital and biometrics ID, computer vision and video surveillance, automated and algorithm assisted decision-making both in the public sector and by way of the governance of market, for example, where AI is being deployed for purposes of online work, private services deploying AI, as well as behavioral market research approached through the lenses of data justice and political economy.

The project reviews thematic issues relating to AI that affect data justice, social justice, and human rights outcomes. The themes of the research include digital ID and biometrics, computer vision and video surveillance, automated and algorithm-assisted decision-making, AI and the future of work, AI and gender, and AI and digital inequality.

Researching for the African community

The dual potential of AI surveillance technologies to promote human development, while introducing new risks and harms into society highlights the importance of designing policies that maximize the benefits of these technologies while mitigating risks. Policies on data protection, privacy, security that build trust, and improve accountability and fairness, are essential in Africa. Whether Africa is ready to adopt beneficial AI or not and what AI readiness entails in the African context are some questions this work seeks to understand. The approach to this research work will look into issues from a rights-based and political economy perspective, and consider the legal and ethical frameworks needed to ensure compliance in terms of data protection and privacy as well as human rights and data justice which are pressing issues to be addressed in the African continent.

Connect with Oarabile Mudongo:

LinkedIn: omudongo

Twitter: @o_mudongo

E-mail: omudongo@researchictafrica.net

You can be the next Young Scholar of the month! Nominate here!

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