Paper: Towards decolonising computational sciences

Abeba Birhane, Olivia Guest


This article sets out our perspective on how to begin the journey of decolonising computational fields, such as data and cognitive sciences. We see this struggle as requiring two basic steps: a) realisation that the present-day system has inherited, and still enacts, hostile, conservative, and oppressive behaviours and principles towards women of colour (WoC); and b) rejection of the idea that centering individual people is a solution to system-level problems. The longer we ignore these two steps, the more “our” academic system maintains its toxic structure, excludes, and harms Black women and other minoritised groups. This also keeps the door open to discredited pseudoscience, like eugenics and physiognomy. We propose that grappling with our fields’ histories and heritage holds the key to avoiding mistakes of the past. For example, initiatives such as “diversity boards” can still be harmful because they superficially appear reformatory but nonetheless center whiteness and maintain the status quo. Building on the shoulders of many WoC’s work, who have been paving the way, we hope to advance the dialogue required to build both a grass-roots and a top-down re-imagining of computational sciences – including but not limited to psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, computer science, data science, statistics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. We aspire for these fields to progress away from their stagnant, sexist, and racist shared past into carving and maintaining an ecosystem where both a diverse demographics of researchers and scientific ideas that critically challenge the status quo are welcomed.

Interesting criticism (I don’t know if it’s accurate) that seems to remain unanswered:

An additional consideration besides equal representation. The third stage of the project looks at whether this continues along an academic career.

A longitudinal survey of young people in the UK has found that girls, working-class and minority ethnic students feel they have to work harder to be seen as ‘authentic’ science students.

Helen Kara also has a reading list on decolonising methods used in social science which may also be of interest.

Folks, glad you’re discussing this… Here’s another paper to ponder… Decolonizing computing from an islamic, or at least from a muslim, perspective… :slight_smile:

If you look further into the author’s academia page, you can find papers on decolonizing everything from the same perspective…

In fact, the indonesian independent intellectuals would be having a webinar with tje author as soon as his schedule permits… :slight_smile:

Webinar poster draft… :slight_smile:

islam and decoloniality

1 Like

Also, i think this is very important… :slight_smile:

Internet Governance in the Global South

by Daniel Oppermann, Syed Mustafa Ali, Alexandre Arns Gonzales, Carolina Aguerre, and Thaise Kemer Internet Governance in the Global South, 2018 Extract from the Preface:

The publication is divided into two parts. The first part concentrates on a number of historical and theoretical or conceptual approaches to Internet Governance. The second part has a strong focus on contemporary debates concerning selected issues of the field.

The historical and theoretical contributions are initiated by a discussion regarding the Global South as a region, its historical formation in the context of decolonization, the debates on the New International Economic Order (NIEO), the New International Information and Communication Order (NIICO), and the political turn to a neoliberal agenda in which Internet Governance was developed (Oppermann). The challenges of Southern countries to participate politically and economically in this environment are then addressed and contextualized through different theoretical frameworks including International Political Economy and global International Relations, combined with a discussion on strategies and ambitions of countries in the Global South to advance their own insertion in Internet Governance (Chenou, Rojas Fuerte). Internet Governance itself as a concept from a historical perspective, including processes of institutionalization, is then addressed by Canabarro, together with a discussion of the NetMundial meeting in Brazil as a consequence of the Snowden revelations and the NSA affair. The extensive global surveillance of Internet users including governments and other organizations by the USA and some of their allies in other parts of the world increased the debates on online privacy and also on topics including power, influence and global constellations that brought questions about new forms of colonialism on the agenda. Colonization in the digital age is a topic of growing importance, especially but not only in the South, and so is the discussion on decolonization. Emanating from the debate on decolonial computing, Ali is addressing Internet Governance and the need for its decolonization. He does so by critically analyzing the North-centric discourse of Internet Governance, thus bringing a new perspective to the debates. He is then followed by Gonzales, who develops a theoretical debate on ideology, the information revolution and its impacts on and correlations with a number of manifestations that occurred in several countries in the year 2011, including Egypt, Tunisia, and others.

The debates on historical and theoretical approaches are then followed by contributions on contemporary Internet Governance issues in the Global South. This part is initiated by two chapters discussing economic and political challenges related to the Domain Name System in Southern countries. While White is discussing generic top level domains and ICANN’s new gTLD program in the Global South, Aguerre is focussing on the ccTLD environment in the South, in particular in Latin America. They are followed by a chapter on South Africa’s policy framework on ICT and Internet Governance, mostly represented by the 2016 ICT White Paper, which in combination with the 2015 draft cybersecurity bill forms the current foundation for many Internet Governance debates in the country. In this context, the three authors (Darch, Adams, and Yu) also reflect on the questions of governmental control, multilateralism, and multistakeholderism as forms of governance and participation. The following chapter picks up the topic of participation in Internet Governance processes, albeit from a different perspective. Lobato addresses the problem of regional inequality within countries, pointing out the situation of less connected rural areas in Amazonia, in the North of Brazil. She discusses central aspects like infrastructure, access costs, and digital illiteracy and also presents possible solutions for regional integration like access programs and major national events in the regions like the Brazilian Internet Forum which took place in the North of the country in 2013. How lower national access rates are no obstacle for putting the Internet on the national political and security agenda is then clarified by Workneh and the case of Ethiopia. With a national Internet access rate of about 15% and confronted with infrastructural challenges to increase this number, the country is currently following an Internet securitization debate in the context of a dispute over political opposition that often falls under the label of “terrorism”. In this chapter, Workneh discusses how the Northern discourse on a so-called “global war on terrorism” impacts the right to freedom of speech online in Ethiopia and how it increases concerns over online participation and privacy rights. Privacy and participation are also addressed in the concluding chapter of this publication developed by Kemer. She discusses privacy rights in the context of International Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, followed by an analysis of the standpoints of the Brazilian government under Dilma Rousseff on privacy and online participation after the NSA surveillance activities were revealed.