Between the Binary is a limited series podcast highlighting the priorities, prospects, and challenges of technology in the Global South through the voices of experts in and from the Global South. Scroll down to hear new episodes in this podcast series hosted by John H. McArthur Research Fellow Elina Noor, Director of Political-Security Affairs and Deputy Director, Washington, D.C. Office at the Asia Society Policy Institute.
'Between the Binary' is a play on three concepts in the digital age: of societies that either fit within or straddle the Global South/Global North divide (defined here to refer to developed countries geographically located in the southern hemisphere or marginalized peoples in high-income economies north of the equator); of stakeholders in a landscape increasingly underwritten by the binary code of 1s and 0s.; and, of countries caught in the middle of a trending technological rupture.
By 2100, more than 90 per cent of the world’s population is projected to live outside Europe and North America. Most will live in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, presenting substantial market opportunities. Yet current deliberations on technology inadequately address the needs and aspirations of this majority – let alone how stakeholders in these parts of the world should be able to determine the way tech impacts their lives. If a large part of the future lies with the people of Asia and Africa, it seems only fair to expect the governance structures – the norms, rules, and international legal frameworks – of technology to reflect the perspectives, expectations, and value-systems of the world’s majority.
Between the Binary seeks to amplify the viewpoints of this majority by unpacking technology’s intersections with history, gender, power, the economy, and behavioural psychology with a mix of established and next-generation guests from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands, and North America. Through these conversations, this podcast aims to improve understanding of the prospects and challenges of digitalization and equity in the Global South, as well as identify areas of convergence and co-operation within the Global South and with the Global North.
*Here, the term Global South refers to developing countries, most of which are geographically located in the southern hemisphere. However, it also takes a more expansive conception of the term – as outlined by Chinmayi Arun – to include disenfranchised communities living both in “Southern” countries but also in economically developed countries in the “North”. This interpretation would account for, for example, indigenous populations in both “Southern” and “Northern” countries but also other stakeholders who have had to resist marginalization, oppression, and/or injustice.
Latest EpisodeAugust 9, 2022 | Episode 11
Ranjit Singh on Leveraging Big Data and AI-based Interventions for the Majority World
Ranjit Singh, researcher at the AI on the Ground Initiative, Data & Society Research Institute, invites us to reframe our thinking about how technology impacts the globe’s largest populations in the Global South.
They, in fact, form the “majority world” rather than a collective remainder in the conceptualization, use, and application of technology. Observing how tech actually affects communities on the ground and the nature of their relationship with technology can help tailor and improve the experience of data-driven solutions, in practical terms.
June 23, 2022 | Episode 10
Sanjana Hattotuwa on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Side of Social Media
In this episode, Sanjana Hattotuwa, special advisor at ICT4Peace Foundation and research fellow in Dunedin, Aotearoa NZ, prompts us to ask better questions about online content: how does it inform our world view? What values does it advance? And how do we wrest control of it?
Drawing the analogy of DJs and clubs, Sanjana breaks down the role of content creators and the platforms that host them, as well as what it all means for the millions of users in the Global South who have long “begged” for greater attention to these issues before the West woke up to them.
June 9, 2022 | Episode 9
Rasheed Griffith on the Geopolitics of Tech in the Caribbean
Rasheed Griffith sits down with Elina Noor to outline the technology landscape, competing priorities, and structural constraints in the Caribbean. Cautioning observers to see the Caribbean for what it actually is rather than what we want to see in it, he debunks assumptions about China’s presence and influence in the region through initiatives like the Digital Silk Road.
June 2, 2022 | Episode 8
Sara Cole Stratton on Bridging the Digital Divide Through a Māori Lens
In this sobering reflection on the continued impact of systemic injustice in the digital age, Sara Cole Stratton argues powerfully for the inclusion of different worldviews and knowledge systems. Her unique perspective of viewing digital tech through a Māori lens is borne of first-hand encounters with racism and the effects of colonial imposition on everyday life and decision-making, from institutionalized laws to algorithmic bias in technology. Sara is the founder of Māori Lab in NZ and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council for AI Fairness.
May 12, 2022 | Episode 7
Virgilio Almeida on Creating Spaces to Build Digital Governance Futures
In this episode, Elina Noor surveys the landscape of Brazil’s and Latin America’s digital priorities and challenges with Virgilio Almeida, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) in Brazil and Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University.
April 13, 2022 | Episode 6
Imen Ghedhioui on Prioritizing the Localization of Technology
In this episode, Imen Ghedhioui, former advisor to Tunisia’s Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Transformation, explains why the intersection between the behavioural sciences and technology is crucial for digital access, inclusion, and integration. She talks about the localization of technology to further those aims, and underscores the importance of agency in interacting with tech – of personal agency vis-a-vis data and of national agency in digital infrastructure development.
March 30, 2022 | Episode 5
Siriwat Chhem on What Makes For an Inclusive Digital Economy
As one of Southeast Asia’s smaller countries, Cambodia is often overlooked and underrated. Yet, the country’s youth dividend, technological leapfrogging, and economic growth rate over the past decade warrant a closer look at its potential. In outlining Cambodia’s priorities and challenges in the digital space, Siriwat Chhem, Director of the Centre for Inclusive Digital Economy at the Asian Vision Institute, explains why context, functionality, and unintended consequences all matter in making tech meaningful.
March 11, 2022 | Episode 4
Merih Angin on Why Stakeholders Need to Think About Tech Holistically
In this episode, Merih Angin, Assistant Professor at Koç University in Turkey, underscores the criticality of viewing tech holistically. She unpacks why a cross-disciplinary and multi-perspective approach is important, and dives deep into the diversity of tech priorities among various stakeholders in one country - Turkey - alone.
March 1, 2022 | Episode 3
Moliehi Makumane on Looking at Technology in a Development Setting
In this episode of Between the Binary, host Elina Noor speaks with Moliehi Makumane, a researcher with the Security and Technology Programme at UNIDIR and a former cyber diplomat. Here, Moliehi prompts us to apply a broader lens to thinking about technology in a development setting by unpacking South Africa’s digital priorities, positioning amid powerful state and industry partners, indigenous innovations for the world (“create local, think global”), as well as the challenges of South-South technological cooperation.
February 10, 2022 | Episode 2
Fitri Bintang Timur on the Intersection of Gender and Cyber Security in Indonesia
From great power rivalry to gender inclusivity, Fitri Bintang Timur, Researcher, Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia, outlines how Indonesia is navigating its digital priorities amid disruption and decoupling. Fitri reminds us that despite the headlines, all challenges are ultimately local and capacity-building efforts must be sensitive to realities on the ground.
January 25, 2022 | Episode 1
Farish Noor on the Present-Day Role and Challenges of Technology
Farish Noor, Professor of History at the University of Malaya, sets the scene for thinking about the present-day role and implications of technology by looking back at the relationship between history and technology. Farish traces the trajectory of technology, weaponization, and colonialism; unpacks the link between data and power; and offers some thoughts about how to break the cycle of the past for a more constructive digital future.