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Digital (In)equity: Moving from Exclusion to Inclusion

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 4:30pm – 5:30pm parallel symposium



Room 2 – 303-G14, Sem



Professor Laura Czerniewicz
University of Cape Town, South Africa

Associate Professor Mandia Mentis
Massey University, New Zealand

Dr Lucila Carvalho
Massey University, New Zealand

Dr Stanley Frielick
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand



This symposium will use varied cases to interrogate how digital inequity is changing and being expressed in different sites and levels of the education system. On the one hand, ubiquitous access to technology across countries both systemically and personally has been a democratizing force, shaping possibilities for equitable engagement and enabling unprecedented forms of access to education through widespread new practices and new models of digitally–enabled teaching and learning. On the other hand, inequalities, shaped by their contexts, mutate into new forms of exclusion. This symposium asks: What are current forms of digital inequity in a global platform economy exacerbated by geopolitical divides? The symposium will invite discussion around digital initiatives that address inequities in and through education. It is aimed at educators considering how digital inequality is being rearranged into new complex forms and what kinds of remedies are needed to address them.

Case One draws on examples from recent work in Aotearoa New Zealand to illustrate ways in which Māori and Pacific initiatives address issues of digital inequity through new forms of scholarship and community development. It considers decoloniality, indigeneity, digital inclusion by drawing on decolonial and indigenous studies which play a major role to ensure that the increasingly ‘digital’ humanities retain its democratising and inclusive focus (Tirosh-Samuelson 2018).

Case Two considers the use of blended and online learning during periods of disruption when student protests closed South African universities in 2015- 2017 and online education was a means of completing the academic year. Drawing on interviews with academics and students, this case shows how digital inequality was reformed in extreme circumstances creating new forms of exclusion.

Case Three discusses the role of public libraries in implementing strategies to facilitate digital inclusion across urban and rural communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is framed by the new roles libraries have taken on, including as hubs, supporting members of the community in sharing resources, to connect to others and to upskill through  learning programmes and initiatives.

Case Four presents an initiative of integrating informal, non-formal and formal contexts for ongoing and open professional learning.  It challenges existing notions of exclusion through the shift from the narrow requirement of gaining qualifications in formal contexts to an ever widening acknowledgement of  the value of more informal personalised learning through belonging to a professional community or learning network. It considers the challenge in recognising and credentialing this alternative and authentic learning

The cases briefly presented are intended to stimulate a discussion about emergent forms of exclusion which are shaped both by political forces and personal experiences mediated by digitally-mediated learning and social identities. These require imaginative rethinking about affirmative and transformative remedies (Fraser 1997) for inclusion

Using a participatory methodology, the cases will be used as a basis for articulating and surfacing principles of inclusion at different levels of the educational system.



Fraser, N (1997)  From Redistribution to Recognition? Dilemmas of Justice in a “Postsocialist” Age. Justice Interruptus: Routledge
Tirosh-Samuelson, H. (2018). In praise of human dignity: The humanities in the age of Big Data. On Education. Journal for Research and Debate, 1 (2).


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