On technocolonialism

I read this very brilliant paper on technocolonialism, essentially the idea that the current digital and data practices are complicit in reinvigorating and reshaping colonial relationships of dependency. The scope within this paper revolves around the humanitarian work in response to the recent refugee and migration crisis. I have always been interested in the sorts of research where the idea is that all technology in some ways serve the privileged or the stakeholders of whom these technologies would serve best. This is especially clear when private companies are involved in this whole “marketisation of humanitarianism”.

Colonialism as a choice of framework is especially interesting. Traditional colonialism is defined as “a practice of domination involving the subjugation of one people by another through military, economic, and political means”. Despite a lot of countries are now in postcolonial state, colonial inequalities can still endure and be reproduce in contemporary contexts — for example, a lot of knowledge systems are still largely Eurocentric, and then there’s the whole codification of racial and social discrimination even after being emancipated from the empires. These ‘colonial debris’ are then perpetuated through the use of digital and data practices in humanitarianism (e.g. the practice of biometric registration, the hackathon sessions where people could build apps to deterministically ‘solve’ humanitarian crises), which is where the term technocolonialism comes from as it pays equal attention to colonial legacies, datafication, innovation, global capitalism, and inequality. There are also some interesting arguments on how to understand the consequences of data and innovation for humanitarian practice through five competing, intersectional logics — humanitarian accountability, audit, capitalism, solutionism, and securitisation.

Some other related reads:

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