“Did you know that people in some countries sacrifice bread and milk to buy mobile phone credit?” asks 2015 IDRC Research Award recipient Katie Clancy. This is one of the insights she gained while investigating whether hackathons could generate long-term technological solutions to development issues.
“There are really critical issues coming to the forefront of our society,” she says. “Digital technologies offer huge possibilities for improving the lives of people around the world.”
Once people get online, she explains, there is potential for innovation, accountability, for connecting across borders and transferring money in ways that would otherwise be impossible. “But,” she says, “there are very real downsides as well, including surveillance and security issues, and the very real possibility that technology is widening inequality between those who have access and those who don’t.”
“My experience at IDRC helped me delve into these critical issues, to learn from people who are leading these issues around the world,” she says. Along the way, she discovered that hackathons are not reliable models for solving development issues. “My work with IDRC has been life changing,” she says, “which is why I stayed at IDRC, continuing to work on open data issues.”