Call for Track Proposals IFIP9.4 2021 – Conference Theme: Freedom and Social Inclusion in a Connected World

Deadline 30 May 2020 | The 16th International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries |Lima, Peru, 26-28 May 2021

We send out this call for tracks at this unusual time amid the coronavirus global pandemic. A lot of us are currently in more or less a lockdown situation. Some may be experiencing health problems themselves or of their family members, and possibly all are trying to cope with a shared anxiety when the world is in emergency mode. Sending out this call for tracks for the next IFIP 9.4 conference is an effort to maintain a degree of normalcy, as well as an invite to the community to collectively reflect on the implication of digital technologies in these highly unsettling times.

To a great extent, most of us are giving up many aspects of our individual freedom, e.g. travelling, going to the workplace, socialisation, or even worse, employment, in order to protect our individual and collective freedom to live a healthy life in a safe environment. Democratic governments face the dilemma between respecting individual will and autonomy and depriving us of freedom of movement and social interaction through top-down disciplinary measures. Policy makers struggle to balance the long term social economic consequences of social distancing measures and tackling the imminent threat of a plague.

In the face of a crisis, freedom is clearly at stake. While there is no consensus on the definition of ‘freedom’ across or even within disciplines, Berlin’s (1969) discussion of negative freedom – to be free from interference, and positive freedom – to be one’s own master, brings forth an interesting and relevant notion of a ‘real self’ that is of a ‘higher nature’ as opposed to a ‘heteronomous self’ driven by desires and passions (Robeyns, 2017, p.100). The former is considered to transcend one individual,

 “as a social whole of which the individual is an element or aspect: a tribe, a race, a church, a state, the great society of the living and the dead and the yet unborn. This entity is then identified as being the ‘true’ self which, by imposing its collective, or ‘organic’ single will upon its recalcitrant ‘members’ achieves its own, and therefore their ‘higher freedom’ (Berlin 1969, 132, cited in Robeyns, 2017, p.100).”

This passage points to some sort of connective freedom among all individuals in the world,  similar to what John Donne says, “no man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” (1839, p. 574-5) – please replace ‘man’ with ‘individual’. While Berlin acknowledges that such a definition of ‘positive freedom’ gives space to tyranny that curtails individual freedom in the name of collective good, the global pandemic once again poses the question of how societies, communities and individuals make decisions to balance the different spaces of freedom, and how do we ensure the most vulnerable and marginalised population do not fall through the cracks in the pursuit of a “greater good”. This is relevant not only in the current case of the public health crisis, but also in the long-standing tension between privacy versus surveillance, individual rights versus national security, as well as the protection of human agency amid the rapid proliferation of artificial intelligence in the forms of smart cities, big data applications, algorithmic work and increasing automation of work.  

The importance of digital technology has become even more elevated when schools and offices are closed, and societies to a large extent shut down. The issue of digital divide suddenly becomes more prominent when face to face services are unavailable. Students without access to a device or the Internet at home are automatically left out of the opportunity to continue education. A large number of people lose their job or business as their line of work does not easily convert to online working. The elderly and vulnerable are likely to suffer, physically, and mentally from social isolation with no recourse to digital connection. Social exclusion due to class, income, age, gender, etc. may be further magnified when digitalisation becomes the only available option. On the other hand, we see a lot of community initiatives and collective action being organised online to help alleviate some of these challenges. When a large part of world is under lockdown, are we more isolated or connected? Does digital connection disguise or make visible the invisible? Whose voice gets heard? These are some of the questions that we could explore.


Berlin, Isaiah. (1969). Four Essays on Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Donne, John. (1839). The Works of John Donne. vol III. Henry Alford, ed. London: John W. Parker

Robeyns, I. (2017). Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-Examined. Open Book Publishers.

Track Proposals for IFIP9.4 2021

While freedom and social inclusion are long standing topics in the ICT4D community, we invite track proposals that directly or indirectly address some of these issues in this highly volatile and challenging times. Other topics are also welcome.

We welcome track proposals that support the theme of the conference and include:

1. Track title

2. Name(s), email address, affiliation of track chair(s)

3. A brief motivation of the track

4. A brief overview of the research area

5. A short description of how the track aligns with the conference theme

5. Exemplar topics and types of contributions looked-for

Please submit your track proposals to  <>  by 30 May, 2020. Notification of acceptance will be given by 15 June, 2020.

We look forward to see your IFIP9.4 2021 track proposals!

Programme Chairs

Yingqin Zheng, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK <>

Jose-Antonio Robles-Flores, ESAN University, Peru <>

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