I’m a digital policy, edtech and innovation specialist, with particular experience in mobile learning in Africa.
A theme in my career is the innovative use of technology for social impact. In twenty years I have worked in digital policy, e-government, youth and digital media, mobile learning, and the development of skills and literacy.
I have both on-the-ground implementation experience from a number of developing countries and a global research, strategy and policy perspective.
In fact, purposefully moving between local and global positions, as well as across a range of non-profit organisations, foundations, government, INGOs and the corporate sector, has been my way to develop a broad and rich skill set in technology for social impact.
I believe in people first, technology second. I practice the principles of user-centered design, agile software development and lean innovation (and am a certified product life cycle coach).
My core skills are programme management, partnership management and strategy development.
Currently I’m the digital policy specialist for UNICEF, based in New York. I work at the intersection of children and their digital lives. Key issues I lead on include AI for Children, digital literacy and digital misinformation / disinformation and children.
Previously I was a Senior Project Officer at UNESCO, Paris, managing a partnership with Pearson to examine and highlight how inclusive digital solutions can help people with low skills and low literacy use technology in a way that supports skills development and, ultimately, improves livelihoods.
Before that I was Head of Mobile at Pearson South Africa’ Innovation Lab, established the mobile learning programme at UNESCO, and was Mobile Impact Evangelist for the mLab Southern Africa, an infoDev funded initiative to incubate mobile apps and content services development in the region.
For three years I held a prestigious Shuttleworth Foundation fellowship for 21st century learning and before that was a fellow of the Reuters Digital Vision Program at Stanford University. To see what I’ve been up to over the last few years read my review blog posts or read my CV.
My big idea: A digital world that works for children works best for everyone.
Digital is only a force for good when it serves all of humanity’s interests, not just those of a privileged few. Meaningful technology use must be for everyone, provide opportunities for development and livelihoods, and support well-being. Technology cannot only be for those that can control it and afford it, it should not constrain opportunity and undermine well-being. The best way to achieve meaningful digital inclusion is to focus on children and youth. Children under 18 make up one-third of all internet users, and youth (here, 15-24 year olds) are the leading internet cohort (globally, 71% use the internet, compared with 57% of the other age groups). And yet, despite being the most significant user groups, they are the digital unseen teens. Digital platforms are not sufficiently designed or regulated with or for them. A focus on children and youth will force platform creators and regulators to be more conscious of a range of different user’s needs, take protection more seriously, engage in less surveillance, and think creatively and co-operatively about digital experience that support well-being. It does not mean “dumbing down” the internet to the lowest common denominator — not every part of the internet is appropriate for children — but rather holding inclusion, protection and empowerment for all as guiding principles.
My mantra: Use the ICTs in the hands of people to enable their participation. Included here is increasing technology access and opportunities for all.
My strength: Practical experience of using ICT to improve the lives of developing country people.
I’ve published papers and given presentations at numerous academic, UN and popular conferences, written for the Mail and Guardian newspaper (South Africa) and currently write a weekly “long reads” post on key issues affecting ICT4D.
I’m a board member of the FunDza Literacy Trust, a South African non-profit organisation dedicated to improving literacy among teens and young adults.
What others say about me:
“Steve is one of those rare people who knows what it takes to bridge not just technological divides but social ones, consistently figuring out not just how to create new tools, but how to get people to use them in meaningful ways.” — Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus