Doing evaluations for EU applications has so far been quite a learning experience. I have been asked to do evaluations of very large applications in the ICT area, and I will be doing applications 5-6 time a year for the coming years. The competence that I am especially contributing to for the group of evaluators is the equal opportunities perspective, apart from me being a researcher in ICT.
Many in the ICT business think it is very difficult to think of ICT projects from an equal opportunities perspective. They see ICT as neutral, and hence it is not possible too talk about from a any perspective. ICT is transparent, in their view, and simply a value free tool that people can use. It is as value free as a hammer. Anyone can use a hammer. (Smile). Firsts of all, ICT technology are male coded, and it is a completely male dominated area. A hammer also has all kinds of connotations to male professions, and men who are unable to use a hammer are not seen as real men….. Doing masculinity without being good at hammering is of course possible, but you rarely find men who are proud of not being able to use a hammer. ICT has the same kind of connotations. Also, not everyone can use a hammer due to not having the physical ability, not being able to see or having hands that are unable to hold a hammer.
ICT is not neutral, and there are a few large areas to look at when thinking about it in relation to ICT projects
1) The development work. Who are on the team? What are the roles of women and men on the team? What are their salaries in the project? Who will be talking to customers? Will all men be back-end programmers? What management principles will be used? How will management make sure that every competence is seen and heard? Is the management style inclusive? Is the manager and the people on the team aware of equal opportunities and have competence in the area?
2) Users Represented in the Project. How are the users present in the development? Do the project test with users? How are users recruited? Are all kinds of users represented? How do you make sure that you listen to all comments from users without being biased?
3) Assumptions about Users. What assumptions are made about the users of the technology? Have you though of people from all discrimination grounds? We have a tendency to design technology for men, and forget about diversity in all its forms. We need to do something about that.
4) Knowledge about inclusive design, design for all etc. I think that many software developers etc need better knowledge about design for all and inclusive design. What are the recommendations for inclusive design of web applications, of user interfaces etc? How do you make sure that your system is usable for everyone? My colleague Lars Oestreicher is an expert in this area and one of our best teachers at the department. If you want to learn more read his upcoming book or take his courses.
The above are just some of the things that are relevant when writing an application and adding the equal opportunities perspective. I really hope to see fewer of the applications saying that ICT is neutral, and that there is nothing to say about the project application from an equal opportunities perspective.