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OEB speaker Tim Unwin

Tim Unwin

Emeritus Professor of Geography, Royal Holloway, University Of London, United Kingdom

Tim Unwin is a British academic and public figure, specialising in the uses of digital technology by the world’s poorest and most marginalised peoples. Trained as a geographer, he enjoys crossing boundaries between disciplines and sectors, and seeks to enhance international understanding between peoples and governments.

He attempted to make a calculating machine out of balsa wood in the mid-1960s and learnt to programme in Fortran in the mid-1970s. Subsequently, he became fascinated by the uses of digital technologies in learning, taught using Livenet in the early 1990s, and was involved in the UK’s Computers in Teaching Initiative in the mid-1990s. He led the UK Prime Minister’s Imfundo initiative (creating partnerships for using IT in education in Africa) between 2001 and 2004, was Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation between 2011 and 2015. and Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London between 2007 and 2023. In 2016 he was appointed Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George for his services to the Commonwealth.

His most recent work has challenged many taken for granted assumptions about the positive benefits of digital tech, especially for the world’s poorest and most marginalised peoples. His current interests focus mainly on the ways in which people have been enslaved by those who design and sell digital tech, by the environmental harms caused by its creation and use, by the failures of the UN system satisfactorily to address the role of digital tech, and by our cyborg futures.