GUST’s Global Studies Center Hosts Professor Ellen Helsper
Gulf University for Science and Technology’s (GUST) Global Studies Center (GSC) invited Professor in Digital Inequalities at the London School of Economics, Professor Ellen Helsper, to deliver a lecture on her project, named “DiSTO”, which aims to identify social inequalities affecting the benefits people derive from Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by pinpointing positive factors as well as barriers to their adoption among individuals, communities and countries. This lecture is part of the GSC’s initiative to diversify the topics it covers, by showing the relevance of a multitude of disciplines in our everyday lives.
DiSTO-Kuwait, the local chapter of Prof. Helpser’s project, is working to adapt, translate, validate and implement the DiSTO methodology and framework within a local context. It is the first application of the DiSTO framework to an Arab frame of reference. Given that the Middle East has been the world’s most economically unequal region for decades, such research holds potential in identifying ways in which ICTs can be used to help improve the quality of life for the region’s most disadvantaged communities.
Prof. Helsper delivered a lecture at GUST on the global evidence for socio-digital inequalities gathered through the DiSTO projects. She introduced and explained her brainchild, DiSTO project, and explained how it can help develop and improve measures and models of people’s digital skills, digital engagement, and outcomes of Information and Communications Technologies. The goal of the lecture was to examine which interventions are most effective in preparing everyone for a digital future. The DiSTO project aims to develop and improve global measures of people’s digital skills and engagement as well as the types of outcomes they derive from these. It has been run in numerous countries around the world and its scales have also been incorporated into such projects as the World Internet Project, the International Telecommunications Union, the Global Kids Online, the UK Nominet Trust project, and Benessere Digitale (Italy).
Prof. Helsper spent a week in Kuwait conducting workshops and training sessions, meeting key stakeholders, coordinating activities with the DiSTO-Kuwait team. Among the organizations she met with to discuss the project and evaluate the ICT situation in Kuwait were the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA), the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS), Zain Telecommunication Company, the GUST Center for Teaching, Learning and Research (CTLR), and faculty from the Information Science Department at the College of Computing Sciences and Engineering at Kuwait University.
Guest Lecturer, Professor Ellen Helsper, said, “I’m very pleased to have had the opportunity to share my experience with the upcoming generation of leaders who will no doubt be shaping the development of Kuwait’s digital footprint and usage. It is important that we keep our fingers on the pulse and continue to examine the role the internet plays in different aspects of our lives.”
Professor Helsper has extensive experience in the world of digital inequalities and methodologies in media and communication research, and is known for her work in the UK Kids Online Project, UK Kids Online Project, her consultancy work with OSSWatch (Oxford University), Ofcom, the BBC and Plan International, and her role as Survey Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII, University of Oxford) where she managed and analyzed the biennial Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS), the UK partner in the World Internet Project. She is a graduate of media psychology from Utrecht University, and has had her articles published in journals such as International Journal of Communication, European Journal of Communication, and Journal of Children and Media.
Dr. Fahed Al-Sumait, GUST Vice President for Academic Affairs and Co-PI for the DiSTO-Kuwait project: “We are honored to be working with the world-renowned expert, Dr. Ellen Helsper, to conduct such cutting-edge research about Kuwait’s readiness for an increasingly digital future. Our country is one of the most digitally connected in the world in terms of ICT infrastructure and mobile usage, but we currently do not have much information about which people and communities are benefiting most from this situation and who is being left behind. Through this research, we hope to gain a better idea of the conditions on the ground so we can identify possible actions that can be taken to help improve the quality of people’s lives as it relates to digital technologies.”
The GSC is a leading research center on global studies, and a vehicle for engaging both internal and external communities through stimulating events and lectures on global issues. The center aims to conduct cutting-edge research on cross-national political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental issues of critical importance, and share research output and information regionally and globally. The GSC seeks to foster public understanding of global issues with local significance.
Director of the Global Studies Center, Dr. Shahd Al-Shammari said, “This seminar brings to Kuwait one of the leading minds in the field of digital engagement and the latest developments in one of the most talked about fields of today.”
GUST continues to build on its mission to become a knowledge-hub that benefits and engages students, academics, and the wider Kuwait community as a whole. For more information on upcoming events, visit https://gsc.gust.edu.kw/