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GUST collaborates with London School of Economics & Political Science

9 January 2020

Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST) is collaborating with the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) on several ongoing projects among them the DiSTO Project and the creation of the DiSTO-Kuwait Chapter with a group of GUST professors, as well as a research collaboration with GUST professor, Dr. Rania Al-Nakib to explore how democratic citizenship is shaped by education in Kuwait.

The first collaboration is with LSE Professor, Dr. Ellen Helsper, who leads the global project “from digital skills to tangible outcomes” (DiSTO). The 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, Benessere Digitale (Italy), and many others.  

DiSTO-Kuwait, the local chapter of Prof. Helpser’s project, is run by a team from GUST, which includes Dr. Fahed Al Sumait, GUST Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Albaraa AlTourah, Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Mass Communication and Media (MCM) Department, Dr. Jibril Latif, Assistant Professor MCM Department, Nouf Al-Saif, Teaching Assistant and part-time instructor in MCM. At the same time, the GUST team is partnering with the World of Opinions Survey firm in Kuwait, which is one of the country’s leading survey companies who will help assist with interviewer training and fieldwork planning. Finally, GUST will also include approximately 20 volunteers from the GUST student community and beyond to receive data-collection training and assist with the national-level data collection which is planned for February-March 2020. This not only aids in collecting accurate information, but also helps to prepare the next generation of prospective researchers to engage with pressing social concerns and address these through the application of quality methodologies.  


Professor Helsper spent a week in Kuwait conducting workshops and training sessions, meeting key stakeholders, and 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.


Project Leader, Professor Ellen Helsper, said, “I’m very pleased to have had the opportunity to expand my project into Kuwait, and interact with experts and 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.”

Also during her visit, Prof. Helsper delivered a lecture at GUST on the global evidence for socio-digital inequalities gathered through the DiSTO projects. She introduced the DiSTO project and explained how it helps to 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. 


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. Kuwait 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.”


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.


A second major collaboration project between the two universities is lead in Kuwait by Dr. Rania Al-Nakib, Assistant Professor at GUST’s Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, who is collaborating with Dr. Sam Mejias, Research Fellow at the LSE on a research project entitled, Empowering Democratic Citizenship through Education: Exploring Rights-Based Approaches to Educational Policymaking in Kuwait. This study is being funded by a grant from LSE’s Middle East Center.


GUST Department of Humanities & Social Sciences Assistant Professor, Dr. Rania Al Nakib, said, “We are exploring how schools have become contested ideological sites in which both explicit and ‘hidden’ structures and curricula can hinder the development of democratic citizenship norms and practices, the proposed study aims to assess the extent to which citizenship education approaches, that emphasize rights and responsibilities and extra-national citizenship, may motivate young people to participate in democratic processes in Kuwait. We are also interested in understanding how teachers functioning in a service delivery role understand the purposes, possibilities, and tensions of rights-based education approaches for building a democratic citizenry.”


The study utilizes both multidisciplinary and multi-method approaches that combines desk research and discourse analysis with qualitative and quantitative data collection. The research will draw on methodological approaches of critical discourse analysis, content analysis, and ethnographic social constructionism.


Dr. Mejias will be visiting Kuwait next month to join Dr. Al-Nakib for the first round of fieldwork in Kuwaiti public and private schools. Moreover, their first paper from this collaboration, entitled Discourses of Minimalist and Maximalist Citizenship in the Lives of Kuwaiti Youth, exploring youth-led democratic initiatives in Kuwait, has been accepted to the American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) annual conference, which will be held in San Francisco in April. They will also be hosting workshops at LSE and at GUST.


Founded in 1895, the London School of Economics is a public research university joined the University of London in 1900, and established its first degree courses under the support and backing of the University in 1901.  Today, it ranks #1 in the world for thought leadership in management, #2 in the world for social sciences and management according to the latest QS World University Rankings.  It is also currently ranked #1 in the UK for research in business and management studies.