Pandemic Technologies, Inequalities, and Social Solidarity: A Qualitative, Longitudinal Study of Ecuador's Covid-19 Emergency
Just Tech Covid-19 Rapid-Response Grant – Fall 2020
This project examines the role that technology has played as Ecuador’s Covid-19 emergency has unfolded. Given the reality of widespread, historical social inequalities in the country, often expressed in terms of class, ethnic, or place-based identities, this study seeks to understand how differing perceptions about and access to technologies during the pandemic have shaped the experiences of a diverse range of Ecuadorians. For example, how have the country’s inequalities been reinforced and/or challenged in terms of digital divides and differential access to technologies such as smartphones, Internet connectivity, or biomedical technologies such as Covid tests? What roles have local or indigenous technologies or knowledge played in responses to the pandemic, particularly in locations where public health infrastructures may be mistrusted or undeveloped? How do people use technologies in their everyday lives to signal social solidarities or social exclusions towards others, such as through the use of tools like contract-tracing apps or thermometers? Through in-depth interviews with people across all major geographic regions of the country and from diverse backgrounds in terms of gender, age, class, ethnicity, and other social identities, this study will be able to analyze the roles and impacts of technology in the context of Ecuador’s pandemic. Through attention to diverse perceptions and levels of access to technologies, the study can help diagnose how pandemic technologies may either reinforce or break down social inequalities, with an eye toward policy recommendations that may improve the uses of technology to bolster greater social solidarity and inclusion.
Michael D. Hill
Professor of Anthropology, Universidad San Francisco de Quito
Michael D. Hill (PhD, Emory University) is professor of anthropology and was the founding chair of the anthropology major at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Ecuador. His research and teaching interests include tourism and heritage, Andean ethnic identities, organizational anthropology, and life history and collaborative ethnographic methodologies. He has published numerous articles in research journals such as the Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Ethnos, Ethnohistory, Childhood, and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. He is author of a chapter on the cultural economies of tourism in the edited collection The Andean World (Routledge, 2018), and his forthcoming book is a life history of social mobility in the life of indigenous co-author Georgina Maldonado (Para aprender a viajar así: movilidad social en la vida de una mujer quechua, Instituto de Estudios Peruanos and USFQ Press, 2020). He possesses a strong record of projects involving interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration, including directing a project on organizational culture with Ecuador's largest private-sector bank and coordinating research teams for a museum exhibition and book on religious diversity with Quito's City Museums (Diversidades espirituales y religiosas en Quito, Ecuador: Una mirada desde la etnografía colaborativa, USFQ Press, 2018).
Associate Professor, Universidad San Francisco de Quito
Consuelo Fernández-Salvador is associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and holds a PhD in development studies from the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research interests have focused on ethno-politics, extractivism, and development, particularly around large-scale mining in the southern Amazon region in Ecuador. She is co-editor and co-author of the book La Amazonía Minada. Minería a Gran Escala y Conflictos en el Sur del Ecuador (with co-editors van Teijlingen, Leifsen, and Sánchez-Vázquez, USFQ Press-Abya Yala, 2017). Recently, she has also been involved in collaborative research on organizational cultures, as well as community tourism and the impact of Chinese mega-infrastructure on local populations. She is now the coordinator for Ecuador of the Latin American Consortium of the international research project, “Solidarity in times of a pandemic.”