Recently, a creative team from Eemagine development interviewed me for their publication presenting people from the digital technologies world, asking me about the current projects, motivation, and #startwithwhy story. Below is the entire interview and you can also read it on Medium.
How ICT Got Meaning in the Real-Time World
A Career Path of a Brilliant Woman in the World Wide Web
Danica Radovanovic does a lot different things; she is a digital equality advisor, an internet researcher, a consultant. One of her biggest accomplishments, though, merged all three together — a startup that will provide free access to Internet to people in Tanzania and DC Congo.
Having been one of the Internet’s early adopters in Serbia, her experience in the digital world is quite extensive. She had a newsletter in the late 90’s with over 800 members, in the early 2000’s, she was an editor of an electronic magazine, and a successful blog that exists to this day.
What was the first experience that led you to what you do today?
“I researched the communication and social practices in ICT in Serbian internet communities for my PhD thesis; how young and older people use social media and social networks in their everyday life, and for education and work. I discovered different dynamics and problems came to the surface.”
Did you discover anything interesting?
“Well, what’s mutual for both Serbia and the rest of the world, are online social networks that are very popular, but where digital inequality still exists, mostly the lack of the technological infrastructure and digital literacy skills. Digital literacy is a very important factor in a digital society. In order to be able to use digital communication technologies, you need those skills. Lack of them can lead to certain problems and inequalities. As much as they’re present in the rest of the world, there’s presence of digital inequality in our society, as well. Digital inequality phenomenon came from my research, and it proved that digital inequalities exist not only in rural areas and the less-developed ones, but in urban areas, too. Digital inclusion is a key for health, education and meaningful work.”
Danica currently works as a Digital Equality Advisor and Ambassador at the Basic Internet Foundation headquartered in Norway. This foundation offers free access to the adapted internet for people with low incomes, in the underrepresented areas with low or no internet coverage, many with great needs. Although the project had already existed when she joined them, she quickly became an invaluable member of the team.
Her career journey was and still is full of different adventures. We could say she was the student of the world.
“The Foundation was looking for an expert interested in working on digital inclusion and digital literacy. At the time, I was publishing a scientific research on digital inequalities and digital literacy. My first interest about that topic goes way back to 2009 when I got a PhD scholarship to study at the
Oxford University, Oxford Internet Institute. What an amazing
opportunity that was, keeping in mind that getting into Oxford was nearly impossible. I was never a straight-A student, but I was a proud nerd with a schedule. Oxford meant a great deal to me; in one year, I had a truly genius team of people and professors. So much interaction and new things. The story about digital inclusion, literacy, and inequalities started right there.”
“What I work on with my colleagues from Norway is Digi project — The Non-discriminating access for Digital Inclusion, with one of the goals of sustainable development to lower the inequality; not only in our community in general, but in ICT, as well. Our main objective is to establish pilots for Tanzania. Free access to information presents the basis for a scalable
solution of digital access for everyone in the society. Digital access to
information, connecting the unconnected, is the entry point for digital skills, digital health, education for youth and women, as driver for digital education.”
I get a feeling that you like your job a lot; Can you tell me, do you think your background and an early start in the IT world helped you get where you are now? Did it all start from there?
“Everything I did made some sense. Even in the moments when some things seemed to be without a meaning. IN the end, it only showed that one thing led to another. In my case, it was always a project, a job, or a work adventure leading to the next step. It was always at least 2 steps further. I could say that every cause had a consequence in career development.”
Now we come to the most interesting part — the way you implemented your scientific work in a real-time situation. Along with your teammates, you put ICT on a higher level, where you’re improving people’s access to health, education, and information overall. What values do you promote through this brilliant project, and what do you want to achieve?
“Digi project is currently the most important project of the Basic Internet Foundation. I work as an Advisor for Digital Media, Digital Equality and Inclusion. The value of the project is to create conditions through programs and actions, which will develop areas that are not connected to the basic Internet. Those can be rural areas in the world, and the Global South in general. The vision of the project is in accordance with the SDG’s (Sustainable
Development Goals) of the United Nations. Especially target 9C, to significantly increase access to information and communications technology, and strives to provide universal and affordable access to the internet. It’s Sustainable Industrialization and Nurturing the Culture of
Innovations. We’re targeting the approach to information
and communication technology in order to enable affordable
What does that really mean to the people living in those areas?
“#InternetLightForAll includes free access to basic information (health, education), and paid access for voice, video, and streaming. It’s a business model for growth and inclusion for all.”
So, tell me, how do you feel? Working on a such a wonderful and meaningful project has got to be really fulfilling personally.
“Currently, 4 billion people in the world don’t have an access to internet, meaning no access to basic information. The feeling is phenomenal because you know you’re doing something that’s changing and improving someone’s life. My conduct that leads me is that everything I do has a meaning, and at least in some way touches and changes/improves other people’s lives, making them better.”
She believes that every job, whoever does it, contributes to the world. This one helps creates a starting point for a digital society. It raises awareness about the real problems people in those areas are facing every day.”
Can IT really make this world a better place?
“Internet is a basic human right, the access to basic information to health, education, business is the human right especially in underconnected areas. It should be approachable to anyone on this planet; everyone has the right to educate themselves and to be informed. That aspect of human rights is very important to me. Initiating projects like this is really important. New models and strategies will help those in need to improve the quality of their lives and it will enable the final development of a digital society.“
Tell me then — what is your WHY? Why do you do this?
“First of all, I love cooperating. I’ve been working in teams since forever, especially in international communities. Simply, working in those kind of communities, you get a chance to find out a lot about people, on both personal and professional level. You learn how people function and actually do business.
Second, constant studying and improving. If/when you graduate college, it doesn’t mean your personal & professional growth stops.”
After all this time, what have you learned?
“Always have the courage and always listen to yourself. As they say, ‘Leap, and the net will appear’. Intuition is really neglected in science, business and jobs overall.
Some people think it’s irrational. But when you’re listening to yourself, you’re really listening to your path.”
Danica also thinks that having something that differs from your job as a passion or hobby is crucial. In her spare time, she draws and paints. Initially, she wanted to attend the Academy of Arts, but she chose ICT, and she thinks she chose well.
“Whatever you’re doing, it should make some sense to others. It should affect other people’s lives. Any contribution to the society is meaningful, which doesn’t have to be an instant change, but any amount of good is a step up. Then, I know that I’m implementing what I studied into something worthy, and that is of true importance.”