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Bundling local knowledge globally: Launch of an international research project on sustainable digitalisation

02 June 2022

The research project “Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Global Digitalisation (SET)” of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) develops international approaches to regulate online platform work and deal with climate issues in the digital economy. The research team will develop scientific formats and panels in countries such as Vietnam, Mexico, Ghana and Kosovo in order to work together with local actors from science, politics, business and civil society. 

How can states strengthen newly emerging economic sectors in the context of digitalisation and create fair working conditions at the same time? What are the environmental side effects that need to be avoided to shape the digital economy in a climate-friendly way? The SET research team is investigating these questions in close cooperation with the Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The core of the project is defined by international science formats that promote sustainable digitalisation that is beneficial at a local level.

“International cooperation in the field of digitalisation and sustainability is not only an urgent task but also an exciting challenge from the perspective of research diplomacy”, says Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz, Research Director of the HIIG. The project lead, Georg von Richthofen, adds: “This project offers us the chance to learn from the local knowledge and expertise of different countries to make it internationally visible and use it cooperatively for sustainable development goals in other regions.” 

The project kicked off with a research sprint on sustainable digital economic models in Ghana, Kenya and Benin on 31 May 2022. Here, researchers from different backgrounds work with local practitioners and experts to develop new interdisciplinary approaches for the debate on fair online platform work. Their findings are summarised in concise briefings such as policy briefs and white papers in order to discuss them with actors from politics, business and civil society in multi-stakeholder dialogues on site. Further research formats on topics such as climate-resilient energy and transport solutions, artificial intelligence and the climate or digital entrepreneurship and sustainability will follow in the coming months. In addition, an international database on these topics is being established, which will compile local knowledge in case studies. 

Cooperation and network 

The work in the partner countries is carried out in cooperation with the Digital Transformation Centres (DTCs) from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) . Local issues are worked out together, stakeholders are identified and solutions are developed and shared in target group specific formats. In the preparation of the scientific studies, HIIG strives for close cooperation with the interdisciplinary Network of Internet and Society Research Centers (NoC). The SET research project will run until April 2023 and is funded by the Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). 

Further information

Project Website “Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Global Digitalisation

Contact for press and questions about the research project 

Frederik Efferenn | Tel. +49 30 200 760 82 | 

About the HIIG

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) researches the development of the Internet from a societal perspective in order to better understand the accompanying digitalisation of all areas of life. As the first research institute in Germany with a focus on the Internet and society, HIIG has developed an understanding that emphasises the embedding of digital innovations in social processes. Based on this transdisciplinary expertise and as part of the Global Network of Interdisciplinary Internet & Society Research Centers, HIIG aims to develop a European response to digital structural change. 

HIIG was founded in 2011 by the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU), the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) with the Hans Bredow Institute Hamburg as an integrated cooperation partner. The research directors of the institute are Prof. Dr. Jeanette Hofmann, Prof. Dr. Björn Scheuermann, Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Schildhauer and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz.

Frederik Efferenn

Head of Science Communication

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