The following summarises the early positions on which the empirical work will be building. The presentation will report on the issues exposed by the first year of the empirical work. These will include the tensions between ‘open’ and free, between institutional and popular, between formal and informal, between remote, rural and dispersed and on the other hand, metropolitan, urban and concentrated, between so-called digital residents and digital natives, and the significance of culture. It is certainly not the case that ‘open’ is unconditionally benign and likely to serve the disadvantaged preferentially or even serve them on the same basis as anyone else; ‘open’ is not necessarily good or best or virtuous. Indeed, any simple test of ‘does no harm?’ should be augmented by, ‘serves whose interests?’. These are the questions and challenges of the wider programme and the current project seeks to illuminate them in relation to learning. We view trust as fundamental to learning albeit usually implicit rather than explicit. Furthermore, there is a growing awareness of the disconnect – or perhaps hypocrisy – of educational institutions espousing ‘open’ learning whilst implementing not-so-open management, and perhaps business models that exploit ‘open’ for commercial reasons rather idealistic ones.
This is however all in the context of ‘development’, where ‘open’ in learning is not culturally neutral, politically neutral or even linguistically neutral and certainly not technologically neutral. Educational practices, educational institutions and educational technologies embody the culture, language and values of the global North, most likely of Anglophone American corporations, agencies and foundations. Our project must address concerns that ‘open’ is merely the Trojan horse for these, and that aspirations to modernise and catch-up articulated amongst educators and officials in the global South only serve to reinforce these concerns.