This course critically explores the contemporary global digital economy with an emphasis on social impact startups as drivers for positive economic and social change. Situated at the Centre for Global Media and Communication in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at SOAS, it provides a unique combination of critical approaches to the emerging digital economy from the perspective of the Global South with practical hands-on knowledge of how to design and develop alternative business models for using digital technology for social change.
The course is structured around three parts. The first week explores the history of post-World War II digital economy and the emergence of the technology startup model as a driver for economic growth, the business and investment “ecosystem” associated with it, and its economic, political and social ramifications. It will draw on case studies from the global digital economy in themes such as big data, smart cities, e-health, mobile banking and AI. During the second week, students will engage with these academic and policy debates on the global digital economy to develop their own projects using digital technology for social good. During the final week, then, the students will, with the help of course convenors and mentors, develop business plans and presentations based on their critical ideas. This will culminate in a social impact incubator-style “pitch day” where students present their project ideas to a group of mock funders in order to get feedback and suggestions on their ideas and its sustainability in real-world situations.
On successful completion of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate the ability to:
- Understand and assess key emerging trends in the global digital economy and critical debates around them.
- Understand the different business models used in the global digital economy including start-ups, innovation labs and incubators and alternatives to these (such as social enterprises or commons-based peer production).
- Gain knowledge on how to develop ideas for social change into concrete project proposals and sustainable business plans and present them to potential funders and investors.
Students are usually able to obtain credits from their home institution and typically our courses receive 3 credits in the US system and 7.5 ECTS in the European system. If you intend to claim credits from your home institution, please check the requirements with them before you enrol. We will be happy to assist you in any way we can, however, please be aware that the decision to award credits rests with your home institution.
Assessment will be optional and will vary for each course. Participants will be provided with a certificate of attendance and a Record of Study will be available on request.
Week 1: Critical approaches to the global digital economy
- Emerging trends in digital economy - information society, network society, gig economy, disruptive technology, big data, AI, blockchain.
- Critical approaches to digital economy - platform capitalism, surveillance, privacy, digital divide, uber-exploitation, algorithmic bias, gender bias, inequality.
- Debates on decolonising the digital economy.
Week 2: Alternative models of the global digital economy
- Start-ups: who leads them and who funds them?
- Alternative models such as social enterprises and commons-based peer production
- Case studies of digital global companies: American multinationals such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook; Chinese and other country examples: WeChat, Baidu, mPesa, Go-Jek; and alternative social enterprise successes.
- Is it possible to create a critically-engaged startup or is this just “hipster” Corporate Social Responsibility?
- Workshops developing student project ideas
Week 3: Developing and pitching your projects
- Visits to London accelerators/incubators.
- Guest lectures from experts in the London tech ecosystem.
- Attend demo days/pitch sessions in London.
- Work with instructors and mentors to develop student projects into a presentation.
- Identify actionable next steps.
- Pitch Day to the general SOAS community and mentors.
Teaching & Learning
46 hours (lectures, tutorials, activities). The course will be delivered Monday - Friday over the 3 weeks.
Monday - Friday, 10am-3pm. In addition to regular lectures and tutorials, each course will offer a range of activities relating to their academic content (e.g. museum visit, company visit etc.).
Fees and Funding
A one-off, non-refundable application fee of £40 will be charged to cover administration costs. Please visit the SOAS online store to make your application fee payment.
- 10% discount if you apply by 31 March 2019
- 20% discount for our partner institutions
Accommodation is available to Summer School students at the SOAS halls of residence, Dinwiddy House.
In order to join our Summer School, you will need to meet the following entry requirements:
- A university student or a graduate at the time of attending the summer school, and 18+ years of age.
- Professional experience can be acknowledged as equivalent to a university qualification.
- A minimum English language requirement if English is not your first language:
- IELTS, 6.5 overall or higher, with at least 6 in all subscores.
- TOEFL Paper-based test we require a minimum of 583 with a minimum of 53 in all skills and for TOEFL Internet Based Test we require a minimum of 93 with a minimum of 20 in all skills.
- Pearson Test of English a score of 59-64.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) Grade B.
- If you have studied in an English speaking institution, or have courses taught at your university in English (excluding English language courses), you may meet our requirements without having to supply a certificate. Evidence of this will either need to be included on a transcript or letter from your university.
- Applicants with an alternative qualification should contact us for advice.
- Applicants whose English language level do not meet out requirements may be interested in our subject-based courses with English language support.
Enrolment of Summer School applicants who don’t meet the entry requirements is at the discretion of SOAS – please get in touch to speak to us in detail about your application.
Once you have paid the £40 application fee and submitted the online application form, you will be informed as to whether you have a place on the summer school within 5 working days. Please do not pay your tuition fee prior to having received your offer letter.
31 May 2019