|Professor Tim Unwin|
Professor Tim Unwin is the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO)
Having been Professor of Geography and Head of Department at Royal Holloway, University of London between 1999 and 2001, he was chosen to lead the UK Prime Minister’s Imfundo initiative, based in the Department of International Development, between 2001 and 2004. This initiative was designed to create partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society organisations to implement ICT-based educational initiatives in Africa.
On his return to Royal Holloway in 2004, he created an ICT4D Collective, designed to explore ways through which the highest possible quality of research in the field of ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) could be developed to serve the interests of some of the poorest and most marginalised people and communities. The notion of this group of researchers specifically being a Collective reflected his passionate belief in the collegial nature of universities, and the commitment of academics to work together collaboratively for the common good.
Building on his experiences of crafting multi-stakeholder partnerships, he was then invited in 2007 to work part-time as Programme Director in the World Economic Forum’s Global Education Initiative, leading their Partnerships for Education initiative with UNESCO, and eventually becoming a Senior Advisor to the initiative.
He has served the academic and professional community in a range of roles including as Honorary Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers) (1995-1997), a member of the British Council’s Education and Training Advisory Committee (2002-2006), Chair of the Developing Areas Research Group of the Institute of British Geographers (1990-1993), and undertaking a range of roles for research bodies including the UK’s Engineering and Physical Science Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the National Science Foundation (USA), the Academy of Finland, and the Swiss National Science Foundation.
He is the author of more than 200 papers in international journals and chapters in edited books, and has written or edited 15 books of his own, including “Wine and the Vine” (Routledge, 1991), “The Place of Geography” (Longman, 1992), “Atlas of World Development” (editor, Wiley, 1994) and “A European Geography” (editor, Longman, 1998). His most recent collective publication is the widely praised Information and Communication Technologies for Development (Cambridge University Press, 2009), which included contributions from more than 30 authors, and of which he wrote five main chapters. Reviewers have described this as “as the first book that brings some considerable order and authority to the field. It is thorough, accessible, rich with examples, and deserves to be read by a wide swath of the development community”.
In recent years, his research has focused especially on the uses of ICTs by poor people in Africa and Asia, especially those with disabilities, and young people at risk of living and working on the streets. He is also a respected authority on e-learning, and has been a leader in the field of using ICTs in delivering effective and innovative teaching in universities. His research has taken him to some 25 countries across the world, including Australia, China, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mozambique, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Tanzania, and he has worked on subjects as diverse as the role of banknotes as expressions of national identity, and the historical-geography of viticulture and the wine trade. In 2011, he received a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, UK-China Fellowship for Excellence, he is an Honorary Professor at Lanzhou Univerisity, and was also a Visiting Scholar at Peking University. He also served as Academic Advisor and External Examiner for the Institute of Masters of Wine between 2004 and 2011..
Tim Unwin has a strong commitment to the Commonwealth, not only through his research experiences in eight Commonwealth countries, but also through his work for the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK, the Non-Departmental Public Body that provides funding for Commonwealth scholars and fellows to study and undertake research or training in Britain. He was appointed as a Commissioner by the Secretary of State for International Development in 2004, and was then appointed in 2009 as Chair of the Commission.