In this presentation, I will examine the fundamental and taken-for-granted infrastructures that make tech entrepreneurship possible, reporting from a longitudinal ethnographic study of tech entrepreneurs situated in occupied Palestine. By investigating this polar case of tech entrepreneurship, we can identify critical infrastructures that are otherwise invisible and go unnoticed. I will propose infrastructural accessibility as a method to identify available and absent infrastructures in concrete trans-local situations. Infrastructural accessibility leads us to identify multiple dimensions of critical infrastructures necessary for the success of tech startups. This includes infrastructures related to location, community, funding, digital platforms, politics, and history. Our study shows how these multiple dimensions of infrastructural accessibility shape the everyday practices of tech entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the study reveals how Palestinian tech entrepreneurship is characterized by infrastructural inaccessibility due to missing infrastructures related to mobility, legal frameworks, payment gateways, and mobile Internet. Infrastructural inaccessibility seriously limits tech entrepreneurs’ potential to succeed in creating a long-term sustainable tech industry.
Pernille Bjørn, PhD, Professor in Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) at the department of Computer Science (DIKU), University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Currently she is Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at University of Washington, Seattle, in the department of Human Centred Design and Engineering (HCDE). Her research spans diverse areas - from exploring the complexities of designing and introducing collaborative technologies within hospitals in both Canada and Denmark towards understanding the political conditions for global software development between the global north and the global south. Recent work includes unpacking the infrastructural inaccessibility of Palestinian tech-start up companies working out of the West Bank, exploring how virtual reality can be utilised to informing architectural design of hospitals, and how Internet-of-Things can be the core of critical design artefact changing the narrative of computer science. Her work is published in high ranking venues including journals such as Human Computer Interaction Journal, International Journal of Computer Supported Work, Transaction of Human Computer Interaction, International Journal of Healthcare Informatics, Journal of International Management, and Information System; and conferences such as ACM CSCW, ACM CHI, and ECSCW. Her service to the research community includes serving as steering committee chair for ACM GROUP, EUSSET steering committee (SIGCHI liaison), and is in the advisory board for JCSCW. she has acted as papers co-chair for CSCW2016, was SC chair at CHI2017, 2016, 2015, and have been AC for CSCW and CHI multiple times. She will be paper co-chair for CHI2020. Most recent publication: Bjørn, P. and N. Boulus-Rødje (2018). “Intrastructural inaccessibility: Tech Entrepreneurs in Occupied Palestine.” ACM Transaction on Computer-human Interaction (TOCHI) 25(5): 31.