CfP: Disability, Technology and Digital Inclusion in Southeast Asia


Editors: Kuansong Victor ZHUANG (NTU), Gerard GOGGIN (Western Sydney U), Jennifer SMITH-MERRY (U Syd)

Asia has been widely noted as the world’s largest market in digital technology. While researchers have focused on the efforts of Japan, South Korea, and China, Southeast Asia has been on the rise for the past 5-10 years, especially attracting attention with the prominence of digital platform companies such as Gojek (headquartered in Indonesia) and Grab (Singapore HQ). These digital platform companies have established a foothold not only in their home countries (Indonesia and Malaysia) but also expanded across the region. Such extensive digitalization of society is mirrored by a longer historical trajectory of Southeast Asian countries adopting the smart and technology as enablers for economic growth of development, for instance in Singapore (Goggin and Zhuang 2022) and Malaysia (Bunnell 2015, 2004), just to name two. Notably, various reports have highlighted the proliferation of internet users across Southeast Asia, as well as the growing digital economy in recent years (Google, Temasek, and Bain 2023; Platform 2023; Chadha 2023).

We juxtapose this with the emergence of disability as an area of considerable research, social, and policy importance across Southeast Asia, underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and regional initiatives like the Incheon Strategy and the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan. Notably, the third Asian-Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities 2023-2032 was convened in Indonesia and culminated in the Jakarta Declaration. Across Southeast Asia, we see vibrant disabled communities and research appearing, as well as various government attempts at achieving disability inclusion. In particular, the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan puts forth key recommendations to support the development of inclusive ICTs. AEC 12 highlights the importance of “Promot[ing] smart city projects that have inclusive infrastructure and technologies that are accessible to urban dwellers with disabilities”, while AEC 13 notes the need to “Encourage inclusive ICT by improving its accessibility and usability for persons with disabilities and by upgrading digital skill sets of developers and users to have a more digitally empowered and connected ASEAN people and stakeholders” (ASEAN 2019). Accordingly, digital inclusion for people with disability is a high priority area for policymakers, industry, technology designs, institutions (such as education, law, and others), and civil society organizations, even as digital forms of governance and also societal interactions are increasingly prevalent and part of the everyday.

We bring together these developments – the extensive digitalization of society and the use of technology in all aspects of life (especially with disability), the embrace of disability rights globally, and the pursuit of digital inclusion by Southeast Asian nation states – into productive conversation. While digital technology is a crucial area for realizing goals of social and economic participation as well as rights, the practices of digital inclusion are however not uniformly spread among people with disability across the region; what some have described as digital divides and digital inequalities (Goggin 2017; Dobransky and Hargittai 2016; Hargittai and Hsieh 2013). There have been estimated to be more than 90 million people in Southeast Asia with disability, and for many, assistive technology is a key part of their lives. Importantly, many disabled people are not able to fully participate in society on an equal basis with others and the WHO has called for government action and research to promote inclusion. 

Importantly, research focused on the intersections of technology, digital inclusion, and disability across Southeast Asia is very much nascent. Research and policy frameworks, exemplars, and models relating to disability and digital inclusion still largely derive from a small set of influential jurisdictions, including the US, UK, and Europe. This special issue hopes to draw attention to the specificities of how disability digital inclusion is unfolding in Southeast Asia, given the overt focus of national governments, regional associations, institutions, and society on the adoption of technology, with a specific focus on the development and application of information and communications technologies (ICTs). 

Our special issue also parallels an emergent body of work that highlights the importance of engaging the digital with research in disability and technology (Goggin 2021). Such a focus is even more important, given how the pandemic has further exacerbated these digital inequalities for disabled people – while the pivot to new forms of living and sociality benefited some disabled people, others found themselves worse off in a world increasingly reliant on the internet (Hargittai 2022). Disability scholars have highlighted how technology is embedded in different ways in the lives of disabled people, creating affordances to open up new possibilities (Dokumaci 2023) but also very much situated within socio-economic-political contexts (Alper 2017). More important, we pivot to scholarship that spotlight the ways in which disability can also generate new forms of knowledge. As Hamraie and Fristch (2019) note, disability possesses huge potential and insights for design and technology, affording new ways of world-building. 

We build this special issue off the back of a successful 1-day conference on Digital Inclusion in Southeast Asia co-hosted by Centre for Disability Research and Policy, University of Sydney; Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University; Asian Communication Research Centre, Nanyang Technological University and Sydney Southeast Asia Centre in March 2024. We invite contributions that may either focus on Southeast Asia as a region, and/or specific Southeast Asian nation-states. While we draw attention to the region, we are also interested in how the global intersects with Southeast Asia. 

Specific areas of inquiry can include but are not limited to the following: 

  1. How do emerging technologies and their deployment impact on disabled peoples’ digital inclusion across Southeast Asia, including but not limited to issues such as the use of artificial intelligence/large language models and automated decision making, data and privacy, implementation of digital IDs, smart cities, smart homes, autonomous vehicles and transportations … etc affect disabled people?
  2. How are information and communication technologies mobilized to support disabled peoples’ inclusion? What are disabled people’s lived experiences of technology? How do disabled people actively engage with, deploy, and use technology and the digital, including social media platforms, assistive devices, self-tracking devices, and so on, and how does these mediate their experiences with the everyday?
  3. And conversely, how are technologies (such as telehealth, covid-19 and public health measures such as Bluetooth contact tracing, apps and so on) deployed in the lives of disabled people across Southeast Asia by states, governments, disability service providers, charities and NGOs, public and private healthcare providers? 
  4. What is the current landscape of policy and governance of digital inclusion across Southeast Asia, and how does it measure to other jurisdictions? How can we govern technology in support of disabled peoples’ inclusion? How can we bridge the digital divide and address digital inequalities, taking in consideration the specific contexts and needs of Southeast Asian nation-states and/or communities? 
  5. How does digital inclusion of disabled people relate to, complicate, and/or cut across citizenship & wider forms of societal, political, economic, cultural participation? For instance, how have disabled peoples’ activism for their inclusion changed or used different forms of technology? How have debates around digital inclusion and/or the influx of new technologies shaped the ways activism and advocacy is carried out? 
  6. The intersection of the global and the local. Specifically, how does digital inclusion in Southeast Asia link to global factors, such as standards developed internationally, including but not limited to legislation such as the Americans with Disability Act, the European Accessibility Act, as well as standards like the WCAG? What role do international development and their agencies play in digital inclusion in Southeast Asia? 
  7. What role does the market and its agents (such as corporates, businesses, and other institutions) play in digital inclusion? How do market forces and global supply chains impact on disabled peoples’ access to and use of technology? 

Following the submission of an initial proposal, we now invite abstracts for a special issue soon to be under full consideration at Information, Communication & Society published by Taylor & Francis. We expect a final decision on the issue soon after we have completed the selection of abstracts. For more info on the journal, see,

If interested, pls submit an email to victor.zhuang[at], with the following details by 31 July 2024

  • Title your email CFP Special Issue Disability Technology in SEA 
  • An abstract of between 350 – 500 words, detailing the argument, findings, and methodology of the research
  • A short 50-word bio of each author(s) 
  • All queries should be directed to victor.zhuang[at]

We will endeavour to notify accepted abstracts within two weeks of close of deadline and henceforth submit the proposal to be considered. If accepted by the journal, we expect full papers to be submitted to the special issue editors for internal review by 31 March 2025. Thereafter, revised papers will be submitted through to the journal for double-blind peer review by 31 July 2025. 

Editors’ Bio

Kuansong Victor, Zhuang is Visiting Fellow, University of Sydney, and International Postdoctoral Scholar at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University. He was a Chevening scholar in 2013/14, and a 2022/23 Princeton University Fung Global Fellow. His research lies at the intersections of communications, media, and cultural studies, and disability studies, especially as it pertains to inclusion and the workings of technology. He hopes to use his research to contribute to current debates about how inclusion happens both in Singapore and around the world. 

Gerard Goggin is Professor in the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. Gerard has published widely on media, culture, technology, and disability,. His books include Routledge Companion to Disability and Media (2020), Normality & Disability (2018), Disability and the Media (2005; with Katie Ellis), and with Christopher Newell, the two books Disability in Australia (2005) and Digital Disability (2003). 

Jen Smith-Merry is Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellow and Professor of Health and Social Policy in the Sydney School of Health Sciences. She is Director of the Centre for Disability Research and Policy. Her work focuses on creating practical, research-informed policy and practice development in partnership with government and non-government organisations.


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