Inclusive Innovation

Last week in class we talked a little bit about the impact of advanced technological innovations in poor nations. I personally believe technological advancements have improved the lives of billions of people across the globe. We encounter technology in all aspects of our lives. New devices come out almost every week. Many individuals buy new technologies to improve their productivity, others buy them for entertainment. During the class discussion one of my classmates asked a few questions that caught my attention, among them: What is the purpose of technology? Haven’t we had enough of it? When do we stop?

My classmate’s questions stuck with me for a long time. Sometimes I feel like technology makes me more productive and I can’t live without it, but other times I feel like technology is taking over my life. Have I had enough of technology? Probably not. Do I want companies to stop manufacturing new devices? Definitely not! I can’t wait to get the iPhone 135SC in 2 years! It seems like technology makes me happy. It directly impacts every aspect of my life, but what does it do for the people at the bottom billion?

I decided to do some research about how technology can serve those at the bottom billion. Luckily I found a very interesting article by our favorite ICT4D expert, Richard Heeks. Heeks’ article, “Understanding Inclusive Innovation” introduces readers to the concept of  inclusive innovation: how to create and improve technologies that positively impact marginalized communities. Inclusive innovation involves the creation of technologies for the benefit of excluded/marginalized communities. Is the iPhone an inclusive innovation? Was it created with the intention of helping the living conditions of the poor? Probably not…In fact, most of the devices that we use are not inclusive.  I found Heeks article very refreshing, especially at a time when we tend to feel overwhelmed by the amount of gadgets released every week.  Maybe it is time for tech entrepreneurs to take a step back and refocus their efforts. Sadly, I highly doubt most tech entrepreneurs will get on with the concept of inclusive innovation. Unfortunately, non-inclusive innovation (that which we enjoy everyday) at this moment is very profitable.


About Juan Carlos Monterrey Gomez

Panamanian Student at Tulane University View all posts by Juan Carlos Monterrey Gomez

One response to “Inclusive Innovation

  • dsafyer

    Inclusive innovation does seem to me to be the right step forward for helping developing countries. As you mentioned, it isn’t very profitable especially in comparison to non inclusive products (like the iPhone), so I also don’t see this catching on with most technology developers. Possibly some sort of government subsidy would help the cause.

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