Social Innovation Redux


I was invited to the Social Innovation – Driving Force for Social Change (SI-DRIVE) final conference which took place earlier this week in Brussels. SI-DRIVE is a four-year project funded by the EU and launched in 2014. The project has undertaken comprehensive research on the topic. It has also managed to create a network of European social innovators as well as selected representatives from developing countries.

After a few years of closely following the topic, I must admit social innovation fell off my radar screen around 2015. Partly to blame are new technologies such as blockchains and the rebirth of older ones such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) – now propelled by machine learning. Both could be used to foster social innovation. But this is still in the works.

Social innovation

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Innovation and Inequality in an Unequal World

Innovation has taken the world by storm. More than a simple storm, it is now looking more like a stationary looping hurricane. No escape. Embrace or die. Only a few have opted for the latter. In any event, this is without doubt a critical development. New technologies are creating wave after wave of innovation perhaps in a scale not ever seen before. They are in fact  triggering  important changes at most levels of society, from personal relations and family to politics and conflict management.

Gini_Coefficient_World_CIA_ReportIt is usually assumed that the innovation brought forward by new technologies is almost always positive. When it comes to diffusion, we regularly get to hear about the rapid diffusion of new technologies on a global scale, mobile phones being the example most frequently quoted. Some even speak about

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ICTs and Inequality: An Overview

economicinequalityNot without reason, Inequality seems to have taken command of most development, socio-economic and even political discussions. The fact that a supposedly “technical” and long (and very good too!) book such as Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century became a best seller of sorts last year is a good indicator of the relevance of this topic in our current historical juncture.

The focus of Piketty’s book  is inequality in terms of income and wealth. But it says little to nothing on the role new technologies can play in this evolution. The key questions here are: is there a connection between the rapid growth of new ICTs and inequality?  And if so, what is the role of ICTs in fostering or taming income and wealth inequality?

ICTs are certainly no strangers to inequality. Here, we can

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Women, empowerment and new technologies

IWDYesterday we celebrated the International Women’s Day (IWD) for the 108th time.  The celebration  first took place in 1908 in New York CIty. Back then it was called the International Working Women’s Day (IWWD), first organized by the Socialist Party  of the US. At some point in time, the additional W dropped and the event became a celebration of all women.

Fast forward to 2015. Although significant progress has been made since, women still face many issues and challenges that must be properly addressed to achieve gender equality, One of the areas that seems to be falling behind is women’s political and policy-making participation. How can women be empowered in this regard? And what is the role of new Information and Communication Technologies here ?

We know that by the end of 2014 global

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Governments, Crowdsourcing and Innovation

citizensDualRoleThe paper on the role of governments in crowdsourcing I presented at the last ICEGOV 2014 gathering in Guimaraes, Portugal, is now available here – in this blog. The paper was supposed to be published by ACM press as part of the proceedings of ICEGOV.  However, the proceedings are still not available in the ICEGOV web site, nor at the ACM site. In any event, we have chosen a publishing license that allows the authors of the paper to publish it on their own web sites. Note that copyright still applies to this material (please read the license before downloading the paper!).

The paper makes the case for government to harness crowdsourcing as one potential way to improve service delivery and foster people participation in selected public policy making processes. It presents a governance-centered

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Pakistan Interview: e-gov and development

ICT Review - coverI gave the following interview to a local business newspaper during my mission to Pakistan. The interview was published on 15 December.

BR Research: You have previously worked in Pakistan. How was the e-governance situation like back then and how is it now?

Raul Zambrano: It was back in 1993 when UNDP launched an initiative called the Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) that aimed at bringing access to development content via new technologies. Working with out local office here in Islamabad and using local expertise and human resources, we set up email nodes in four cities including Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi in addition to Islamabad. We essentially provided email access to the Internet and trained lots of people on how to effectively harness the new technologies to

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The Role of ICTs in Empowering People

In the last twenty years we have witnessed a very rapid and dramatic evolution of ICTs, at a pace perhaps unprecedented in history. This evolution however has come in a series of waves. First, we saw the advent of the Internet in the early 1990s, a network of networks that quickly gained global relevance -although uptake by developing countries lagged well behind initial expectations. By the of the millennium we saw a second wave which essentially brought forward the application of Internet based solutions for businesses, governments and almost any other sector.

This wave ended suddenly with the so-called dot-com crash in March 2000. By 2004, Web 2.0 and social media emerged as a third wave of ICT innovations where user-driven content, interactivity, netwempowerorking and collaboration were the

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