Innovation in the Public Sector

I. Introduction

For the last 30 years, relentless technological innovation has seemingly conquered most, if not all, corners of the world. While in its early stages, the focus was on infrastructure and social networks, the latest phase has set its eyes on core productive and financial processes that will undoubtedly have profound socio-economic and environmental impact across the board. Rapidly adapting to the emerging global context is the clarion call for most countries if they want to remain relevant and competitive at the global level.

Many developing countries find themselves in a unique situation. For starters, most innovations and technologies hold a foreign passport and thus need to first travel and then be adopted and adapted to the national context. Having local capacities  –

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A Glance at Carbon Dioxide Emissions Data

Lack of data is certainly not one of the issues at the table when discussing energy production and carbon emissions. Well-known sources for the former include the UN Statistics Division, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and British Petroleum (BP).  The latter publishes an annual report while IEA data is behind a paywall. EIA offers open data access to a vast number of resources, including international carbon emissions. The main source for the latter is the Global Cabon Project created in 2001 and operating as an international partnership. The World Bank has carbon emissions data starting in 1960, but updates seemed to have stopped in 2014. The Global Carbon Atlas, initially funded by the BNP Paribas Foundation, is a good secondary source

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Waste no time waiting for e-Waste data

The town where I currently reside is planning to change its e-Waste collection policy starting next year. As it is today, town people can go downtown once a month and drop their old computers, laptops, monitors and the rest. This will now be reduced to one day per year. Missing that date will entail people having to go to some other place out of town to take care of business. Or one could try to go to a nearby and more affluent village where one can drop the stuff at any time. Probably not kosher, though.

I am not sure if this change is the result of budget cuts or lower demand for such service  – or both. I am not really following town decision-making processes. But I do know that e-Waste collection is a state law, and all towns must thus take care of business. Note that appliances such

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Chasing ICOs (away?)

Recent events seem to suggest the cryptocurrency bubble is finally starting to deflate. Bitcoin, Ethereum and most of their crypto cousins are significantly down while regulators in several countries are finally beginning to take action on the ground. Nobel laureate economists are also speaking up against the digital currency, arguing that the new currency is not capable of fulfilling the three core functions that define money.

Does this mean that ICOs are on the way out?

If we look at the latest ICO data,((Data was obtained from tokendata.io. Sample size includes 1032 ICOs completed by the end of 31 January 2018. 485 or 47% percent did not report any funding. The total number of successful ICOs is thus 547. The DAO ICO is not included as it is considered a failure. Hdac, quoted by some

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Overall Perspectives on Technology

Disruptive, transformative and revolutionary are some of the adjectives commonly used to describe the potential impact of new and emerging technologies on society. Joblessness, human decay, and the Singularity sit on the opposite side constantly reminding us of the darker side of technologies.

Indeed, there are two traditional approaches to the social impact of technology which, despite their very divergent predictions, share a common trait.

The first and most commonly accepted approach is the instrumental approach. Here, technology is a tool: A hammer is a hammer; the Internet is the Internet, ready to be used by people – but lacking any intrinsic social value. In this perspective, technology is neutral meaning 1. Technology can be used in any social environment and can thus be easily

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Social Innovation Redux

Context

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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25 Years of the Sustainable Development Networking Programme, SDNP

The Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) was a UNDP global program that ran between 1992 and 2004.  SDNP’s core goal was to enhance access to sustainable development information on a multi-stakeholder basis using new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Its scope of work was driven by Agenda 21, the sustainable development agenda endorsed by UN member countries at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Agenda 21 was composed of forty chapters, organized under four separate headings. The very last chapter of the agenda called for increased access to information for decision-making as one of the means of implementation of the agenda. Adding to its approach the targets of chapters 27 (strengthening non-government organizations) and 37 (capacity building in developing

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Theories of the Mobile Internet: Book Review

There is indeed no scarcity when it comes to books and articles dealing with the so-called mobile revolution. While most present the now usual techno-utopian perspective, only a few offer an adequate analytical framework to try to explain the rapid evolution and diffusion of mobile technologies around the world. The recent book by Herman et al. is an excellent example of the latter.

The book, a collection of 13 articles from different authors, explores in detail the dynamics of the mobile Internet which is becoming the dominant form of access to the network of networks. It tackles the issue by posing two relevant and related questions: how does the mobile Internet creates “zones of connectivity that are fluid, transportable, and meaningful?” (pg. 2). And second, what are the immobility structures

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Innovation and Inequality in an Unequal World

Innovation has taken the world by storm. More than a pure 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 significant 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 excellent 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 regarding income and wealth. But it says little to nothing on the role new technologies can play in this evolution. The fundamental 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 indeed no strangers to inequality. Here, we can

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