• Gabriel Saez joins Innovonomics

    I am excited to announce that Gabriel Saez has joined Innovonomics as Partner and Vice President. Gabriel brings a number of years of experience with him. I am happy to share Gabriel’s thoughts, in his own words. Rizwan

    I am thrilled to join Innovonomics. Rizwan and I come from remarkably different personal backgrounds. And yet, we share a passion for development – of ideas, and of people. The reasons why we joined efforts also help explain why we believe Innovonomics is in a position to effectively help companies and societies to achieve their potential. Let me share a few of them.

    First, because we have a well-rounded, historical and practical understanding of the role and importance of innovation, both for human development and for economic growth, we also know that, if the innovative impulse is to reign, we need to work in different dimensions of our social life. In other words, we need learn how to move forward in the context of the existing institutional framework while also looking beyond, searching for ways to modify it. Consider, for example, the following words by Roberto Unger:

    “Once societies have escaped the extremes of poverty, the major constraint on economic growth ceases to be the size of the economic surplus, coercively extracted by the hierarchies of class. It becomes instead the vigor of innovation – technological, organizational, and intellectual. That was already the chief constraint at least since the time of the early industrialization of Europe: economic surplus in Europe was no larger than in the China of the Ming-Ching dynasties or in other agrarian-bureaucratic empires that fell back into relative backwardness. Innovation requires the greatest possible freedom to recombine and transform not only the factors of production but also the ideas and arrangements that enter into the institutional setting of production and exchange. The advantages of a market economy are diminished if the market remains fastened to a single legal-institutional version of itself.”[1]

    Second, we are open to experimentation. That is, to find new solutions for new problems in new ways. Experimentation does not equal chaos. Every experiment should follow a method – an applied theory. For companies and societies to thrive they first need to determine a desired direction, a horizon, and then start working on the first steps. Along the way, changes in the strategy will be needed. As Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen puts it,

    “Blindly copying the best practices of successful companies without the guidance of circumstance-contingent theory is akin to fabricating feathered wings and flapping hard. Replicating their success is not about duplicating their attributes; it’s about understanding how to generate lift. Good theories are circumstance-based. They describe how managers need to employ different strategies as circumstances change in order to achieve the needed results. The use of one-size-fits-all processes and values historically has made the creation of growth tortuous. One of the most valuable contributions you can make in the growth-creation process, therefore, is not keep watching for changes in circumstances. If you do this, you can understand when and why changes need to be made long before the evidence is clear to those whose vision is not clarified by theory.”[2]

    Third, given our different but complementary professional and academic trajectories, together we are able to navigate the waters of business, politics and academia, taking advantage of the opportunities each of them offers for a better understanding of the needs and possibilities of companies and societies.

    Finally, we believe that deepening our knowledge in areas of our expertise does not mean that we close our minds to new, fresh ideas. On the contrary, we have shown and continue to show a disposition to investigate, to discover and to learn from any source of knowledge, anywhere.

    For these reason, I am confident we can fulfill the purpose Innovonomics was created for. I hope that, in the near future, you will give us the chance of assisting you in your quest for transformation and success.

    About: Gabriel Saez is the Partner and Vice President of Innovonomics, a niche consulting firm focused on consulting, policy-input, programs and ventures that leverage innovation for economic and social transformation. He was a Mason Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and previously worked at Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Latin American School of Social Sciences, and as an advisor to several NGOs and government agencies. 

    [1] “The Religion of the Future”, page 169.

    [2] “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, page 287.

  • The three critical factors for education-innovation success: context, context and context

    Life can be hard if you are an education innovator. On the one hand, there is the excitement of seeing amazing innovations and innovators breaking new ground; on the other, are the myriads of examples of the seemingly compelling initiatives that failed when translating from paper to real impact. From classrooms-of-the-future, personalized learning to MOOCs, the road to education innovations nirvana is littered with thousands of programs, initiatives and projects that promised much but somehow failed to translate that into tangible impact. What then distinguishes a program or initiative that works, to one that bombs spectacularly. In three words – context, context and context.

    Let me return to an example that I have written about before to illustrate my point – the Knowledge Network announced by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and a number of partners including the University of Trinidad and Tobago and Coursera – one of the largest providers of Massive Open Online Courses. The partnership combined coursework, on-site support, certification, proctored exams and internships to create an all-encompassing package that addressed a specific need for the country. Let us peel that apart a little more.

    The reality that birthed the Knowledge Network looks like this:

    1. Rich Country: The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a High Income Economy, with a GDP per Capita (nominal) of approx. $22,000.
    2. Small Population, Geographically Concentrated: It has a population of 1.3M people. The total area of the country is about 2000 square miles, which means there are about 700 people per square mile.
    3. Widespread and Affordable Internet Access: According to the ITU, 63% of the population has access to the Internet, with 15% of the households with fixed broadband services. As a reference, in 2010, 28% of households in Japan had fixed broadband, and 34.5% in Germany. Most importantly, the yearly cost of fixed broadband – when expressed as per capita GNI, (a measure of the affordability of broadband) is less than 1%, suggesting broadband access is fairly affordable.
    4. Functional Primary Education Sector: The government has placed a huge focus on its education sector. The primary school enrolment in the country has been 97%+ for the last 20 years. Equally, if not more importantly, the primary completion rate (measured as a percentage of relevant age group) has been above 90% for the last 10 years.
    5. Functional Secondary Education Sector: The progression to secondary schools metric for 2007 was 90%, meaning 90% of students who completed primary went on to enroll into secondary school. Equally importantly, the lower secondary completion rate for the same year was 90%.
    6. Misfiring Higher Education Sector: It is the tertiary education segment of the overall education system that seems to be misfiring. In 2007, labor force with tertiary education stood at 10%, one of the lowest for a High Income Economy. In the same year, the percentage of labor force whose highest education was primary stood at 27%, while the remaining 63% of the workforce had a secondary school certificate. For comparison, the percentage of the labor force with a tertiary education in the US is 93%, and in the UK is 61%.
    7. Financial Incentives Alone Haven’t Worked: The government provides tuition assistance via GATE (The Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses) to all students studying at accredited local and regional universities.
    8. Strong Link Between Tertiary Education and Employment Opportunities: It is important to note that less than 2% of the unemployed youth had a tertiary degree, i.e. a tertiary education certificate almost guarantees employment for someone in T&T.

    It is in this context, that the Knowledge Network was put in place. Simply put, it was the unique combination of all of these factors that created an environment that was rich for an education innovation like the Knowledge Network. If even one element has been out of place, it would have been difficult to see this approach works. If, as an example, the cost of fixed broadband were too high, it is unlikely that the target population for this intervention (people with a secondary school certificate but without a tertiary degree) would have been able to afford high-speed internet access.

    Secondly, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago had a very clear idea of the problem it wanted to solve, as it set out to remedy a specific problem with its workforce. A high percentage of students are dropping out of the education system right after completing their secondary education, not making the transition to tertiary education. With a clear idea about the problem that it wanted to solve, it was able to assemble a coalition to create a customized solution that responds to that particular need.

    The Knowledge Network that it has put together to respond to this need is comprehensive and well thought-out initiative, surrounding the learner with a number of supporting elements and support services.

    Students will have access to learning materials (provided by Coursera, Khan Academy and others) that they can access online, or physically at the University of Trinidad and Tobago campuses – in a blended learning environment. Students will have teaching assistance provided by in-person assistants (as opposed to the remote course assistants that are associated with traditional MOOCs). Student will be required to come in physically at specific points in the courses, so that their attendance – and achievement – can be verified. Finally, 400 recent graduates of the courses will be placed within local businesses, allowing them to complement their education with real-world experience.

    In short, there are a number of factors that make the Knowledge Network a realistic and comprehensive solution to a well-articulated problem, with a solution that is customized to this specific context; with its combination of access, recognition and incentives, a holistic model has been put in place to address a specific, pinpointed problem. Such clarity enabled the sponsors of the initiative to create a responsive model, and design appropriate monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that can be used to fine-tune the program over time.

    Of course, it is still early days, and we will need to wait to see the tangible results coming out of this program, but it seems safe to say that the program has all the elements that a contextually-sensitive education innovation should have in place to maximize its success probabilities.

    Education innovators across the world will be looking at this initiative, looking for lessons they can learn as they create place-specific innovations better suited to their own environments.

     

     

    Thank you for reading my post. I write on the topics of education innovation, technology and innovation. Please feel free to followme on Twitter, or on LinkedIn to stay updated.

    About: Rizwan Tufail is the Founder of Innovonomics, a niche consulting firm focused on consulting, policy-input, programs and ventures that leverage innovation for economic and social transformation. He was a Mason Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and was previously the Regional Director for Africa for Microsoft, having also led Microsoft’s education efforts in the Middle East and Africa prior to that. You can follow him on twitter at @rtufail and on LinkedIn

     

  • A Small, Offline and Closed (SOC) blueprint for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

    Last week, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and a number of partners including the University of Trinidad and Tobago and Coursera – one of the largest providers of Massive Open Online Courses – announced announced a multi-stakeholder partnership to create a Knowledge Network. The partnership will see the Coursera courses and learning materials, and learning resources offered by the Khan Academy, offered to all potential students free of cost.

    What sets this partnership apart from existing implementation is the rich network of support – and value – that the students are surrounded with, enhancing the ‘tangible value’ that can accrue to the students and to the country. For followers of the MOOC phenomenon, the hope is that this partnership could create a blueprint to get MOOCs to deliver on their long-standing promise. What is interesting, however, is that the experiment that could create the blueprint for future success is itself small, offline and relatively closed (SOC for short).

    The background first. (If you want to skip the background, please ignore the italicized part)

    This partnership is significant, and for the proponents and detractors of MOOCs alike, couldn’t have come at a better time. The popularity – and instinctive appeal of the MOOC concept has never been in question – Coursera itself signed up approx. 1 million students in its first 12 months of operations, and today boasts of 9 million users. Hardly a day goes by without another university announcing its partnership with one or the other MOOC provider – including edX, FutureLearn, Coursera and Udacity. Over two-thirds of all chief academic officers believe that online learning is critical for their institution.

    Yet, despite all the enthusiasm, there remain a number of concerns around MOOCs, and their potential to deliver the sea-change that we desire in terms of universal education.

    First and foremost are the practical considerations that threaten to wipe out the gains promised by the open-approach. MOOC offerings continue to see very high drop-out rates and efforts to engage students have so far failed to significantly raise completion rates. The change of heart by Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun maybe the most visible ‘defection’ from the open, always-free vision that drove the idealism behind MOOCs in their early days, but his certainly isn’t the only voice. Universities that flocked towards MOOCs as a quick addendum to their course-offerings are beginning to flinch at the high up-front cost of developing the training materials, and professors are wary of expanding effort to develop materials they will not own, particularly when faced with the twin realization that the business model – or the business advantage to the universities themselves – is murky at best. Questions have been raised about the quality of learning that is possible with a MOOC-based education. Not surprisingly, empirical evidence suggests that people registering for MOOCs are generally people who already have college degrees, and are taking these courses purely for their own intellectual stimulation. In other words, they are serving an already privileged and educated community, and have done little to expand educational access as promised. Finally, with a remote educational model, assessment and student verification has always been a problem for MOOCs – which is why many MOOCs offer you a Certification of Completion – but very few allow this to be translated into a college credit; as this infographic explains, very few students see these certificates as a career-enhancing qualification.

    Then there are the philosophical considerations — a problem of the educational experience itself. The initial proponents of MOOC were excited about the emergence of a new pedagogical construct, where the traditional role of a student and a teacher is blurred – the student is the teacher; the course exists to provide the connectivity and glue – while the participants continue to teach themselves and others as the course progresses. This vision of an open educational experience – commonly referred to as the cMOOC vision – was quickly overtaken by the xMOOCs paradigm, with its teacher-centric pedagogical model, where the only difference between a MOOC and a classroom experience is the ‘separation in space and time’ between the ‘teacher’ and the learner.

    In, short MOOCs are failing to meet the high expectations that birthed them and are increasing beginning to look like the building blocks in what David Noble pejoratively called the Digital Diploma Mills. No wonder then that we are beginning to see the early signs of a revolt.

    It is in this light that the announcement’s significance is further enhanced. Then why do I argue that the model is Small, Offline and Closed?

    SMALL: Firstly, in the world of MOOC, where average class sizes are 43,000 and higher, the number of students who will participate under this program are miniscule. Given the population of secondary-school leavers in T&T, the maximum number of new students that could be pulled into university is approx. 30,000 students per year. The current enrolment of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) on the other hand is estimated to be about 10,000-15,000 students. Even if this initiative doubles the university intake, it would be a fraction of the average class-size for a MOOC.

    OFFLINE: The Knowledge Network envisions Coursera content being utilized within physical classes held at the University of Trinidad and Tobago campuses – in a blended learning environment. Students will have teaching assistance provided by in-person assistants (as opposed to the remote course assistants that are associated with traditional MOOCs. It would be fair to point out though that Coursera itself has been experimenting with ‘Learning Hubs’ – physical centers that complement MOOCs – and now has a number of Learning Hubs across the world.

    CLOSED: Because this rich learning environment will be available through the UTT, physical limitations mean that this will be a closed environment. Student will be required to come in physically so that their attendance – and achievement – can be verified.

    It is this offline and closed nature – and the verification that is allows – that paves the way for what may become the most compelling element of the program for young students – the internship program. That program, open only to graduates of the Knowledge Network, will see 400 recent graduates of the courses being placed within local businesses. It will provide these recent graduates with real-world experience while at the same time increasing the organizational capacities of local business. The concept of internships for new grads is not new (organizations like CareerEdge have been doing this here in Canada for many years), but tying the internship program to the completion of the required courses will create a greater incentive for course completion, helping overcome a traditional limitation of MOOCs.

    So, is Small, Offline and Closed another strike against MOOCs? Far from it. The SCO model actually represents the kind of holistic development approach that we should be taking for all technology-enhanced development perspectives.

    By recognizing that technology is one component in a well-thought-out comprehensive initiative, the architects of this program could have helped us nudge towards a more successful and enduring model of MOOCs – even if it has elements of ‘small, offline and and closed’.

  • Building Innovation – one city at a time

    Not a month goes by, it seems, without another African city, state or national government announcing its plans to start an ambitious innovation city or park. The vision is simple enough – create a space where similar-minded technologists can meet, discuss, theorize, plan, collaborate and finally seed new ventures that will drive economic transformation of the country. So far so good.

    However, a few years after a number of cities and countries embarked upon this strategy, would it make sense to pause and reflect upon the success of the strategy? These are generally huge financial-commitment projects (e.g. Kenya’s Konza Tech city is estimated to cost $14.5B, Ghana’s Hope City will reportedly cost $10B, and Tanzania’s Rhapta City will reportedly cost $1B. Given the huge price tag on these projects, has there been enough thought given to the role that these technology cities will eventually play in creating an innovation ecosystem?

    The previous generation of technology parks in Africa – much more modest in their aspirations and outlay, have largely failed to meet the much lower bar of success set for them. Initiatives like Abuja Technology Village, Botswana’s Innovation Hub and a number of other similar initiatives can boast of world-class plans and infrastructure but have very little to show in terms of impact on the local digital economy.

    The problem with the ‘technology-city’ model of driving innovation is that even when the technology city succeeds, there is no guarantee that the innovation benefits that we seek will accrue. Take Dubai as one example, whose Dubai Internet City today hosts the Middle East and Africa Headquarter of nearly all the major technology vendors. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, HP and many other companies have moved their sales and customer support operations to Dubai, but next to none of the R&D, or core product development, which is so critical to the innovation spillover benefits that policy makers seek.

    Policymakers in Africa countries are clearly impressed by, and following the model of the likes of International Technology Park Bangalore. The key question to ask, though is whether the success of the technology industry in India is because an IT Park was built there, or whether an IT Park was envisioned to accelerate the growth of the technology business, which had all the key requirements already in place. Remember, Southern India, has a long tradition of a nearly universal literacy. It has historical traditions of interest in, and excellence in, mathematics. It had universities that were producing a critical mass of engineers, computer science graduates and scientists who could come together to fuel the growth of the industry. Karnataka – the state in which Bangalore is based has 42 universities, hundreds of technology institutes, and a greater number of colleges. With investments of the kind being contemplated, merely back-office outsourcing isn’t enough; these investment will only bear fruit if the core technology development and research jobs – with their higher budgets and innovation spillover possibilities – also move as a result of these investments. Do we have the critical mass of technologists, computer scientists and engineers in place to make the model work across the African cities?

    This is not to say that technology cluster development doesn’t have a role to play in incubating the growth of new industries; such clustering is a key innovation policy instrument used globally to foster closer partnerships – between business and academia, and also between business themselves (Research Triangle Park and the Silicon Valley being oft-quoted two examples). The core difference is that such cluster developments are meant to take advantage of resources that are already present. In the case of Africa, could it be said many years later that governments would have been better off building the required building-blocks (high quality education, research expertise etc infrastructure) before embarking on these investments. Only time, we guess, will tell.

  • Can We Get Students to Read More?

    One of the over-riding ambitions in starting Innovonomics was to support entrepreneurial efforts that can truly drive large-scale transformative change with the smart application of technology. Yes – the creation of the new-to-the-world technology is an important ingredient of any national innovation policy, but let us not forget about the impact of start application of very simple technologies.

    READvantage – a social venture that Innovonomics will be nurturing over the next few months, is about using simple technologies to embed a culture of reading in young learners. It has been created with the mission of helping create better societies and citizens through the power of reading. 

    Why reading? Well, a large body of academic and empirical research points to the positive impact of reading—particularly reading for pleasure–on academic achievement and progress, cognitive development and income levels. Readers show greater literacy, vocabulary and language development and are demonstrated by research to perform better academically. Readers are shown to have higher incomes, and are also known to be better citizens (with higher correlation to better health, volunteering, and strong satisfaction with life). Finally, reading is shown to be a great social leveler; as an example, 15-year-olds whose parents have the lowest occupational status but who are highly engaged in reading obtain higher average reading scores in PISA than students whose parents have high or medium occupational status but who report to be poorly engaged in reading. Reading also helps overcome the ‘endowment effect’;  the combined effect of reading is 4 times more powerful than having a parent with a college degree.

    It is hard to deny the value of reading to the development of knowledge and information societies across the world. For many learners, however, their reading journey starts and ends in the classroom; in the absence of libraries, reading programs and a supportive culture of reading, most students lack the basic literacy skills for them to succeed. An estimated 30 to 50 per cent of school-leavers after four to six years of primary education in developing countries are neither literate nor numerate. The data is not very encouraging when you look at developed country results either.

    A lot of work so far has gone into facilitating access to reading materials. However, facilitating access to reading materials for early learners is only one, albeit critical, piece of the solution. Analysis of effective reading programs and intervention shows that motivation, guidance and social recognition are critical components to plan within a program. READvantage is designed, therefore, to address all of these areas, encouraging and motivating young learners as they start their reading journeys.

    We are extremely excited about the work planned by READvantage over the next few months, and look forward to sharing more.

  • Virtual Economies or Real Ones?

    It would be a gross understatement to say that the emergence of information technology has had a profound impact on how we live, learn, connect and play. Digital technologies have impacted nearly all aspects of our lives, enriching many smart entrepreneurs and spawning the growth of large technology businesses.

    The developing world has been a keen participant in this process, both as a consumer of technology as well as a supplier of technology and manpower; the universal technology phenomenon owes nearly as much to the Silicon Valley as it does to India in making these technologies ubiquitous. On the consumption side of things, the developing world has been an avid and hungry recipient of technology, modifying and customizing it in many instances to its own needs.

    As the technology-economy has grown, so has the desire of many developing world countries to participate more fully in this process. Countries like Taiwan and Vietnam have staked a part of the technology manufacturing process, India continues to grow its outsourcing business, and countries like The Philippines and Vietnam have been making inroads into outsourced client service as well as video animation industries, to name a few.

    Across the emerging world, policy makers continue to look at digital opportunities and craft strategies to build out a ‘digital economy’ in their countries. Kenya – with its Silicon Savannah – has ambitions to build technology as a key component of its economy, Mauritius identified ICT as the fifth pillars of its economic transformation plan as it looks to lessen its dependence on the textile and sugar industries, and Ghana listed Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) as a key, targeted growth area as part of its development plans.

    The desire – and the financial allure – to contribute to the global technology industry is understood and appreciated, but from a policy-maker’s perspective, is there more to be gained by targeting technology to drive efficiency and productivity gains in the major economic sectors of my developing country, rather than by creating a new technology sector. If agriculture accounts for 43% of the workforce and 28% of the economic output of my country, can I focus on driving innovation, productivity and efficiency in that sector, thus contributing to the livelihood of a much greater number of people. In a world of limitless opportunities, and limited resources, where should I focus?

    At Innovonomics, we are privileged to have been given opportunities to explore such questions, in partnership with, and on behalf of, a number of entities. We are excited by the work, and are thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to shaping the thinking about how technology can be engaged more emphatically for wide-scale change and economic reimagination. Join us as we ask these critical questions, and help us find the answers – together. Our collective future depends on it.

  • ICT – Innovation Endpoint or Innovation Enabler

    Recently, Innovonomis was given the opportunity to present a thought-paper on the role played by ICTs in national innovative systems. We have removed the client-specific information from the note below, but are sharing it further as a continuation of the discussion of the critical role of ICTs in innovation worldwide.

    In your observations, are you seeing your government, employer, supplier or partner acting consistent with the view of ICT as an end-point or ICT as an innovation catalyst?

    As always, your thoughts are welcome.

    ICTs and Innovation:

    The centrality and criticality of technology and innovation to national economic development has been well documented by a number of scholars. In fact, Drucker had famously argued that any development that has taken place over the past few decades is largely attributable to technology development.

    One of the most profound changes that has happened within the last two decades has been the rapid rise in the emergence and adoption of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). They have changed the way we work, interact, communicate, entertain and even socialize. The effects of technology have been largely positive, on aggregate output as well as productivity, despite the concerns famously expressed by Solow, that ‘‘the computer age is everywhere but in the productivity statistics’’. What, specifically, have been the effects of this widespread adoption of technology globally, and what are the effects specifically on relatively underdeveloped parts of the world.

    Quite significant it seems. Researchers have established a strong link between technology innovation and economic development. Brynjolfsson and Yang, in a through review of existing literature of the topic, researched and catalogued studies that associate ICT with productivity growth. They refuted the productivity paradox, and showed that the mixed results obtained so far had largely been driven by data quality issues. More recently, a study of 120 nations between 1980 and 2006 by Christine Qiang has reported a strong link, and has estimated that each 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration results in an additional 1.3 percent to a high income country’s gross domestic product (and 1.21 percent for low to middle-income nations). There is a broad recognition that digital technologies have the power to create new economies of scale, and efficiencies, driving virtuous cycles of economic growth.

    In preparing for such growth, however countries are faced with two distinct potential areas for growth. They can either focus on harnessing these digital technologies to transform their existing productive sectors, driving efficiency and productive within these sectors and making these sectors more economically viable and internationally competitive. Another strategy has been to look at the new opportunities created by the emergence of information and communication technology industry and to seek to become a producer of information and communication technology products and services.

    It must be pointed out that these two strategies are not mutually exclusive, but we do see countries (or regions) seeking to strategically focus on one or the other. The development of India as a business processing outsourcing center is an example of an intentional focus on the second strategy; the adoption of technology by Iceland to improve the efficiency and productivity of its fishing industry is an example of the first strategy.

    How then should one think of the role of ICTs. When it comes to innovation systems, given the criticality of communication, collaboration and connection between the various players in an innovation system, it can be argued that the biggest value-add from ICTs is in the possibilities it creates for multiple players to interact and collaborate, in real-time, transcending the boundaries of time and space. This role of ICTs is critical because it is cross-cutting, working across sectoral boundaries; it allows a climate change lab in Lagos to collaborate on research with an agricultural innovation lab in Benin, while also working with an infrastructure development project in Kano. It enables universities and researchers spread geographically to collaborate in real-time. It can be argued therefore that the role that ICTs play in this scenario are more catalytic in nature, as their presence serves to magnify the potential impact and outcomes of all the players, if they had been working individually. It is this catalytic nature of ICT that distinguishes it from other inputs and technologies.

    The question then, however, is whether this broader, central and catalytic role of ICT in enabling innovation systems (and consequently innovation-driven-growth) is understood by all players in the innovation systems, including the governments, universities and private sector. If this is the case, we can expect to see a focus from government and universities to (1) emphasize ICT deployments as a strategic asset, (2) deploy ICT widely and broadly internally to see a broad level of collaboration emerging, (3) efforts to deploy digital technologies to connect various innovation system players like universities and research centers, and (4) efforts to integrate the utilization of technology across various disciplines and courses of study.

    Conversely, if the role of ICT is seen at best as a production sector and employment generator (i.e. treating technology as an end in itself), we are likely to see (1) the study of ICT in a silo-ed environment with computer science seen primarily as a subject in itself, (2) incentives for local creation of ICT rather than broad-scale deployment, (3) incentives to create a local ICT industry, focused on the creation of ICT products and services for an export market, and (4) limited penetration of ICT deployment and usage within non-ICT sectors of the economy.

    Similarly, if the private sector players within the ICT sector also take a narrow definition of the role of ICT, then it is likely that their efforts, besides the profit-maximizing strategy of seeking deployments within larger corporate customers, is likely to be one of supporting the development of many technology-creation ventures whose primary focus is to create and sell technology products and services to customers outside of the country.

    The remainder of the discussion paper had client-specific info so has been removed. 

  • Why Start Innovonomics?

    Strating Innovonomics Inc. was and truly remains a journey of the heart. It is a desire to be able to contribute to a vision of the world that I believe in – a vision in which technology, entrepreneurship and innovation combine in many ways to create a better future for an ever increasing number of people across the world.

    I am a firm believer in the power of technology and the innovative spirit to dream, visualize, conceptualize, manifest and implement change.

    As a young technologist and technophile, I helped visualize and implement the business transformation of an established media-house, helping push it into the digital age, years ahead of its competitors. As an entrepreneur, I played a role many year back in creating technologies that became the precursor to what we call social media technologies today. As a business executive years later, I led teams that worked with governments across the Middle East and Africa to modernize the education system. As the Regional Director for a global technology firm, I helped governments re-engineer their processes and systems in their drive towards greater efficiency, transparency and effectiveness. As a trusted policy advisor to governments, I helped advocate policies, procedures and standards that would allow them to better leverage technology to modernize economic sectors, enhance competition and encourage business growth. Finally, as a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, based on my practical experience in this space across emerging markets, I helped drive thought leadership on how, where and when societies can be rejuvenated with technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and education.

    Innovonomics Inc. is the vehicle to take this journey broader, in partnership with partners (govt, civil society and donors) to scale up the impact of this work. Through Innovonomics, the intent is to work with entrepreneurs, foundation leaders, policy-thinkers as well as business executives to create sustainable platforms for innovative change. It is a very exciting, yet somewhat lonely, journey and I hope you will check in occasionally to lend your support, provide encouragement and offer constructive feedback. The work has begun.