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March 2012

Disruptive Innovation needed, submit your ideas now

Jean-Louis Racine's picture

Henry Ford once famously said that if he had asked his customers what they wanted they would have asked him for a faster horse. If he had listened to his customers, the Ford Motor Company may never have existed, or would be called the Ford Faster Horse Company. The automobile became what is called a “disruptive innovation” meaning that it radically displaced the incumbent technology (the horse and carriage) by not listening to the demands of mainstream consumers, but trying to uncover their real needs.

This is the approach the World Bank is now prototyping in Indonesia: Trying to uncover the real clean energy needs of rural communities by understanding their underlying energy-related problems rather than simply asking them what technologies they want. The Indonesia Green Innovation Pilot Program is prototyping a new approach to fostering green disruptive innovation. The first stage of the program is being launched this week, and consists of identifying possible challenges – or problems – linked to energy in rural communities. In keeping with the logic of disruptive innovation, the program does not start with a market demand study, or a survey of clean energy solutions in the market, but with uncovering stated and unstated needs that affect the population of a rural community in their everyday lives. This is being done in three ways: One is through field research by a team of designers from Inotek and Catapult Design, a second way is through consultative workshops in Jakarta and in the rural communities,  and a third is through a “call for challenge” where the program is using a crowdsourcing approach to collect problems linked to energy in rural Indonesian communities. If you are in any way familiar with rural Indonesia and its energy challenges, the program invites you to submit a challenge through this website.

Ask the experts! Upcoming MENA Forum on Economic and Political Transitions

Caroline Freund's picture
The year 2011 will be remembered as the year of the Arab Spring. Revolutions brought new governments to Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, while a number of other governments in the region introduced important reforms.  The peoples’ demands are clear: democracy, dignity, better governance, and a more inclusive growth model.  Now is the time to deliver. Yet, the political, economic and social developments are shifting and it is not clear how the population’s heightened expectations can be met. 

Women, loud and clear

Swati Mishra's picture

These few words from the ‘The Face of Female Farming’ aptly capture some of the roles and responsibilities of women in our society. Yesterday, the world celebrated the 101th year of International Women’s Day. Today, we continue to celebrate and honor women and girls worldwide by highlighting some interesting work and articles produced by the World Bank in the field of gender over the past year.

A Manhattan Project for green innovation? Try open innovation instead!

Jean-Louis Racine's picture

Read this post in Bahasa.

Last week the World Bank launched a new approach to fostering green innovation called the Indonesia Green Innovation Pilot Program. Its aim is to learn how open innovation principles can foster the generation of market-based solutions to clean energy.  A core team of designers (Catapult and Inotek) will work  with rural communities, the public and private sectors to design clean energy solutions that can be adopted by the market.  Keeping in line with open innovation, its first activity is to identify challenges or “problems” that will be addressed by the program through a crowdsourcing approach. So if you are in any way familiar with rural communities and energy issues in Indonesia, the program invites you to submit a challenge here until March 17.

Can the state lead on tackling the the problem of climate change? (photo: Kristoffer M.C., Flickr)But, if you think coming up with the kind of technology required to tackle climate change will require something akin to a Manhattan Project, rest assured, you're not alone. Googling "climate change" and "manhattan project" returns a whopping 1,540,000 results. But what does creating a "Manhattan Project" really mean? Besides uncomfortable thoughts of human-inflicted destruction, sheer scale is the first thing that comes to my mind. At its peak, during World War II, the US government employed 130,000 people in the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. The project's size together with several other features made it a classic case of what I would call "brute-force innovation": it was centrally-planned, closed, and science-driven. Even though the project included research teams across different universities, public research labs and companies across the United States, nothing was leaked in or out and each team had a very specific assigned task and plan. Through the Manhattan Project the government spearheaded the research, developed, testing and deployment of a revolutionary technology from start to finish over a span of four years. And there were no startups, spin-offs, royalty incentives, public-private-partnerships, venture capitalists, crowdsourcing, first-mover advantage, standard-setting or IPOs. Basically none of the buzzwords we associate with disruptive innovation in the 21st Century.

Is mobile technology over-hyped?

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

At an event at the New America Foundation in DC  and in a recent article in Slate, Sascha Meinrath and Jamie Zimmerman argue that mobile technology in general and mobile money in particular have been overhyped as game-changing tools for the poor.

They claim that mobile technology “creates a greater economic divide” and that Kenya’s M-PESA mobile money system is “leaving a substantial portion of the nation’s poor in even more dire straits.”

Tavneet Suri and Billy Jack and separately Kevin Donovan have already beaten me to the counterpunch with cogent rebuttals. Here’s my own two cents:

Getting to Equal in Education

Elizabeth King's picture

International Women’s Day is a good day to remind ourselves that gender equality is indeed smart economics. As the global economy continues to struggle to regain its footing after a severe economic slump, it is increasingly apparent that the power of women must be harnessed—and it must happen now.

Les « Maman Lumière » de Djibouti donnent l’exemple pour changer de comportement et améliorer la santé

Marie Chantal Messier's picture

Mothers discuss child rearing in Djibouti (credit: Marie Chantal Messier).

Nous étions assises sur des tapis de sol, dans la chaleur et la poussière du quartier Moustiquaire, le plus pauvre de Djibouti, pour parler des pratiques d’alimentation des enfants. Des voix se sont soudainement élevées dans le groupe. Plusieurs femmes insultaient et montraient du doigt l’une d’entre elles qui baissait honteusement la tête.

Mes homologues djiboutiennes m’ont expliqué que la femme embarrassée était critiquée parce que son fils ne parlait pas encore à 5 ans. Au lieu de donner de l’eau à boire à son nouveau-né comme le veut la tradition, elle avait choisi d’allaiter son dernier enfant au sein exclusivement jusqu’à l’âge de six mois.  Le groupe pensait que ce choix expliquait les problèmes de développement de l’enfant.

Ma première réaction a été de me dire : « la pression du groupe est un véritable obstacle à la promotion des méthodes d’allaitement optimales à Djibouti ! »

Women in transition

Caroline Freund's picture
In a new study, Mélise Jaud and I examine how countries transit from autocracy to democracy.  We find that 86 countries have tried over the last 50 years, with 42 successful and quick, 13 successful but slow, and 31 failed.  We also look at the determinants of attempting transition, given you are in autocracy--as well as the determinants of sustained success, given that you try to transit.

Djibouti’s "Shining Mothers": Role models for behavior change, better health

Guest Blogger's picture
My Djiboutian counterparts told me the embarrassed woman was being criticized because her 5-year-old son still doesn’t speak.  Rather than follow the ancestral tradition of giving water to her newborn, she chose to exclusively breastfeed her last child until he was 6 months old. The group asserted that this choice had led to the child’s developmental problems. My immediate reaction to the scene was, “Peer pressure is a true obstacle to promoting optimal breastfeeding in Djibouti!”