What is inclusive innovation?
In China, scientists developed a multi-functional diagnosis table, which integrates diverse healthcare checks into one bed. And it only costs $5,000, significantly lower than other medical equipments with similar functions.
In the Philippines, a contact center has been set up for farmers and fishermen to get professional advices in agriculture and fisheries technologies, marketing and sales, pest and disease management, etc., through phone calls, SMS, online live chat, online forum or email.
In Thailand, a lifelong education and development center is open for all, where the tuition fee is 400 hours of community service and planting 400 trees.
What do these cases have in common?
First, they are innovative, in one way or another. Second, they deliver high-quality services at a very low cost, aiming to include many previously excluded people in sharing the benefits.
In a word, they exemplify the very concept of “Inclusive Innovation”.
China has been keen on promoting innovation to sustain its growth. The Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012 ranked China 29th out of 142 economies in its innovation index, which is the top ranking among BRICS. But this has, so far, much focused on innovations at the technological frontier.
China’s 12th Five-year Plan (2011-2015) marks a shift in focus from “pursuing economic growth” to “sharing the benefits of development with all people”.
In this context, the Ministry of Finance of China and the World Bank Group recently organized the Regional Inclusive Innovation Policy Forum in Beijing, to share international and China’s experiences in “inclusive innovation” and discuss how to incorporate the idea into the government’s innovation-led growth strategy.
“Innovation could be a key driver not only for increasing productivity and competitiveness, but for reducing inequality and poverty,” said Hamid Alavi, a senior private sector development specialist at the World Bank.
With the rapid growth of emerging economies, disparities have also increased in these countries. “Inclusive innovation is about utilizing innovation to serve the needs of people at the economic base of the pyramid,” said Kurt Larsen, a senior education specialist with the World Bank Institute (WBI), “giving them access to basic goods, services and livelihood opportunities.”
Cases of Inclusive Innovation across Asia
At the Forum, participants from different sectors shared cases of inclusive innovations that worked well in their countries:
Jia Jingdun, Director of China Rural Technology Development Center, Ministry of Science & Technology of China:
“In 2002, China launched a project to dispatch scientists to rural areas, to help farmers start small and innovative businesses. Till 2011, 170,000 of them have been dispatched and the businesses they helped build up attracted over $700 million of financing and benefited 50 million rural households.”
Shi Yinghua, Fellow at Research Institute for Fiscal Science, Ministry of Finance of China:
“The new government procurement policies of China are a good example of inclusive innovation- they mandate giving preference to suppliers which are committed to energy conservation and emission reduction and which are locally-owned, small-and-micro enterprises.”
Mahabir Pun, CEO, Nepal Wireless
“We’ve been using Wi-Fi technology to build long range wireless networks in rugged mountain villages of Nepal, which provide services such as e-education, e-health, communication, and e-commerce activities.”
Nitin Gachhayat, CEO, Drishtee, India
“We deliver 4C support for rural entrepreneurs, which means Capital support (loans), Capacity support (to develop their skills), Channel support (in procurement of raw materials and sales of finished goods) and Community engagement (to help them form partnerships with local communities).”
Anil Gupta, Exec Vice-Chair, National Innovation Foundation of India
“We developed http://www.techpedia.in as a platform for linking technology students with the real life problems in their society. The platform has already pooled more than 100,000 projects by 50,000 students from over 500 institutions.”