Local innovation leading to system transformation

2 May 2016 18:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016.]

Prof. Peter A. Bruck (Chairman, World Summit Awards (WSA)) moderated this thematic workshop in which he highlighted the role played by the WSA in fostering digital innovation around the world.

Bruck initiated the session by providing a brief history of the WSA and its transformation from being a small regional idea from Austria to a global activity with national experts in 178 United Nations (UN) member states. He added that it is used to identify the best practices for information and communication technology (ICT) in promoting culture, education, governance, agriculture, environment, and women and gender issues, and further, to motivate people to work for the welfare of society. He added that the WSA functions in a multistakeholder set-up with the participation of start-ups, entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), mentors, jurors, IT experts, governments, and other international organisations.

Bruck briefly spoke about the uniqueness of the WSA and how it focuses on narrowing the digital divide and in bridging the content gap. He added that it does so by emphasising smarter content, knowledge transfer, social impact focus, local innovation, and networking of successful entrepreneurs. He said that the global awards bring out the best ideas in digital innovation and interactive applications that are linked to addressing the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). Bruck provided various examples of applications from around the world that help in addressing the immediate issues faced by their local communities. One such application was Motech from Ghana that uses mobile phones to help pregnant women. The application delivers vital health information to women in local languages and thereby helps them to tackle the challenges they face during pregnancy.

Bruck stressed the role of the WSA in creating best practices that facilitate content-focused innovations with a goal of engaging people with smart content. He then introduced the categories for WSA and the transparent process through which the winners are chosen from regional and international groups.

 The WSA categories include:

  1. Government and Citizen engagement
  2. Health and Wellbeing
  3. Learning and Education
  4. Environment and Green energy
  5. Culture and Tourism
  6. Smart settlements and urbanization
  7. Business and Commerce
  8. Inclusion and Empowerment

Mr Alfredo Ronchi (General Secretary, Medici Framework) added how people from around the world create something new with the same technologies that help address local issues.

Ms Nora Wolloch (Project Manager, WSA) presented her experience from the WSA and added how the event brings together innovators from around the world and presents them with a stage for global impact. She highlighted various cases of successful collaboration between entrepreneurs with similar ideas from different countries.

Ronchi stressed the role of empathy within the group which motivates people to work with no economic interest or paybacks, yet be committed to the goals and participate in the process of improving the lives of people.

Answering a question on the participation of youth, Bruck stated that the World Summit Youth Award (WSYA) focuses on young developers and their creativity. He added that to participate in the awards, the applications should be workable, implemented, and offered publically in the market. He stressed that the main criterion for participation is not the commercial success of the application but rather how well it resolves the problem which it is set out to resolve. He called the WSYA a game changer that brings equality and encourages youth entrepreneurship.

On the question of educational institutions, Wolloch answered that there are special events for university students facilitated by the WSA with the help of their national experts. She presented the case of Mexico where university professors from other parts of the world were brought together for an interactive session aimed at inspiring professors to work with their students in a more innovative and inspiring manner to boost student entrepreneurship.

Bruck explained that the key idea of WSA is not to centralise, own, and control but to bring in synergy, collaboration, and networking by creating an approach that relies on an open and accessible collaboration. He added that this is within the WSIS process and within the mandate the UN has given to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

by Krishna Kumar Rajamannar