By virtue of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development the international community expresses its conviction that global challenges need to be solved collectively. Key in this context are global formats of cooperative partnership.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play a decisive role in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. That is because digital innovations, methods and approaches offer opportunities and solutions for sustainable development and can particularly help to pursue the goals of the Agenda 2030 faster, better and in some cases more cost-effectively. The significance of digital innovations is therefore also explicitly emphasized in four of the 17 goals of the Agenda 2030.
Hence, digital innovations can pose key drivers for sustainable development by opening up access to knowledge, education, labor markets and new business fields while they can simplify communication. Moreover, digital innovations could make an important contribution to improve the living conditions of primarily marginalized social groups – just as they can help achieve the climate targets.
Nevertheless, this potential has not yet been exploited in many different (local) contexts. One reason for this is that the opportunities which digital innovations offer to solve have not yet been realized. On the other hand, although digital innovations and solutions are already being developed in many contexts, they often do not contribute to sustainable development as such.
Furthermore, in many cases there is a lack of detailed analysis of societal challenges involving all relevant actors. As a result, many digital innovations and solutions are ultimately not used given that they are not developed in line with the actual needs of their target groups and fail to contribute to solve societal challenges. An additional problem is that digital innovations are often developed from scratch in different regions and sectoral contexts instead of transferring existing innovations to new local (country) contexts and adapting them in a targeted manner with the involvement of relevant local actors.
The Innovation Factory is a project implemented by the German development cooperation to address the aforementioned issues. The project focusses on the promotion of local digital innovations and technologies that contribute to solving local problems and help to achieve the SDGs. In addition to promoting these digital innovations, the project also contributes to strengthening cross-sectoral and/or cross-regional cooperation systems in and between the partner countries Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico and Senegal.
In order to achieve this goal, the project focuses on three fields of action:
- Identification of digital solution approaches
In the context of workshops and events, social challenges in the partner countries are identified together with relevant local actors. Potential solutions are then identified, for example through idea competitions.
- Preparation and development of digital innovations
Selected digital innovations are (further) developed through targeted accelerator programs on site, taking into account local conditions and the target group(s).
- Scaling of local digital innovations
Successfully identified and developed digital innovations are prepared for scaling up to other suitable countries and contexts.
Implementation & current status
To identify societal challenges, the project organizes events such as learning journeys, workshops and site visits.
Another central component of the innovation factory are idea competitions with the aim to identify promising innovative digital approaches.
During the preparation phase in May and June 2019, bootcamps were held in the partner countries with the aim of gaining an initial overview of existing local challenges, ideas and possible innovative solutions. In addition, the teams behind the bootcamps were specifically supported in further developing their digital innovations. Building on this, a six-month accelerator program is taking place in the five partner countries until October 2020. After the Accelerator programme has ended, 12 winning teams will receive support specifically tailored to match their needs. These tailored support packages will be rolled out in early 2021 and serve to foster success of the projects in the long-run, ultimately contributing to sustainable development in the target countries.