The limitations of innovation without wider backing?

With our series of discussions on Social Innovation in mind, here’s an excellent piece on why innovation is failing to tackle big problems, Tech Review editor Jason Pontin notes that in fact technology cannot solve everything.

He quotes Famine as a Grade A example:

Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate economist, has shown that famines are political crises that catastrophically affect food distribution.

(Sen was influenced by his own experiences. As a child he witnessed the Bengali famine of 1943: three million displaced farmers and poor urban dwellers died unnecessarily when wartime hoarding, price gouging, and the colonial government’s price–controlled acquisitions for the British army made food too expensive. Sen demonstrated that food production was actually higher in the famine years.)

Technology can improve crop yields or systems for storing and transporting food; better responses by nations and nongovernmental organizations to emerging famines have reduced their number and severity. But famines will still occur because there will always be bad governments. [emphasis added]

The point Pontin is making here is a much larger one than we often draw from our own historical experience of famine. And that is that in order to create meaningful innovation there needs to be a degree of wider public will to make it happen.

Tomorrow’s #DigitalLunch for the Building Change Trust on Social Innovation asks what makes Innovation sustainable into the medium and the long term?

Join us then, either here on Slugger, on Twitter using the hashtags #BuildingChange and #SocInn, the live YouTube page (which I’ll post tomorrow) or best of all via Google Plus itself.

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