Technology and innovation: what are the hot topics? - Open thread
• How can the power of technology and innovation be used to create positive social change and what is the role of business in this?
• Explore our new content hub and tell us what you would like to see us cover
Mobile phones have moved from "yuppie toys" to a market driver in developing economies, says Diane Coyle. Photograph: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters/Corbis Jayanta Shaw/ JAYANTA SHAW/Reuters/Corbis
Technology and innovation are powerful tools for change, in both positive and negative ways. As we begin to face up to the multiple economic, environmental and social challenges of our time, could it be that technology offers the solutions at the speed and scale required?
From clean energy to the mobilisation of collaborative consumption, the force of technology to drive sustainability is in many ways unrivalled. Africa's mobile banking revolution, global consumer movements such as Tck Tck Tck, alternative energy sources and the power of social media to propel change are all examples of technology's unique ability to redefine the way systems, society and governments work.
Innovation within business, such as Nike's work to scale sustainable textiles or the growing incorporation of biomimicry in the design of buildings, could offer new ways of thinking and doing. But its not just about grand ideas. The kind of systemic change required to tackle large scale sustainability challenges will only come about through collaboration; by bringing together and catalysing the ideas of product designers, business thinkers, regulators, NGOs, scientists and many more experts.
In an interview on Guardian Sustainable Business, Diane Coyle, author of Economics of Enough, describes technology as "a driver" for sustainable change. Doyle uses mobile phones as an example of the transformational effect that technology can have, explaining how they have moved from being "yuppie toys" to being a market driver in developing economies.
However, she also warns that technology has a dualistic nature and can further entrench elite power structures within society.
"We are in an economy with lots of concentrated power, the economic elites are extraordinarily powerful. Just look at how little banking and financial reform there has been given a crisis on this scale, I find it absolutely extraordinary but that's a measure of embedded power in the economy and technology could embed that even further."
Jo Confino also writes about how technology can have negative effects in this blog post. While technological developments offer some solutions, Confino says that "advances in technology have largely been responsible for creating our unsustainable, globalised economy and a consumerist and agricultural monoculture."
Ultimately, as Senapathy Gopalakrishnan, co-chairman at Infosys, says, it will be people who decide whether technology is leveraged for good or bad and where the limits lie.
"If you look at the challenges facing humanity today such as climate change and poverty and water scarcity, they all need answers from using technology, but we have to be very careful we look at any unintended consequences. We have to control technology rather than letting technology control us."
So how can business, government and society ensure that technology is a force for good?
How can the powerful solutions that technology and innovation hold be used to create positive social change? What is the role of business, government and society in ensuring that developments are used for good not bad and are companies really investing in transformative future solutions?
To kick off, Christian Sarkar, co-founder of the $300 House Project, asks whether business can solve the world's biggest problems through disruptive change, Dan Lockton explores how consumers can be empowered to repair their products and sustainability innovator, Rachel Armstrong, argues that business is not investing enough in the future, with companies settling for incremental progress rather than transformative change.
We'd like to hear from you about the topics you'd like us to cover on the hub. What areas of technology and innovation do you find most interesting? What themes are often left off the media radar and where do you see the biggest opportunity for technology to propel sustainable change? Tell us in the comments section below, tweet us @PALAKSYS or email ushere.
We're looking forward to hearing from you and enjoy all that our new hub has to offer!