The Needs of a Governance Innovator: The Technologist

This is the fourth of a series of blog posts summarizing recent need finding efforts for the Governance Collaboratory, an initiative to bring design thinking to governance challenges in the developing world.  See our previous posts herehere and here for further discussion on this work.  

africantechTechnologists are distinct from Activists and Reformers not just because of their unique skills skills but also because they tend to be farther removed from the people they are seeking to help.  This presents both unique challenges as well as opportunities: whereas activists and reformers are necessarily focused on local problems, technologists often have the ability to up level their solution and turn it into a platform for adaptation across many contexts.

Our technologist interviews were fascinating and eye opening: we spoke with an anthropologist with a programming hobby who couldn’t help but develop a communication platform in his spare time after he repeatedly saw the need in local NGOs across Africa.  We interviewed a female blogger who devoted herself to developing a technical response to crisis in order to cope during electoral violence that contradicted her positive view of her country.  We learned that one of development’s most celebrated technology platforms might have remained a single intervention had a respected outsider not recognized its potential.

The following technologist needs resonate most with us:

  • Impassioned activist responding to local emergency needs external perspective to see what’s possible because he is limited by myopic focus on solving local problems
  • Young innovator needs external validation and support to feel confident and capable enough to bring ideas to scale
  • Privileged recent graduate need to apply herself to challenges in home country because she feels strong sense of responsibility and she recognizes unique capacity to affect change
  • Reluctant innovator needs to experiment with what tech can offer bc he can’t sit idle once he identifies opportunities to empower local orgs
  • Outsider tech-hobbyist needs to empower those close to the problem bc he recognizes what he has to offer are tools, not solutions

We’d love to hear reactions, especially from the technologists out there.