Inspiring innovation to meet development challenges
24 Nov 2014 by Nicholas Rosellini, Deputy Regional Director for UNDP’s Bureau in Asia and the Pacific
It is not unusual to hear citizens across the world complain about their government. How little things, such as fixing broken street lights or clearing garbage, can get neglected. So how do you create a more responsive government?
One small island in the Maldives is testing an idea to generate dialogue between residents and their municipality.
The concept is called Make-My-Island. It draws inspiration from two ideas.
The first is the UK-based site Fix-My-Street, which connects communities to their council through mobile technology and the web. The second comes from the fact that there are over 600,000 mobile phone subscriptions in the Maldives, twice the national population. Our goal was to capitalise on this to connect islanders to their municipal authorities. A mobile application and website allows residents to flag municipal issues directly to the island council.
For instance, if a local fisherman notices someone illegally dumping garbage, he can immediately send a text message from his mobile phone to the council, identifying the location of the problem. The complaint is recorded on the website and mapped digitally.
The number of complaints recorded about an issue allows the council to quickly ascertain which concerns should be designated as a priority, and thus respond accordingly and efficiently.
Make-My-Island demonstrates how we are increasingly looking to innovative approaches, and reaching out to non-traditional partners such as Fix-My-Street, to tailor a cost free solution for the island's residents. The prototype places the users at the centre of the design: they identified the issues and are championing the testing phase.
For us, this solution goes against the popular misnomer that innovation is all about technology. Along our journey, we have found that the key contributing factors to innovation are rethinking the way we approach challenges, and pushing beyond our comfort zones.
Our approach has led to innovative projects across several countries:
- In Nepal, a UNDP project is using games and social media to question gender stereotypes;
- In Sri Lanka, we're crowd sourcing youth engagement to aid in policy making;
- In Bangladesh, UNDP is gathering behavioural insights to address traffic problems in mega cities like Dhaka;
- In Malaysia, we are crowd funding citizen contributions to help with biodiversity conservation;
- In Papua New Guinea, we are using mobile technology to monitor corruption.
By encouraging innovation and partnering with thinkers and innovators we hope to spark conversations and collaborations that address the complex development challenges we face across the world.