It is common knowledge that serving rural areas is fraught with unique challenges. The ongoing trial of various ICT technologies in the rural domain as part of an IIMB led consortium has been an enriching experience and has thrown up interesting insights. The innovation have been largely focused on the health, education, agriculture and rural development sectors and is aimed at providing quality services to the rural folks. These services could be anything…timely delivery of income/caste/ land ownership certificates, basic health services, timely availability of seeds and fertilizers, adequate coaching in schools …etc. However it is naive to think that these issues will be solved by just innovating and trying out new technologies in these areas.
The key lies in execution and how the innovation is ultimately put to use through careful technology management, process adherence and sustenance. Companies need to persevere to see to it that the innovation meets its purpose. An organizational executive commitment to inclusive innovation is necessary – right from its development to its actual execution such that it benefits the intended target groups. There are people with different skills required to be in such an innovation exercise such as in the inclusion arena. A class of individuals is there, who are mostly driven and excited by technology and are eager and restless to see their idea working in the field. They are satisfied if the stuff works and would like to move on to a newer innovation exercise. Execution and taking the innovation to the logical end so that the intended beneficiaries are benefited is not their piece of cake. Organizations need to have a different breed of innovators who execute upon this available technology and make it serve the purpose that it was ultimately intended for. Even though both class of innovators need to be creative, their goals and aspirations are different. This is just one of the many challenges that we face with innovation especially in the inclusive area, where there is a need for patience and perseverance that goes beyond mere technology innovation.
The telemedicine trials that we have been involved in, as part of our initiative, is a good example of the everyday challenges we face in the rural domain. Despite resolving the initial challenge of low quality of video transmissions, the execution aspect fell through due to various organizational issues like scheduling, doctor availability and nurse availability at patient end. These steps required certain perseverance in execution to take the technology through and we have realized we need a different set of people with the right attitude to make it work. The MCTS (Mother Child Tracking System) adjunct application is another interesting technology innovation example that faced several operational challenges and required demonstrations and elaborate trails to get the necessary buy in. This application is useful in ensuring the caregivers actually carried out home visits for expectant mothers by tracking the information and location through GPS co-ordinates publishing. In another case, we hit upon the idea of using Adobe Flash Media Server as a solution to support live streaming and video on demand to address various requirements in the Agriculture, Health and Education sectors. While the basic trails have been promising, we still need to apply it in a broader situation, i.e. – beyond the classrooms or health clinics – to make a powerful statement that this innovation really works and that way is indeed inclusive.
In summary, being creative and hitting upon the right idea is a good start. But taking it through till the real intended beneficiary benefits requires an entirely different attitude and mindset. Organizations that are committed to inclusive innovation need to also innovate in getting organized accordingly with the right blend of manpower, or as we say – "horses for courses"!?