Reflecting on the theme of Design Public III, I had earlier blogged about the significance of civil society participation to promote an inclusive innovation culture in India. Many participants of the conclave emphasized the need for a more democratic approach to innovation, privileging the knowledge of others. “When we listen to others that’s where the design begins,” remarked Subramanian during the panel discussion exploring the theme of participation and innovation. While much has been talked about the significance of inclusive innovation in India, do we really believe in participation or inclusion? This was one of the fundamental questions raised during the panel. We would need to reflect more deeply on the attributes of the collaborative platform if we really hope to build an inclusive innovation culture in India.
Considering that the majority of the population of the country is still not comfortable with text, as evident from mobile usage behaviours, we would need other mediums, perhaps more visual, to acquire an understanding of their needs. Contrary to other platforms of participation implemented in western countries, the question of scalability would also become significant in the Indian context owing to the large population size. While technology may be a medium to reach out to the masses, it become evident during the panel discussion that real time platforms may be required to more effectively engage the users.
The real value of the conclave though became apparent when we were able to take some of these theoretical ideas forward in the smarter cities breakout session. The objective of the exercise was to design an appropriate collaborative platform using technology to address a specific challenge. We selected the challenge of mobility and realized it would be critical to involve citizens from different socio-economic classes, ranging from those who use different modes of public and private transport to pedestrians and people with special needs. We proposed designing collaborative games with strong visual components in public spaces to acquire real time feedback from citizens. Designing the game more like a recreational activity, we realized, may help in motivating the citizens to participate.
At the same time, strong social hierarchy in India would make it a challenge to bring together citizens from various socio-economic classes in one platform. Collation and analysis of feedback collected from various stakeholders was foreseen as another challenge, which could possibly be overcome through the use of technology. Though we began the exercise with the vision of using technology to build such a collaborative platform, we realized that perhaps a more hybrid model is needed to effectively engage members of the civil society. This dichotomy between proposing a platform that reaches out to most people versus a medium that is able to effectively acquire inputs from the citizens would need to be deliberated upon while designing collaborative platform for addressing any innovation challenge in the Indian context.