WHO IS DR. SILVIA HOSTETTLER?
The field of international development and humanitarian aid is so broad and diverse that it is essentially impossible to keep up with everything that is going on. Combine that with the rapid pace of technology development, communication and all-things-internet and you wouldn’t be alone if you felt a bit overwhelmed by it all. The good news is that there are a growing number of forums, groups and conferences that interested professionals can tap into to dive deeper into their area of interest, connect with others of like mind or, perhaps most importantly, take time to look up from their desks to see how the rest of the universe is out there trying to help those in need.
My guest today on the 112th episode of the Terms of Reference podcast is Dr. Silvia Hostettler and she spends a good deal of her time convening spaces where development and humanitarian professionals can interact. She is the Deputy Director of the Cooperation and Development Center (CODEV) at EPFL in Switzerland where she is responsible for coordinating research activities and for the UNESCO Chair in Technologies for Development – who, incidentally, are also responsible for hosting the biannual Tech4Dev conference in Lausanne. Silvia She is also in charge of the educational program offered by CODEV and gives lectures in the field of development cooperation, in particular on the potential of technologies and innovation in the Global South. She is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Development Engineering and of the Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE).
You can connect with Silvia here:
IN TOR 112 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- The Conference of the UNESCO Chair of Technologies for Development, helmed by Silvia. Its magnitude, successes and remaining challenges.
- Why despite the technological progress, Silvia thinks it’s not fast enough.
- Silvia’s views on upscaling good ideas, the weaknesses of innovation silos, and the promising innovation outcomes from the “Global South.”
- UNESCO and its Chairs Programme.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
(List of UNESCO Chairs:
- École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
- EFPL’s UNESCO Chair of Technologies for Development
- EFPL’s UNESCO Chair of Technologies for Development Tech4Dev Conference
- Jaipur Foot
- University of California, Berkeley
PhD on Development Engineering
- Development Engineering (Scientific Journal)
- UN Women, HeForShe Campaign
- Swissnex, NextTrend
- Sustainable Development Goals
- COP21 – Paris Agreement
- Mobile technologies
- Innovation Upscaling
- Accountability towards Intended Beneficiaries
- Locally Sourced Technological Supply Chains
- Development Systems
- Precision Agriculture
- 3D Printing, medical applications
- “Fab Labs”
- Development Engineering
- Lausanne, Switzerland
- New York
- South Africa
- Burkina Faso
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
UNESCO Chair of Technologies for Development: The Conference
Bi-yearly event, flagship product of the Chair.
400+ people from 65 countries.
Two years ago: “What is essential.“
This year: Innovation and Social Impact. “There is a lot of talk about innovation, but things are not changing. Let’s focus on the crucial step.“
Areas: ICT4D, Open Development, Renewables, Disaster Reduction, Medical Tech, Humanitarian Action.
“[T]hings are not changing” quickly enough
It is the current year and still 2 billion people living under $3 a day. Inequality is rising.
2015 was a landmark though, with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the Paris Agreement on Climate.
BUT, they are still on paper. “Innovation has not had as much impact as it could have.“
Mobile technologies has opened doors, but “a lot of things have gone wrong along the way.” Mobile healthcare, banking, could be much more widespread.
Many initiatives don’t grow out of prototyping phase. Beneficiaries don’t adopt it, impact is not measured. “Did you attain the goals you set when you started innovating?“
The scaling cycle is more complex than most innovators think.
We now know it is about technologies with financially sustainable business models. This is a precondition for upscaling.
“We have to co-develop.” More and richer interactions to address existing needs, not theoretical ones. Confrontation is imperative.
“Don’t sit in the North.“
It may sound as stating the obvious. “Your tech may not be successful.“
75 paper presentations over 3 days.
It is encouraging to see promising results from local contexts, but activists tend to overlook the road ahead. Achieving robustness is exponentially harder.
The other kind of accountability, not towards funders but to the communities, the intended beneficiaries, is largely overlooked.
Any interesting, financially sound ideas?
EPFL’s Global Diagnostics. 70% of medical equipment sent to Africa is unused after a year because of maintenance, operation or electrical issues. This led to a rethinking of the X-Ray machine and its supply chain.
A constant seems to be that technologies resulting from innovation for development are well received in ordinary global markets.
Stephen: A donor might want to promote technologies in developing regions but as a result of industrialized work.
This has not been Silvia’s experience. Donors seem to support locally sourced manufacturing and general supply chain operations. South Africa tends to be a hub.
Humanitarian action: convergent field?
The line between development and humanitarianism is often a blur.
Often a scalable technology is sorely needed in emergencies. EPFL always supports deployment in those cases.
Development systems will not progress if they are not considered interrelated.
Advances in standardizing innovation lab work
There is a lot of work ahead to improve relationships between development innovators.
Innovators are problem solvers.
Politics don’t seem to have an effect on innovators’ work.
Mobile penetration is an opportunity, not a solution. Many projects, previously impossible, currently look to tap into the power of communication networks. “But we are far from reaching widespread adoption” of effective technologies in specific problems (healthcare, finance),
An EFPL’s Precision Agriculture project in Burkina Faso using mobile phones and sensors shows good results.
Field Ready a 3D printed medical devices effort in Haiti. It acts on demand and deploys quickly for emergencies and crises. A similar initiative exists in Togo, a “Fab Lab” based on recycled materials.
“There are a lot of dedicated people.“
But there is less funding available.
“I might sound idealistic, but when there is less money you have to innovate more.“
Questions about fairness in the global capital markets, which “engineers cannot solve.” Political climates.
Need for new economic systems. The refugee crisis alludes to this.
Engineering education lacks context when taught in the development world. This has given rise to “Development Engineering” as a response. UC Berkeley is a leader with a PhD program and a top Journal.
What does UNESCO have to do with all this?
“They have a large mandate.” Historical sites, water.
Prospective chairpeople reach out to them. UNESCO articulates different chairs. Silvia often works with the UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Engineering in Developing Communities from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
EFPL will support new chairs in India, Africa.
“It is a global network. It has brought a lot of value to us.“
What’s on Silvia’s good side
The Innovation Development Potential of Women.
UN Women HeForShe Campaign. Backed by Unilever, Twitter.
Swissnex Network, NextTrends.
Fab Labs in Kenya, South Africa, Senegal.
Impact Hubs Network. Innovation from the Global South.
3D Printing. Mobility, solar powered, medical equipments, affordability.
In TOR 112 you’ll learn
- About the Conference of the UNESCO Chair of Technologies for Development, helmed by Silvia. Its magnitude, successes and remaining challenges
- Why despite the technological progress, Silvia thinks it’s not fast enough
- Silvia’s views on upscaling good ideas, the weaknesses of innovation silos, and the promising innovation outcomes from the “Global South”
- On UNESCO and the valuable global network that is its Chairs Programme
Please share, participate and leave feedback below!
If you have any feedback you’d like to share for me or Silvia, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below! I read all of them and will definitely take part in the conversation.
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