SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Transformative innovation policy addresses inequality

Professor Johan Schot gave a keynote at the Lerchendal Conference in Norway on 7 February 2017 on the ‘World in Transition: New Forms of Transformative Innovation Policy’. In his speech he unveiled his new research on transformative innovation policies and their potential to swiftly and significantly improve lives in marginalised societies.

Watch Professor Schot’s 15-minute keynote in full:

His talk drew upon a recent working paper, co-authored with former SPRU visiting research fellow Elsie Onsongo: ‘Inclusive Innovation and Rapid Sociotechnical Transitions: The Case of Mobile Money in Kenya.’ The research focuses on the introduction of a mobile money system called ‘M-Pesa’ which provides basic financing services – credit, transfers and account management – via standard mobile phones and shops, to those with no prior access to banking facilities. Their research found that the availability of these services improved – among other benefits – the safety, employment levels and economic growth in low-income communities.

Celebrating not only the significance but also the speed of its success, Professor Schot attributed the scheme’s effectiveness to the principles of inclusive, transformative innovation and the policies that enable it. Steered with genuine, sustained commitment from those involved – alongside boldness and willingness to take risks for the sake of change – the system’s introduction also relied on user-level experimentation and feedback.

Showing tangible, indisputably positive results after just 15 years, the authors argue:

Mobile money innovation is at the centre of a sociotechnical transformation in the financial services sector in Kenya that saw changes in the regulatory framework, in market shares, user practices and social networks across multiple regimes. While sociotechnical transitions often take about 50 years, the mobile money revolution in Kenya has taken only 15 years, and has resulted in remarkable levels of financial inclusion of marginalised people.

The Lerchendal Conference 2017 – themed “modernization, change and digitalization” – was attended by minsters and other politicians from Norway and Sweden, alongside representatives from academia and business. Its aim is to contribute to societal change by balancing the social, ecological and economic aspects.

Further information

Watch Professor Schot's Lerchendal Conference keynote

Read the paper: Inclusive Innovation and Rapid Sociotechnical Transitions: The Case of Mobile Money in Kenya' and others on Professor Schot's website.

View the Lerchendal Conference 2017 programme in English.