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SP11 - Frugal Innovation and Digitalisation

Convened by Erwin van Tuijl and Peter Knorringa (Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

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This seed panel plugs into the wider societal and academic debates on digitalisation and sustainable development by providing a platform to critically discuss the linkages between digitalisation, frugal innovation and rhythms of development. The development and usage of digital technologies have a transformative impact on societal and economic development, which increasingly rely on these technologies. Thereby, we make a distinction between two perspectives. The first one is digital technologies as frugal innovation. For instance, digital platforms like M-Pesa or WhatsApp are regarded as frugal due to having low or no costs for users and wide accessibility. This perspective also encompasses adaptation of digital technologies by using local available materials that makes them cheaper, easier to use and repair, and more accessible. Key examples are frugal versions of 3D printers or drones. The second perspective are digital technologies within frugal innovation processes. For instance, frugal innovators can use digital platforms to share ideas, to generate knowledge and funding or to scale their frugal products, whereas drones can be used to deliver frugal products to unserved customers in remote areas. Both perspectives can be criticised, for example in situations where they might lead to digital exclusion or (unexpected) higher costs.

To feed the debate around frugal innovation, digital technologies and implications on (new) rhythms of development, we invite scholars and practitioners to submit conceptual and/or empirical papers on for example:

  • ICT4D and frugal innovation, also taking into account the differences between sectors, nations and digital technologies (e.g., Artificial Intelligence, drones, or platforms)
  • SDGs, digital technologies and frugal innovation
  • Smart cities and frugal innovations
  • Digital technologies and geographies of frugal innovations
  • Dark sides of (digital) frugal innovations
  • Policies, digital hubs/labs, maker spaces and frugal innovation
  • Digital technologies, frugal innovations and responses to crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, war, floods, wildfires or other disasters
  • Frugal innovation and digital inequalities

This panel is organised by the EADI Working Group on Frugal Innovation and Development