Opportunities for Social Innovation at the Intersection of ICT Education and Rural Supply Chains
Alice Chang, Anjana Sena, Jia Shen, Sally Mouakkad, Lance Joseph, and Khanjan Mehta
IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference
Cheng, A., Sinha, A., Shen, J., Mouakkad, S., Joseph, L., Mehta, K., “Opportunities for Social Innovation at the Intersection of ICT Education and Rural Supply Chains” IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference, Seattle, Washington, Oct 2012
The conventional model of education can be viewed as a linear transmission system, where information goes from a teacher to a student. At the same time, in rural business supply chains, products and services are delivered in a linear manner from producer to agents to consumers. These linear supply chains and education systems are top-down and hence struggle with quickly adapting to market dynamics and globalization. They are inherently inefficient and difficult to scale, resulting in widening educational divides and “last mile” supply chain challenges. This paper highlights opportunities for social innovation that emerge at the dynamic intersection of informal education systems and rural supply chains in the developing world. We discuss the largely untapped potential of ICT education in creating an unconventional means of education integrated into the supply chains that provide livelihoods for a large demographic in the developing world. Our approach seeks to utilize the potential of ICT education in three ways: to increase ease of access and relevance of material through its integration into the supply chains, teach life skills beyond conventional vocational training and introduce a feedback loop that enables players at all levels of the supply chain and education system to actively contribute to the design of the system. This multi-level information and communication technology (ICT) platform can be used to facilitate iterative learning where the knowledge emanates from the participants and their indigenous ways of knowing and doing. Interaction at all levels provides agency to the participants while serving as a means for the long-term preservation of such local knowledge. Our team has designed and piloted Prerana, an ICT platform in collaboration with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and the Rural Distribution Network (RUDI) in western India. We conclude the paper with a case study of the working mechanics and field-testing results of this system.