Thinking differently (frugal innovation in the Global South)

It was terrific to have the opportunity last October to talk at Mobile Developer Summit in Bangalore, India. One of the coolest things was freedom of topic. A lot of the time, when giving some kind of public talk, the topic is kinda set already. Perhaps the organisers have a theme, or there’s something specific to advocate for business reasons. For these kinds of reasons, I’ve talked about a lot of things that I’m somewhat dispassionate about.

This time there was a lot of freedom, in most part because I was invited to speak. Big in India?!

The day before that happened, my colleague Nag Kandukuru sat with a group of Experience Designers from ThoughtWorks – at a global meet-up in Pune – to talk about myriad important differences in software development and digital products for the Global South. Nag spoke passionately about how developing countries sometimes aimlessly follow the trends of the West, with disregard to the suitability of those solutions for the social and economic context of the Global South. Similarly, there is so much innovation – frugal innovation – that happens in the Global South that the rest of the world could really learn a thing or two from.

This inspired me tremendously. What Nag talked about is fundamentally aligned with what I believe design to be. That is, a solution to a problem within set constraints. The problems are human, the solution is design and social and economic context are a large part of what constraints are about.

Also, I really didn’t want to be the white guy telling an auditorium full of Indians how they should do stuff better, which would no doubt be tainted by my narrow minded, mollycoddled, western world views. So, I asked Nag if he’d give the talk with me, so that that we could present more balanced and more meaningful.

This is the result!


Leave a comment