By Nishrin Kachwala, Harshita Chopra, and Tanya Dixit
How diverse global technology teams can positively influence the future through new modes of innovation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given us an imperative reminder of the existing gap among global communities. The digital divide and deep-rooted inequality have been affecting vulnerable populations around the world. As a result, countries are facing high uncertainty with far-reaching consequences on education, healthcare, and unemployment rates.
“The lockdown created fear and panic; The country is already in disaster. People cannot get to work or their business meaning they can no longer earn a living. The casual workers who survive on a daily wage also suffer. The government has promised food donations for vulnerable people who have lost their source of livelihood but have yet to fulfill. The cause has led to an increase in thievery and other sorts of violence for survival.”, shared Murindanyi Sudi from Uganda, in the early days of the pandemic.
Zaheeda Tshankie expressed her worries regarding South Africa, “A huge disparity in my country is the contrast between the poor and those who are middle-class and above. Most poor communities are more concerned about their next meal, not a virus.”
We need to act, now
The pandemic has shown us that dealing with its challenges on a global scale is fiendishly difficult. Recovery of these severe setbacks to human development and the poverty gap has to be mitigated by a different economy post-COVID.
As Dawid Mondrzejewski mentions about Poland,
“We are an economy that functions predominantly on relatively cheap labor. Unemployment is low, but most salaries are also small. I am worried if killing the economies is worth it if we so laxly approach the support for the possibly affected? Hopefully, around the world, fewer people will die from the economic slump, than from the virus.”
But even after the harsh effects of the pandemic, people are hopeful that the situation can be overcome through solidarity and innovation. They are taking matters into their own hands as indicated by Dev Bharti from the UK who says, “I feel our biggest challenge will be to try and restore balance in nature (not just talk) using innovative means, else nature will find ways such as this pandemic to balance things out. And it is crystal clear that this change needs to come bottom-up from people themselves, as the top-down approach has not worked!”
Serhiy Shekhovtsov from Ukraine is using his skills to improve healthcare,
“I can see a lot of reasons to stay optimistic here. The whole world is fighting this together. I think one of the best ways to deal with stress and anxiety is to get yourself involved in the fight. I am building a free AI assistant for medical imaging. Hopefully, it will help many doctors someday.”
Solving wicked problems together
Be it the movements that started like #MasksForAll of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO, people have come together to support each other in ways never seen before. There is a common feeling of solidarity and “being in this together” that is empowering collaborators from all around the world to develop solutions for these wicked problems.
“A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems.”
Going by the definition, COVID-19 is definitely a wicked problem. It is a storm in which we are all together, but in different boats, some rockier than the other. Challenging issues or problems often take time and vast amounts of resources to get solved. Sometimes thorny problems get solved quickly and without a whole lot of means. Through the diversity of thought, passion for the task at hand, and swift learning. In other words, through collaborative innovation.
Collaborative innovation is a way to tap into the passions of Guts, Glory, and Gold. A space to try lots of ideas and embrace different perspectives; where there is freedom of thought and exploration. Such diversity allows us to examine any problem in multiple ways and gives birth to innovative solutions.
At Omdena, most of our problem statements are wicked problems. The future lies in solving the issues that matter. Technology is not the end. It is a means to an end. We need changemakers, people who have a broad set of skills and can solve multi-disciplinary problems, collaboratively.