Shobita Parthasarathy and the I2Hub...

Tuesday, September 24, 2024 (12:00 - 13:30 EST)

How Inclusive Innovation Shapes Understandings of Public Problems: Examining Tech for Sanitation and Hygiene in India

International development institutions, governments, and social entrepreneurs have become increasingly enthusiastic about ‘inclusive innovation.’ The term refers to efforts to use science and technology to alleviate poverty and inequality, and improve countries seen as “under developed”. India is a central site for these experiments because it suffers from significant inequality, has a robust science and technology workforce, and has a long history of adopting a heterodox approach to knowledge and technology. What separates inclusive innovation from previous efforts is the urge to bypass infrastructural projects in favor of devices that are easy to make and circulate, and to use markets as a path towards societal betterment and individual empowerment. Over the years, there have been repeated analyses of the limitations of inclusive innovation, or tech for good, initiatives. But in this talk, I will discuss their political dimensions, whether they succeed or fail. Through an examination of innovation efforts in sanitation and women’s health in India, I will examine how inclusive innovation—and perhaps innovation more generally—is shaping how we understand public policy questions and solutions, and ultimately, our understandings of risks, benefits, and the public good.

About the speaker:

Shobita Parthasarathy

Shobita Parthasarathy is Professor of Public Policy and Women’s and Gender Studies, and co-founder and Director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program at University of Michigan. Her research examines the political economy of innovation and innovation policy focusing on equity and justice, and the politics of knowledge and expertise in public policymaking. She often takes a cross-national or international perspective in her research, and has published widely on genetics and biotechnology, intellectual property, innovation policy, and artificial intelligence. She is the author of numerous articles and two books: Building Genetic Medicine: Breast Cancer, Technology, and the Comparative Politics of Health Care (MIT Press, 2007) and Patent Politics: Life Forms, Markets, and the Public Interest in the United States and Europe (University of Chicago Press, 2017). The former influenced the 2013 US Supreme Court case that determined human genes were not patentable; the latter won the 2018 Robert K. Merton Award from the American Sociological Association. Her current book project examines the history and consequences of “tech for good” initiatives around the world. She writes frequently for public audiences and also advises policymakers. She co-hosts The Received Wisdom podcast on issues at the intersection of science, technology, policy, and society. She has held fellowships from the American Council for Learned Societies, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, American Bar Foundation, and Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, The National Science Foundation, Wellcome Trust (UK), Ford Foundation, and Sloan Foundation have supported her research.  

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