Social Innovation (II). The technology sector as a driver for social innovation

Notes from the VI Annual Conference of the Institute for Social Innovation, held at ESADE’s Institute for Social Innovation, Barcelona, Spain, in February 20, 2013. More notes on this event: #6ac.

Round table on technology enterprises as a driver for social innovation.

Ismael Peña, Professor of Law and Political Science of Open University
Network society and social innovation

Sofía Fernández, Director of Social Responsibility and Innovation in Telefónica and Project Manager of M-Inclusion

Mobile broadband and massive adoption of the mobile Internet have disclosed huge opportunities to act and work without any barriers of space. So, what are the incentives that should be put into work so that there were more mobile applications for development and e-inclusion.

We are already finding many examples in apps addressed at solving issues related with health, gender, governance, rural development… and the interesting thing is that there is a market for that, meaning: it is no more about giving money away, but about investment. There can or cannot be profit, but at least economic sustainability can be reconsidered under a very new light.

M-Inclusion is a cooperative framework to encourage the use of innovative, user-oriented, and affordable mobile solutions supporting social integration in Europe and Latin America.

The “divides” are not separate rooms of poverty, but overlap systematically.

It is important to see what are the challenges not only from the technological point of view, but also from the users’ point of view (e.g. accessibility).

We are trying that applications that usually can only run on smartphones can be run on cheaper/simpler terminals.

Patricia Pólvora, Ericsson Response Communications Officer
Ericsson Response

Ericsson Response is a corporate volunteering programme to help humanitarian organizations to communicate, usually in natural disaster situations: what is the necessity, what should we focus at, what are our best partners, what are our values, what are our goals, what is the vision of the whole project. The idea behind Ericsson Response is providing what Ericsson is best at — and/or better than anyone else — and let everyone do what they do best: no overlapping, no competition. Just see where value can be added.

Social innovation is about solving needs, and solving needs is about solving specific needs. And we have to find the best partners so that the addition can create synergies: 1+1 cannot be 2, but 1+1 has to be 3. Nonprofits should learn the language of businesses and of “for-profits”.

After food and water, communication is among the most important needs.


Pere Losantos: how is knowledge generated in e-inclusion projects reverting in the core business of the firm? Sofía Fernández: it is the job of the non-profit wing of the company to engage the for-profit wing, raising awareness on the benefits of cooperating in finding new markets, new ideas, new partners.

Carmen Netzel: does Ericsson Response act only in emergencies, or also in situations of “structural poverty”? Patricia Pólvora: only in emergencies. Which means that Ericsson Response works non-profit with NGOs in humanitarian relief, but Ericsson works for-profit with governments and telcos to develop country-wide and stable infrastructures.


VI Annual Conference Institute for Social Innovation (2013)