#Netexplo forum #innovations, #trends http://swarajyamag.com/magazine/the-human-digital-future

April 10, 2016

this was published in Swarajya April 2016 issue


The Paris-based Netexplo group, an affiliate of UNESCO, is focused on finding innovations from all over the world. By cooperating with their academic advisory board, which consists of faculty from all over the world, Netexplo does a “spotting” exercise in which students identify interesting innovations. (Disclaimer: I am a member of that board, and attended their annual forum in February).

These innovations are broadly classified as “digital”, which definition may not be as clear today as it was when Netexplo started this exercise 10 years ago. That is partly because “digital” has now an inevitable part of the infrastructure. And partly because once we get into areas like machine intelligence, nano-robots, self-correcting drones and other bio-mimetic systems, the distinction between digital and natural organisms may cease to be meaningful.

The fundamental question is whether you are using technology in interesting ways. What Netexplo does is take the few thousand ideas spotted, and distill them into a shortlist of 100, which is then winnowed down to a final list of 10 prize winners, who are invited to Paris in February for the Forum, where the Grand Prix is announced.

The second thing they do is to try to identify trends from what is seen in a particular year. They are clear that they are looking at trends, and not making forecasts: many of the trends may sputter in future, and amount to nothing; others may become big winners.

These innovative ideas are not necessarily from entrepreneurial startups (although many are): significant numbers are from university or other research institutions, some from NGOs, and some from large corporations as well. The criteria for selection are novelty, viability and societal value. Over the years, winners have included Twitter, WordLens (now part of Google Translate), Aadhaar, Layar (an augmented reality app), Wearable Thermo-Element, Electronic Tattoos, and many others.



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