Innovation Through Cooperation. Information and Communication Technology Assessment and Design for open Innovation
In my PhD project I will discuss whether open innovation can contribute to the design of inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Living in a society that is highly depending on information, ICTs are often claimed to be the driving force in ensuring prosperity, social welfare and cohesion. These technologies have the power to exclude people in accessing information (digital divides, lacking computer or media literacy, etc.). At the same time ICTs provide tools that are relatively easy to use, to create and to adapt. Social software, social networks or Web 2.0, as well as the increasing impact of open source, demonstrate that common users are able and willing to participate in the creation of code and content. Inclusive ICTs could contribute to a cooperative Global Sustainable Information Society (Hofkirchner), i.e. to increase fairness, welfare, prosperity, justice and social cohesion. Freedom, openness and transparency, access to information and education, and equality are the basis for such a society to emerge. Participation and cooperation of diverse stakeholders are crucial components of open innovation. Therefore such forms of innovation require open standards, open access and open content. These are the key principles of many open source projects. ICT assessment and design provide decisive tools for the evaluation and regulation of emerging technologies, to foster their positive potential and to avoid negative side effects and unintended consequences. The assessment of current ICTs is valuable in outlining potential directions for future technological development. Traditional approaches in technology assessment either focus on the origin of technologies, their evolutionary (historical) character or on the systemic aspect. Such a distinction is not sufficient for ICTs, i.e. technologies that change rather quickly. Therefore my main theoretical framework is based on Evolutionary Systems Theory, i.e. social self-organisation, where ICTs are conceived as dynamic techno-social systems. Criteria that contribute to the design of inclusive ICTs have to be identified and categorised. Enabling and hindering factors of open innovation processes will be analysed. The findings of this analyses and the normative criteria derived from the theoretical framework will be combined and result in a catalogue which will be the basis for assessing a sample of social software and open source projects. Learning from these projects I want to convey policies and recommendations for the design and governance of inclusive ICTs.