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Shobita Parthasarathy: Can a Toilet Save the World?

  • Location: London Public Library - Wolf Performance Hall 251 Dundas Street
    London ON N6A 6H9
  • Cost: Free
  • Time: 7:00 PM
  • Telephone: 705-434-7323
Shobita Parthasarathy: Can a Toilet Save the World?

Please join the Rotman institute of Philosophy & the London Public Library in welcoming Professor Shobita Parthasarathy to London for her lecture, "Can a Toilet Save the World: How Tech for Good Initiatives are Shaping Political Orders"

These is growing concern that innovation may be perpetuating inequality. In response, governments, philanthropic foundations, universities, NGOs and startup companies are sponsoring a variety of “tech for good” initiatives, designed to turn the lens of technologists and entrepreneurs to improving the lives of low-income and marginalized communities. How do these initiatives work? What are the consequences? Examining the history and institutionalization of one of the earliest types of “tech for good” initiatives—inclusive innovation for international development—in India, Parthsarathy suggests that the results for social equity and justice are mixed. Focusing on cases from the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector, she finds that while it can make crucial technologies more available, inclusive innovation’s focus on market-oriented commodities limits how we understand public problems, minimizes the priorities and knowledge of historically disadvantaged communities, and erases local identity and diversity. Similarly, by emphasizing technological solutions to development problems, it dismisses technical limitations while imagining the state as primarily a market-maker rather than a regulator. She concludes by suggesting how we might approach equity in innovation and innovation policy more holistically.

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