TED Fellow; Bright B. Simons is a technology innovator, development activist and social entrepreneur from Ghana. He’s the founder of mPedigree, a unique system pioneered in Ghana that allows consumers to check whether the medicine they’re about to purchase is counterfeit or safe via a free text message. Through his work at the Accra-based think tank IMANI, Simons challenges the systems that stifle development by advocating fundamental institutional reform.
Below, Bright answers questions on INNOVATION and shares his views on Technology & Entrepreneurship via Next Gen Innovators Project.
What does innovation mean to you?
A lot of innovation is about persuasion; people tend to focus less on the actual invention or solution they are proposing, and more on trying to change the way people perceive it. It’s about social binds.
How have developments in technology affected your approach to innovation?
It allows for resource maximization; how we do more with less. Coming from Africa, that is much more poignant. It’s obvious when you look around that you’re not going to get all the resources you need. But one of the few ways in which you can maximize resources is via mobile telecoms. In Ghana today, one in two people has access to telecom services. That’s a major boost, which only technology can achieve.
How do you demonstrate innovation on a day-to-day basis?
By persuading vested interests to change. We do that by going to the pharmaceutical industry and convincing them that instead of keeping fake products confidential, they should make it a public-engagement issue. We advocate for change in institutions, changes in the way we expect outcomes to be delivered, and we are seeing the effects.
Is there a technology, trend or idea that’s driving the most exciting innovation in social entrepreneurship?
Cloud-based computing is definitely a transforming influence. It allows you to maximize resources, and it also allows you to change institutions. This whole notion of the company as a fortress, where all information is kept away from prying eyes, is changing. Open architecture – open ways of thinking about how we solve our problems – is being driven by a cloud-based mentality.
What does the future hold for you?
Mobility and clouds are going to provide the bedrock for change because progressive institutions will use them to make changes in their own companies, changing the social dynamics. It will make things more accessible and that will have a radical impact on every institution and organization in every industry around the world.