Within post-industrial markets, innovation is no longer limited to innovation in consumer goods manufacturing. Every company, in every industry, needs to innovate— whether it be packaging innovation for consumer products, high-tech “as a service” innovation, or process innovation in the financial sector. Now more than ever, innovation is key to growth, to acquiring and sustaining competitive advantage, and to building and adding value.
At the same time, the innovation process is fast becoming more open, and more global. Companies are getting customers involved in co-creation and co-innovation efforts. Collaboration and open innovation are well recognized as governance forms for successful public sector innovations. In the ICT sector, the notion of openness has expanded from participatory and user-centred approaches, to mechanisms for data mining and aggregating emerging trends from social-media platforms, open-data and crowdsourcing. Interest in how to innovate and how to manage innovation is at its peak.
Transforming institutions is an ongoing challenge for African societies. It is a process that is somewhat supported and embraced by some policymakers, donors and citizens; and surprisingly still resisted and rejected by others. Processes of institutional transformation are often agglomerations of transformation within organizations. Organizations tend to respond in a homogenous fashion to the changes in the environment, or to changes in competitiveness resulting from the influx of new technologies. Driven by the combination of ever-growing digitalization and evolving consumer demands, we are currently witnessing widespread organizational transformations due to new technologies (e.g. mobile, Cloud, Big Data). Digital transformation consists of the use of new technologies to drive significant business improvements.
Disruptive IT/ICT technology trends are currently happening in the commercial market. We are witnessing how innovations such as ubiquitous sensors, mobility, Cloud-based services, big data, analytics, Internet of Things, open opportunities for improved competitiveness. Levels of digital maturity tend to vary across industries and geographies. In the commercial space, we observe relatively advanced levels of maturity in retail, banking, telecoms and travel; and lower levels of digitalization in utilities, manufacturing and packaged goods.
Meanwhile, information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) understandings have emerged regarding the use of IT towards socioeconomic wellbeing, international development and human rights. With the proliferation of mobile phones, tablet computers, smartphones, and netbooks, information and the Internet have become more accessible to people, especially in emerging markets and developing countries. Countries in Africa have recorded high levels of growth in the use of mobile phones to access the Internet. The adoption, evaluation and impact of ICTs use in sectors such as agriculture, health and education have been studied extensively.
Topics of knowledge transfer, translation and transformation form part of the knowledge management research area which emerged since the 1990s. Knowledge transfer is the practical problem of transporting knowledge from one part of the organization to another. As it involves learning, the process is considered to be more than a simple information communication problem. If it were merely that, then a simple memorandum, an e-mail or a meeting would accomplish the knowledge transfer. Completing the knowledge transfer and achieving mutual understanding is more complex because (1) operational knowledge tends to reside in organizational members, tools, and tasks; and because (2) knowledge can be tacit or hard to articulate. Developing strategies for knowledge transfer is particularly important to international organizations or development partners working in Africa because understandings held by their employees, customers and beneficiaries are often shaped by local cultures, oral traditions and longstanding rituals.