The techDetector is the first technology radar giving an overview of emerging technologies that have the potential to influence the area of sustainable development in the future. It lists future technologies from all sectors of sustainable development and assesses their potential impact on sustainability and gender equality. The techDetector helps inform, sensitize and support foresight processes, enabling better decision-making by providing sound information on technological developments.
Technologies are key factors for social, economic and organisational change worldwide. At the same time, it is hard to foresee the impact new technologies will have in the future. We at GIZ therefore asked ourselves, how can we get an orientation on future technologies relevant for our work as well as their potential impacts, when at the same time innovation cycles are shortening and the complexity of technology innovations is increasing tremendously. In order to provide our colleagues and all partners of German Development Cooperation with an overview of emerging technologies from the most diverse sectors as well as their potential impact on sustainability and gender equality, GIZ partnered with the technology research institute Envisioning to develop the GIZ techDetector, the first technology radar for sustainable development.
The techDetector lists emerging technologies which in the future can potentially disrupt the sectors GIZ is active in. We scouted technologies from all sectors like agriculture, governance or education, among others. The technologies are mapped in the technology radar format and assessed by a crowdsourced survey in order to determine the impact they might pose for gender equality or sustainability with its dimensions of ecological, social and economic sustainability. The techDetector also connects the technologies in the form of narrative story formats, where we move beyond the abstract description of technology applications and try to give context in order to inspire: Future Scenarios, Case Studies and Sci-Fi Chronicles help users think out of the box and trigger innovation. Finally, all content is listed by SDGs as well as sorted into technology domains such as AI, Blockchain and IoT, giving background information on these overarching technology fields.
The techDetector serves as a guide for sound information on emerging technologies for sustainable development. As a public website, it is openly accessible for everyone, following the principle of "Open Knowledge". Inside GIZ, it is also used as a tool to sensitize colleagues for the potential impact of emerging technologies, as well as to support innovation processes, ideate and get inspirations for new projects and measures. In order to do this, with the support of Envisioning and other service providers, we have developed a set of workshops and interaction formats around the techDetector to facilitate the access.
The techDetector also serves as a capacity development tool for "Futures Literacy" inside GIZ. Together with the internal corporate academy for international cooperation, we are currently designing a learning offer based on the techDetector in order to provide our colleagues with a robust set of methods to "use the future".
Many projects inside GIZ have used the techDetector to spark a dialogue on the future with our implementation partners, to receive sound information when advising our commissioning parties, or to build future scenarios for project contexts that allow better-informed decision-making.
In the future, we plan to promote the techDetector inside and outside GIZ so that even more colleagues and partners can make use of it and become futures-literate!
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Technology Radars are being used by private sector companies to get an overview of future and emerging trends in their sectors. However, until very recently, all technology radars would focus solely on mapping technologies by their technology readiness as well as their potential economic turnaround. In order to adapt this format to the reality of GIZ as a leading service provider in ther area of sustainable development, the techDetector was developed: Adding criteria for the assessment of sustainability and gender equality, it is the first technology radar for sustainable development. Linking technologies of the future to the SDGs and using crowdsourcing to gather information on the potential impacts of technologies on the work of GIZ are also truly innovative and novel processes that have never been applied before.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The techDetector is active and running since 2019. However, since then, many novelties have been implemented: updates of the tool itself, as well as in the project management. We received the feedback that colleagues needed guidance on how to interact with this novel tool as well as the whole thematic of futures literacy and technology foresight, which is why we designed a series of workshops for different purposes to be conducted with the colleagues: An ideation format, a scenario-building format, a tech-impact-assessment format, a positioning format, as well as a roundtable format and an interactive keynote. We are always in the process of refining these formats and developing new ones, to make the techDetector even more accessible. At the time being, the techDetector is being used as the base for a new GIZ-internal training on Futures Literacy.
Collaborations & Partnerships
techDetector is a joint project with Envisioning, a technology research institute with over ten years experience working with public sector and private enterprise clients worldwide. Envisioning specializes in identifying and tracking emerging technology using a combination of trained specialists and automated tools. Envisioning employs award-winning web based data visualization tools used to convey research findings. techDetector is soon starting its fifth year of active collaboration.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
GIZ staff benefit from the techDetector's vast amount of information and data around emerging technologies in sustainable development. Information is easy at hand and openly accessible.
Partners of german development cooperation can enter a dialogue on the future of their projects and sectors by getting inspired by the techDetector's content.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The techDetector since its launch has raised increasing interest among the GIZ colleagues as well as the international community. In 2021, we have conducted more than 10 internal workshops with diverse teams. The techDetector was one of the featured projects at the Paris Peace Forum 2021 and is part of the Toolkit on Digitalization of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Every month, the website receives around 2000 unique visitors. In the future, we hope to reach even more users and conduct even more workshops around the techDetector and the topic of Futures Literacy.
Challenges and Failures
It can be challenging to anchor new topics like digitalization, foresight and futures literacy in the culture of an organization. The techDetector had to prove that it can play an important part in creating a more resilient, future-proof and up-to-date organization. The decision to design guided interaction formats such as the workshops, instead of just offering the website as a service, has helped get in touch with colleagues and learn about their doubts and questions regarding the tool. Other pathways such as jointly developing content for the techDetector with groups of colleagues have been abandoned due to time-consuming processes.
Conditions for Success
In order to introduce new concepts like Futures Literacy along with tools like the techDetector, that use technologies in order to spark a dialogue on the future, all units in an organization at all hierarchy levels have to understand the importance of the topic and the benefit it brings to their sphere of work. Leadership and guidance therefore play an important role. Enough resources to guarantee a smooth roll-out of the tool as well as to accompany the process of anchoring it in the organization are mandatory.
The techDetector has not yet been replicated but is used among the most diverse units inside GIZ, but also by other organizations working in the same area of international cooperation for sustainable development. Due to the "Open Knowledge" Principle, all content is openly available and can be accessed by everyone.
Tools like the techDetector which address a very specific, though crucial aspect of work, are not automatically considered by colleagues when addressing a problem. It is therefore important to constantly update colleagues on the existence of the tool, its use cases and to be as precise as possible. Short teaser formats on how to engage with the tool are also helpful. This all helps for the tool not to be forgotten and supports knowledge management even if part of the staff changes and new colleagues join the team.
- Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
- Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
- Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
27 January 2023