Reflections on demonstrating development-oriented innovations in South Africa

Hart, Tim G.B. and Booyens, Irma and Fakudze, Bhekiwe and Sinyolo, Sikhulumile (2019) Reflections on demonstrating development-oriented innovations in South Africa. South African Journal of Science, 115 (1/2). pp. 1-4. ISSN 1996-7489 (

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Innovation demonstrations are an important means of first-time testing and fine-tuning innovations outside of the laboratory. Through demonstrations, scientists shift the focus from research and innovation quality and novelty, towards issues of acceptability, usability and value-addition for different social groups. It is erroneous to assume that usefulness will follow simply because the technical aspects of the innovation meet scientific standards. South Africa is intent on improving its science, technology and innovation (STI) capabilities, and promoting the use of STI to achieve social development outcomes. Science councils and universities are developing technologies aimed at improving and expanding access to basic municipal services and recent practical work involves demonstrating these among the local poor in rural areas as a means to promote inclusive development. These innovations include water, sanitation and energy technologies. They are often combined with information and communication technologies (ICTs) or require access to ICTs to ensure that they function. Using provisional results from the monitoring and evaluation of the Innovation Partnership for Rural Development Programme (IPRDP), we reflect on some of the challenges observed in relation to implementing the innovation demonstration process. These challenges are drawn from the perspective of the multiple actors involved in the innovation demonstration process using a range of methods. Our observations point to the need for scientists and researchers to seriously consider how we go about demonstrating innovations to local government, ward councillors and household members. A well-considered process of demonstration planning and implementation could reduce some of the challenges outlined here. The demonstration and introduction of new ideas is unlikely to be met with initial overwhelming acceptance. There is always resistance to change; however, such opposition can be mitigated through careful planning and collaboration.