3 Ways Innovation Might Help Address Inequalities

3 Ways Innovation Might Help Address Inequalities

Can innovation help address inequality? I believe it can, to some extent. The levels of inequalities today have hit unprecedented levels. At some point in the last century, several countries prided themselves in having a robust middle class. This helped reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. At least if you were not poor, you were either a middle-class income earner or better still rich.

Presently, the middle class has been shrinking and losing its position. Several economies are slowly coming to realise that if the status quo holds, there will be no middle class in a few years to come. The resulting inequality is enormous and risks serious societal upheaval.

When people feel like it is unfair for a small part of the population to control a huge percentage of the resources, irrespective of how they gained them, conflict becomes more pronounced. Not even among the people in societies, but even nations are beginning to note rising inequalities about the power of control and international economic muscles.

Today, the top 1% of the population controls over 48% of the world’s wealth. 19 % of the population controls 46.5 % of the world’s wealth whereas the remaining 80% of the population controls only a mere 5.5% of the world’s wealth. Remember these are approximate values and that the share of the 1% is ‘eating’ fast into the 19% who could qualify as the middle class.

This means it will get to a point where one is either rich or poor and nothing else. At that point, it will be the 99% vs the 1%. It is also evident that within the top 1%, there is a 1% that is super rich and their wealth is growing even more with each passing single day. But irrespective of whether one is super rich or rich (making up the top 1%), affording the luxuries of life affords them what 80% of the people dream of. For the majority, it is all about trying to get by.

So, what can we do to address these inequalities and level the ground for a robust middle class if we are to revive it? One thing is for sure, there is a need for concerted efforts and multifaceted approaches to address the challenge of inequality. These include to a large extent economic, political and fiscal approaches and to some extent redefining individual, social and moral ethics both for the larger population and the pseudo-social class.

Going the policy way needs something more, the political goodwill and support as well as addressing the human character of temperance and moral obligation. But we can also address inequality by empowering people to innovate as a ticket out of poverty.

Innovation for Wealth Creation

The rising gap between the rich and the super-rich over two to three decades ago has been largely attributed to innovation in the technology world. The super rich individuals came up with unique ideas that addressed pressing needs of the people and with ready demand, theirs became a skyrocketing success and amassing of wealth.

This means that if more and more people can come up with solutions to some of the world’s pressing issues, it is possible to amass wealth as well. If many people can be able to build successful businesses out of such ideas and employ more people with pay above minimum wage, then more and more people will be pulled out of poverty.

Much as innovation is about coming up with an idea that can solve our day-to-day challenges, it is a whole spectrum that needs much more than just having the idea. Photo courtesy of NitHub

I know it is easier said than done, but political goodwill and increased levels of fair ground for all players through policy can help make it easier for new entrepreneurs to build their empires. By taking advantage of the funds available for supporting new businesses or exploring alternative funding models, people can build successful enterprises which can help them build great wealth.

Innovation as a Leverage for addressing Inequalities

When more and more people create solutions for our day-to-day problems and make money out of them, the poverty levels are projected to decline. Amid the human-machine tension ballooning as machines take over jobs previously done by people, the innovative ability of the people to adapt to new needs will mean the difference between being well-off and poor.

As technology advances and new technologies come up,  new challenges arise as well and these too need to be addressed. That is where innovation comes in. Additionally, the world population is increasing at rapid rates yet with an inverse relationship to the opportunities available. This calls for leaders to be innovative as well and think beyond what has always worked to address the challenges posed by such developments

Innovation as a Tool for Remodeling Society 

I should put a disclaimer though at this point. Over time, it has always looked as though innovation was a thing unique to a certain field, discipline or group. Nay, innovation cuts across the board. For instance, social challenges of human conflict need innovative approaches to address.

A good example is the imminent social conflict within societies and between the rich and the poor specifically. Such conflicts when looked at more deeply seem to be ‘wars’ of power and the ability to destroy your opponent which is directly proportional to resource capability. But it shouldn’t get to that. Clever social, political and fiscal policies can make it possible for resources to benefit all the people as opposed to an elite few as is currently.

I will not be wrong to say that even the talks about wars among nations, the basis being inequalities resulting in unfairness, can be avoided if we had innovative individuals who may not use tangible products but rather intangible means to address such raging tempers. Such new approaches can help address the social morass, corrupt and eroded ethics and thus, make this world a better place for all of us.

That way, innovation could have abstractly remodelled our society. Innovation is but one way we can use to address inequalities to some extent. Much more lies in the politics, the economics and the global dealings among governments and the rich themselves. Unfortunately, it is never in favour of the 80% of the world population that control 5.5% of the wealth – the poor.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Manufacturing, Technology, Innovation, Governance, Management and International Emerging Issues. For featuring, promotions or support, reach out to us at info@dailyfocus.co.ke
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