7. ICT-enabled Innovation and Societal Transformations

With information and communication technologies pervading virtually all domains of contemporary life, research into co-emerging societal transformations and implications is of key importance.

We approach this broad research theme by focusing on two specific sets of questions and issues:

For a complete overview of all our research activities, publications and events, please visit the “ICT-enabled Innovation and Societal Transformations” website at: http://ictandsociety.merit.unu.edu.

1 Innovation, Learning and Participation in the “Network Society”

The notion of the “network society” has become intrinsically linked with ICT. It is changing how we interact, innovate and behave at work, and how we interact and behave after work. Traditional boundaries between “work” and “life” erode and new ways of learning emerge in order to cope with these challenges. Finally, the relationships between government and society undergo a significant change, emphasising more transparency and participation opportunities for citizens of every age and in every condition of life.

The largely demand-oriented and inter-disciplinary research on this theme at UNU-MERIT is focused on the innovative and socio-economic purposes and impacts of ICT in knowledge societies. The concept of “open”, as in open software and open systems, is central to the work in this area, but there are many ways to organise an “open” mode of innovating, governance and learning. Research on this theme aims at both theoretical insights and applicable solutions to improve the efficiency of existing governance practices and lifelong learning activities, but also to create new purposes and develop new tools. Research domains are open/social innovation, “networked” business models and business strategies for enterprises, open education and open government.


2 Social and Ethical aspects of ICT-enabled Innovation

Contemporary digitisation and ICT-based innovation have come with an exponential increase in the collection of personal data, use of identification and registration systems, and the construction of personal profiles based on Big Data analysis.

While on the one hand this promises to make our lives more secure, safe, efficient, convenient, healthy and fun, on the other there may be more problematic social and ethical implications that need to be articulated. The increasing call for Responsible Innovation in ICTs can only be realised if sufficient resources are directed towards the study of potential social and ethical transformations and consequences.

At UNU-MERIT, we contribute to this research need by studying these aspects empirically and theoretically, both within R&D and academic contexts. With an interdisciplinary approach (Science & Technology Studies, Philosophy & Ethics of Technology, Surveillance Studies), we conduct research in domains such as security, privacy and data protection, policing, development, migration and border management.


1. The Economics of Knowledge and Innovation
2. Social Protection, Inclusive Innovation and Development
3. Economic Development, Innovation, Governance and Institutions
4. Sustainable Development, Innovation and Societal Transitions
5. Innovation Systems Indicators and Policy
6. Migration and Development
7. ICT-enabled Innovation and Societal Transformations
8. Population, Development and Labour Economics