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Bridging the critical interface: Ambidextrous innovation for water provision in Nairobi's informal settlements
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3865-7609
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden.
Technical University of Kenya, Kenya.
Technical University of Kenya, Kenya.
2020 (English)In: Technology in society, ISSN 0160-791X, E-ISSN 1879-3274, Vol. 60, article id 101221Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article examines innovation activities in water infrastructure in Nairobi, Kenya. The focus is on efforts by Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Corporation (NCWSC) to provide water services to the inhabitants in the informal areas of the city using an automated vending machine, or Pre-Paid Dispenser (PPD). In this study, we investigate what happens when a regime actor like NCWSC tries to implement an ambidextrous (two-handed) strategy: managing the existing system according to conventional practice and at the same time innovate in new technical solutions and business models to cater for unconnected users.Besides presenting our results, our aim in this article is also to introduce a research strategy for innovation studies in infrastructural systems in low-income urban areas. Three interconnected parts stand out as our contribution:First, we present a novel conceptual framework, by adding ideas from innovation studies to the Large Technical Systems approach. We investigate how regime actors can innovate to provide water to unconnected users, without expanding the system in a traditional way.Second, we propose a novel method for analysing and understanding innovation on the margins of the infrastructural system, or in our terms, innovation in the critical interface. Central to our method is, through empirical observation, to identify misalignment between the innovation (PPD) and contextual factors at the local level, where the innovation is implemented (interface misalignment), and misalignment between the innovation and the existing water regime (internal misalignment). We use a qualitative method and results forms as a basis for further research and starting point for regime actors in search of an improved ambidextrous strategy.Third, we analyse the innovation process per se. In the Nairobi case, we assess the ambidextrous innovation strategy, and claim that the PPD functions as an adapter in the critical interface, enabling the regime actors to operate in an environment of misalignment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier Ltd , 2020. Vol. 60, article id 101221
Keywords [en]
Ambidextrous organizations, Innovation theory, Large technical systems (LTS), Water infrastructure, informal settlement, infrastructure, innovation, organization, water supply, Kenya, Nairobi [Kenya]
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-47107DOI: 10.1016/j.techsoc.2019.101221ISI: 000522978800003Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85076167481OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-47107DiVA, id: diva2:1395115
Available from: 2020-02-21 Created: 2020-02-21 Last updated: 2020-04-17Bibliographically approved

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Blomkvist, Pär

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