The 14 papers in this special issue discuss the roles of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in a wide range of major societal challenges, including employment, climate, health, and human migration. An overview of the special issue process can be found in the Appendix. A tabular summary of the 14 accepted papers is shown in Table 1.
The importance of the societal challenges addressed in these 14 papers makes this special issue significant and interesting in its own right. However, some readers may believe the special issue has little to offer to them, particularly if they study enterprise technologies in Western corporations. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In this introductory commentary, we discuss four major implications of these papers for any IS research that aims to contribute to the improvement of societal or business conditions. The implications are
• That IS researchers interested in societal or business change should expand their definitions of theory to include theories of the problem and theories of the solution; however, any single paper should only have to work with one of these two alternative theory types.
• That IS researchers interested in societal or business change should explicitly define the ICT artifact in both broad and specific ways, include affordances and constraints provided by the ICT artifact, and explicitly examine the unintended consequences of the ICT artifact.
• That IS researchers interested in societal or business change should consider emergent digital designing as a replacement for organizations.
• That IS researchers interested in societal and business change should couple research findings with public policy and regulation recommendations where relevant.