There is no time like the present to put in the effort that will tip the scales and see wide scale adoption both locally and across the region of home grown technology based solutions. I have spoken widely about the role of intellectual property protection and that of government as a consumer of services, but have been challenged to give actionable steps that could possibly deliver the possibilities. Using the analogy of elephant hunting versus ant stomping, I would simply align the mandates of key government agencies and streamline their activities as the shortest route to ROI is best.
The agencies in mind are the ICT Authority, the National Commission for Science and Technology, Kenya Industrial Property Institute, the Attorney General’s Office, the Uwezo Fund and the Commission for Revenue Allocation.
The National Commission for Science and Technology is unknown to many for its capacity and mandate to “facilitate economic, social and cultural transformations at national and global levels” which includes funding innovative ideas through grants. I would have roaming community liaisons who would be in the field eighty percent of their time interacting with innovators based at formal hubs across the country with simple KPI’s pegged on number of quality grant leads they funnel.
The ICT Authority has made good headway in supporting local hubs that provide formal structure for both upstarts and startups. The grant leads brought in by community liaisons would be incubated at these hubs that would be opened or are inexistence across the country and go through a refining process that may see some culled. Those that survive will come out as business entities that may perhaps even assimilate human resource from ideas that went belly up.
Global IP protection
Concurrent to the incubation process, KIPI and the Attorney General’s office would provide legal services to protect the IP locally, regionally with ARIPO and globally with WIPO. This service will be provided free to projects with potential. Dedicated legal teams on governments dime or contracted from private sector will minimize risk associated with weak IP coverage.
I am of the opinion that Uwezo Fund can be administered differently, for the simple reason that establishing a company already has one forming a team and the current ask that one form a group opens itself up to abuse. From the registered businesses output from the hubs, the Uwezo Fund can meet its principle number four – “economy: use of the best but least cost mechanism to achieve the desired objective”. My objective would be to create a sustainable revolving fund with the option of having a minimal stake in each of the businesses.
Lastly, from this pool of well-staffed, trained corporate bodies, the CRA and ICT Authority can now deal with the misery many governors face, lost on what solutions would best be deployed to meet the needs for the citizens under their watch. The processes in the hubs will have possibly seen many entrepreneurs pivot to address actual needs, with some of the opportunities lying in government. Plug in innovative business models and adapted legal provisions and voila.
A rather condensed view of it all, but it would probably work if actioned.