As readers of this blog may already know, on April 26th every year, the World Intellectual Property Day is celebrated with the purpose of “learning the role that intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright) play in encouraging innovation and creativity.” According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), this year’s focus is on exploring “how innovation is making our lives healthier, safer, and more comfortable, turning problems into progress.” In addition, the organisation highlighted the importance of looking at “how the intellectual property system supports innovation by attracting investment, rewarding creators, encouraging them to develop their ideas, and ensuring that their new knowledge is freely available so that tomorrow’s innovators can build on today’s new technology.”
In Kenya, there are countless examples of ordinary people responding to every day problems and challenges by coming up with extraordinary new solutions that change their surroundings for the better. These innovations take myriad forms, some of which have been highlighted on this blog.
For instance, OneUni, the mobile start-up that “turns smartphones into classroom seats” by offering online based degrees from top universities including Strathmore University. Consider Digital Matatus, the app that digitally maps and collects data about Nairobi’s matatu routes with plans to expand the mapping to other parts of the country. Then there is Illuminum Greenhouses, a startup that offer modern greenhouses with drip and sensor technology to smallholder farmers. While the Tunapanda Institute is a free online training platform that delivers 3 month learning experiences and opportunities and apprenticeships. One of the platforms offered by Tunapanda include Tunapandanet, a free wireless network that connects users to online content ranging from open source MOOCs and access to the Tunapanda Swag. The Well Told Story is a media platform and a communications, research and productions company that does business in Kenya and Tanzania. The platform is behind the popular youth communication platform Shujaaz.
Other examples include Fuzu, a company that acts as a virtual career coach with an online platform that matches job seekers to potential employers and employment opportunities based on their ranking, information posted on their Fuzu profiles and suitability for the position based on information obtained from the employers. While Flare, referred to as the “Uber for Ambulances”, functions like an ambulance-hailing application that is hoping to make sure that ambulance services are available to users of its app within the shortest response time possible. With over 3 million emergencies reported every year, it is hoped that this app will improve ambulance response times in Kenya.
As WIPO notes, innovation is a human force that knows no limits. It turns problems into progress. It pushes the boundaries of possibility, creating unprecedented new capabilities.
World Intellectual Property Day 2017 celebrates that creative force. As Kenyans, lets explore how some of the our country’s most extraordinary innovations have improved our lives; and how new ideas are helping tackle shared socio-economic, political and other challenges.