Business Daily (Nairobi)

Kenya: Let's Nurture Innovation for Growth

analysis

Photo: Capital FM
Samsung Electronics East Africa donated Samsung Galaxy Tablets to aid in an E-learning initiative in Kenya's capital.

The iHub is a network and meeting place that enables Kenya's innovators to bring their ideas to fruition.

Through iHub, the technology community, industry, academia, investors and venture capitalists can meet, share ideas and collaborate.

The centre is the first of its kind to operate in Kenya. It allows technologies to progress from the ideas stage to becoming real products and the key to its effectiveness is open innovation -- the process of combining internal and external ideas, as well as internal and external paths to market, to advance the development of new technologies.

iHub has embraced the principles of open innovation by nurturing an enabling environment and a collaborative space where a community of technology entrepreneurs can grow and share ideas.

This process can change the working culture of any technology hub and stimulate its capacity to create innovative products.

iHubs work by embracing principles of open innovation.

They are driven by members who work together on common interests.

Through the space provided by iHub, members develop the skills they need to turn their ideas into actions: they build a vivid vision, a team and a business plan, with help from an in-house business unit.

Membership is open and free to those who work in programming, design or research. Internet connectivity is often a core part of supporting start-up development.

At an individual level, iHub members strive to improve their skills and knowledge about relevant issues or current trends by engaging with the resources available through the open innovation space, such as education events and mentorship from experts within the community.

Several innovations have arisen out of the iHub model of collaboration.

M-Farm was invented by young Kenyan Jamila Abass.

It is a mobile-phone service that delivers real-time information to farmers on current market prices, weather alerts and agro-supplies in their area. It also brings farmers together to buy or sell their products in groups, helping them to gain access to larger markets.

M-Farm enables farmers to carry out a cost-benefit analysis before deciding where to sell their products.

The analysis is based on the profile of their business, as well as market prices in different countries.

It also answers their queries through the interactive voice response function, with voice controls in both English and Swahili.

Another mobile phone application, iCow, helps in the management of herds by allowing farmers to receive tailored information, for example, about cattle prices and veterinary care.

Innovations such as the eLimu tablet computer are helping Kenyan primary school students to improve their test scores and IT literacy.

This is intended to boost their engagement in learning and promote responsible citizenship for sustainable development through education in environmental conservation, applied science, agriculture and human rights.

The accounting package Uhasibu helps small and medium-sized enterprises to work within Kenya's legislation and procedures.

For a small subscription fee, the online application can be used to generate VAT reports, monitor petty cash and keep track of payments without buying expensive financial management software.

Linda is a software developer at Ushahidi, a non-profit technology company, based in Nairobi

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