Op-ed – Why government needs to support ICT innovations

BY BADRU WALUSANSA

Imagine a time when nobody has to queue up to pay for grocery at a supermarket, deposit money in a bank or maneuver their way through a busy market for foodstuff.  Someone will say we getting there, and with some credit. In fact, the growth in ICT innovations around the world today is notable, presenting an array of hope for a simplified life.

Complex processes are continually getting simplified such as access to goods and services under health, travel, education, trade and agriculture sectors.

Last week, a group of Makerere University graduates codenamed “Team Matibabu”, made a headline story by winning $10,000 extra funding at the ASME Innovation Showcase (iSHOW) competition in Kenya. The group invented a non-invasive diagnostic kit used to detect malaria called “Matibabu”. There are possibly many innovators like “Matibabu” who are struggling with developing and marketing their content due to limited financial support.

Still in the same week, the youthful Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook delivered a maiden speech to the 2017 graduates of Harvard University in which he encouraged them to become more creative and aim at finding innovative solutions to ending poverty and disease. At just 19, Zuckerberg invented Facebook to connect a small community of Harvard. However since 2004, his innovation turned into the largest social media site with over one billion people connected.

I am compelled to think that so many innovators in Uganda have better ideas or similar to those of Zuckerberg. However, what remains lacking are the strategic steps to boost and empower such innovators.

We therefore need to harness the potential of promising innovators if we are to better position our country according to the dictums of the modern age which is highly driven by ICT innovations.

In 2016, the ICT Ministry promised to introduce a fund where innovators would access financial support to facilitate development and marketing of their innovations. This was a step in the right direction since it would streamline using ICT tools to spur innovations.

Financial institutions like banks interested in supporting or boosting innovators may institute innovation loans or innovators credit that could be loaned to innovators with outstanding innovations.

Lastly, government should make internet resources free or more affordable to the population since through use of internet, innovators are able to research new ideas and also find access to wider markets for their goods or services.

Mr Walusansa is the Commonwealth correspondent

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