Thoughts on an Innovation Exchange Portal for Kenya
Over the years, this blogger has been interested in finding ways to facilitate the free flow of relevant and useful information among the various players in the innovation ecosystem in Kenya. For instance, through blogging, trained lawyers such as this blogger have been able to demystify the areas of law at the heart of most knowledge-based businesses including contract law, company law, information technology law, labour law, tax law and of course, intellectual property (IP) law. However, the downside of blogging is that it’s one-way traffic yet most bloggers (present company included) are more interested in eliciting views and insights from readers than merely imparting information through blogging.
Now, imagine a portal where lawyers, engineers, designers, artists, teachers, policymakers, government officials, activists, coders, developers, farmers – literally anyone interested in innovation – could access at a click of a button. A community for innovators, a virtual meeting place for tech-savvy inventors and creatives to connect and address intellectual property (IP) issues in Kenya. Some of the features on this portal could include online searches, links to relevant archived content, links to real-time web forums as well as offline conferences, events or other activities, links to jobs and other opportunities, links to IP professionals, links to partners such as various companies, institutions and associations that would be funders, sponsors or contributors.
The idea behind this portal is to allow anyone with an internet connection to have open and equal access to the wealth of shared knowledge and experiences drawn from the various players in the innovation ecosystem. Such a platform may be a useful tool to get correct and factual information, keep up-to-date with the latest developments and news, connect with like-minded people and build long-lasting partnerships.
Additionally, the portal could work well with other offline efforts such as creation of an association or incorporation of a not-for-profit members’ organisation that could spearhead the agenda of innovation. Such an offline initiative would also complement the objectives of the portal while ensuring that it remains active, current and useful for the innovators who use it. In this connection, it is interesting to note just how instrumental platforms such as whatsapp and slack have been in bringing large teams, organisations or groups of people together by enabling real-time communication.
Finally, while the goal of the platform is to get the innovation community talking, it is also important for the innovation community to be involved in the wider socio-economic and cultural context within which it operates. This means members of the platform speaking with one voice on matters of importance through advocacy, consensus-building, sensitisation, lobbying, fundraising, legal reforms, policy formulation and grassroot campaigns.