IT Innovation Supporting Home-Grown Solutions In Uganda 15/10/2014 by Hillary Muheebwa for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)With the world’s youngest population, fast-rising access to internet and rapid spread of the use of mobile phones, Ugandans are starting to embrace information and communication technology innovations. This is confirmed by the increasing number of mobile and web applications with working prototypes developed in the country. Participants in a recent Uganda IT workshop. Photo credit: NITA-U According to The Global Innovation Index 2014, Uganda is an innovative learner country. “Innovation learners” are those countries outperforming their peers from their respective income groups, performing over 10 percent higher than expected for their level of gross domestic product (GDP), ranked by income level. Other African countries in the same group include; Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Malawi, Gambia and Burkina Faso. Sub-Saharan countries account for almost 50 percent of the countries in the innovation learners’ category. The Global Innovation Index further describes the “innovation learners” as having made improvements to institutional frameworks, a skilled labour force with expanded tertiary education, better infrastructure and deeper integration with global credit investment and trade markets and rising sophistication of their business communities. The rate of app innovations in Uganda is quite advanced, though only a few apps see the light of day – Judith Kasirye, Orange Uganda “The rate of app innovations in Uganda is quite advanced, though only a few apps see the light of day,” argues Judith Kasirye. Kasirye is the head of community social responsibility and corporate philanthropy at Orange Uganda, organisers of Community Innovations Awards (CIA), which recognises the most impressive ideas in mobile app development. This, Kasirye attributes to the fact that although the developers own the apps they have developed, the degree of proprietary ownership is quite ambiguous since many developers do not register their apps for rights ownership. Applications and software rights in Uganda, according to Kagwa John Marius the patents rights examiner at Uganda Registration Services Bureau, are registered and protected under The Copyright and Neighbouring Act, 2006 and The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Regulations, 2010. According to The Act, copyright protection for computer programmes is 50 years from the date of making the programme available to the public. Kasirye adds that a good number of the apps generate income; however sustainability depends on the business model. Many developers lack entrepreneurial skills to enable them commercialise their products and be able to economically benefit from them. Michael Ninyitegeka presents at IT workshop. Photo credit: NITA-U According to Michael Ninyitegeka, an information technology expert, the information technology innovation developments have been more of sporadic, than structural. “The initiative is not process oriented and tends to be largely event-driven. This is because there’s limited research and development investment or budget at national or corporate level in the country,” he added. “Research and development covers 0.01 percent of the country’s GDP, and of that about 90 percent goes to salaries and allowances,” Ninyitegeka further explained. Speaking during an information technology innovation and open source workshop in Kampala, Michael added that the driving forces of this increase in IT innovations and apps development are hackathons, challenges and competitions organised by incubation hubs like Outbox and Hive Colab, global enterprises like Google and Microsoft, and academic institutions like Makerere University. Michael told the workshop that over 70 percent of the innovations in Uganda are in the fields of health and agriculture. This is because these are the fields which are presumed to have lots of money for investment. According to Kasirye, “The health and agriculture sectors have a high number of innovations because the two greatly influence development in the country’s economy, with the majority of community issues arising from there.” Overall winners of the last two CIA years have come from the health and agriculture sectors. Kfree, overall winner 2014, is a health solution that targets breast cancer prevention by aiding early detection. AgroMarketDay, overall winner 2013, is a mobile and web application that exposes markets, market days, farmers’ details and the products sold in different markets in different districts in Uganda. With the increasing number of developers and application, more research into other sectors and how to benefit from the application will be crucial. According to Ninyitegeka, “innovators and app developers need to research and research because innovation is a process, not an event.” As part of the research, individual innovators, academic institutions and development firms will need to build a greater synergy between information technology innovation stakeholders, and deepen understanding of the frameworks, competencies and methodologies that improve innovation effectiveness. This will enable sustainable emergence of information technology home-grown solutions. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Hillary Muheebwa may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."IT Innovation Supporting Home-Grown Solutions In Uganda" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.