Innovations prove we’ve solutions to our problems

Friday, April 17th, 2020 00:00 |
State officials and Kenyatta University students mill around a ventilator prototype developed at the institution. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

Sandra Ochola

Necessity is the mother of innovation, they say, and needs are often the primary driving force for new ideas. 

This is becoming evident as we continue to address the spread of coronavirus across the world. 

Our local interventions are particularly exciting and we are witnessing the brilliance and resilience of our professionals in different fields. 

Kenya for example, was among the first African countries to do mass testing after it developed testing kits.

The Kenya medical Research Institute (Kemri) has contrived the conversion of the machines they use for testing TB and HIV into innovations that can be used to test for Covid-19 infections.

The Cobas 6800 and 8800 machines are enabling faster and accurate testing for thousands of Kenyans facing the pandemic. 

While this was happening, 16 students from Kenyatta University developed a ventilator prototype. If approved, the ventilators will be used in our hospitals as the country readies itself for all eventualities.

The group is made up of students from the nursing, medicine, engineering and pharmacy fields, indicating the collective spirit that has gone into their novelty. 

The Aga Khan University Hospital has also adopted technology that enables the ventilation of patients with one mechanical ventilator, a move that will compliment existing medical interventions during this period. 

Long before it became mandatory to wear face masks in public, tailors from all walks of life were already manufacturing masks and distributing them to friends and neighbours.

Up and coming fashion entrepreneurs were especially keen on creating designs that would meet the demands of their young customers.

Meanwhile, big companies were coming into the market—there was a mutual understanding for the need to collaborate to match the demand for good quality face masks. 

Today, some county-based industries such as the Kitui County Textile Centre, are making masks on a large scale while providing job opportunities for local residents. 

Private companies are further, supporting the government in the development and distribution of hand sanitisers and other essential materials towards addressing Covid-19. 

The materials used for these innovations have been sourced locally, thereby boosting businesses within our localities. 

These are the few innovations that have made it to the mainstream media. There are quite a number at the household and community level that are yet to be revealed.

Young innovators, like the duo in Kisumu who developed a phone tracking app to help with contact tracing are yet to feature.

Others, in the hospitality, transport and other essential services sectors are innovatively managing the resources they have to continue delivering services to the masses. 

The spread of coronavirus has made clear what we have known all along: that we have the capacity to take care of ourselves, to promote our local industries and collectively build our economy.

These accounts give life to the national ideals encompassed in our development agenda including Vision 2030 and the Big Four agenda. 

A number of factors can be linked to this flourishing of ideas and capacities. First, is that there is an enabling policy and institutional environment for innovators and industry players to think, create and interact. All they need is an idea and the knowledge to get going. 

This period of necessity has also reduced the bureaucracies that exalted corruption, middlemen and other administrative procedures that hitherto stifled resourcefulness.

Approvals and signatures from authority figures are now readily available as everyone contemplates the gravity of the pandemic. 

Most important is that we have a pool of bright, capable and patriotic Kenyans choosing country over self.

That we have all come out to give our best at this trying time is commendable and must be supported in the best ways possible. 

It is important, therefore, that we protect out individual and national intellectual property rights.

This is not only because our innovators need to be recognised and to reap from their ideas, but also because our country and continent needs those ideas to develop and prosper.  —The writer is an Advocate of the High Court

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