Making the best of innovations

16Aug 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Commentary
Making the best of innovations

TECHNOLOGICAL  innovations driven by energetic youth can be used as yet another springboard to bring about over all transformation in the country. In fact, there are several young men and women with creative ideas in Ethiopia who demand a helping hand to make their scientific..

breakthroughs and innovations practical.

 

 

Various occasions demonstrated that these young innovators, if they receive adequate support and attention, have the potential to make positive impact and contribute something meaningful to society. Hence it is timely to harness knowledge and innovation of the youth. But doing so requires all stakeholders to give due attention to the issue.

Socio-economic transformation in Ethiopia demands for both adaption of existing technologies, and the development of home-grown innovations. While too much emphasis have been given to technology transfer, it is also important to make investments in improving local skills, technology, knowledge, and innovation to deliver effective home grown solutions to local problems.

The experiences of other countries show that investment in education at lower levels pays off at the end of the day. Innovation and technology-oriented education at grass root level is vital to create future innovators. Hence, education is a key building block to secure the future of young innovators.

It is encouraging that the government has given due attention to science in the education curriculum at all levels to promote technology and innovation. In fact, 70 per cent of the tens of thousands of students who join public higher learning institutions are assigned in faculties of natural sciences. The 70/30 ratio has made a big difference in improving the number of science and technology graduates.

The Ministry of Science and Technology has also launched an incentive and support system in scientific and technological inventions at all levels of the education system. It is also organizing annual innovation competitions where winners receive financial grant, medal and recognition to pursue their innovative activities.

Further, it is vital to organize creativity contests to inspire innovation among the youth. Besides the government, other stakeholder should also involve in such initiatives. Large companies can also use competitions to drive innovation and utilize them in their production systems. They should collaborate with the media and the government in organizing such contests by granting a 'catalyst fund' to encourage and support_new ideas.

The other challenge is scaling up new innovations. In Ethiopia's context, it is unrealistic to assume that great ideas would be naturally adopted. Scaling up innovations is an important process of ensuring impact and sustainability of the youth's creative initiatives. These processes involve expanding successful pilot projects to a larger scale and achieve significant impact.

On the other hand, the government and other stakeholders have to give due emphasis to establishing innovation incubation centres. Such centres would play a paramount role in nurturing news technologies and ideas. They would also make the innovators to be in a better position to test out and adapt their ideas.

As to Dr. Eleni Gabremadhin, former Would Bank economist and founder and CEO of blueMoon Ethiopia, a company which aims to find the "sweet spot" between youth entrepreneurship and innovative ideas in Ethiopia, the lack of 'incubation centres' is the biggest challenge for Ethiopian technological start up.

She also recommended that the nation should have an economic institution that works towards providing incentives to get advanced education, to save and invest, to innovate and adopt new technologies.

True, Ethiopia is rapidly urbanizing and the way of life is modernizing. Access to mobile phone and other IT infrastructure are significantly expanding. Information technological innovations have the chance to reach the wider public than ever. All of these and other factors combined give an opportunity for innovation boom, especially in the IT sector. A lot of innovations are coming about that are creating user friendly interface of imported software.

In addition, innovators have to be conscious about the context of the country. Their innovations do not have to necessarily resemble the global innovation trend. Instead, they have to be specific to come up with new ideas to solving the socio-economic problems the country is facing. For instance, they have to focus on solving problems related to health, agriculture, environment and climate change. 

They should focus on solving problems of the people on the ground. They have to look at what are the needs that people have? They have to utilize their knowledge in such a way.

Favorable policies and active role of stakeholders for instance in establishing incubation centers and organizing competitions would help to effectuating innovators first to think about a problem and then consider the resources they have available to come up with solutions to societal problems. With this, they would be able to contribute their part in moving the country forward.