Following its recent award as the “African Intellectual Property (IP) Team of the Year” at the African Legal Awards this September, KTA advocates with partners demonstrated their commitment to supporting homegrown innovation and ingenuity by hosting the Second “Annual Symposium on Intellectual Property, Technology and Innovation”. The symposium, which took place at Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort on the 24th and 25th October, 2019 brought together members of the legal fraternity, policy makers, academia and global and local entrepreneurs to engage in a riveting discussion on the internet of things. “The 4th industrial revolution is upon us- how can we harness the benefits of it if there continues to be a disconnect between the law and policy makers and the innovators?” Edgar Tabaro, a partner at KTA Advocates emphasized as he delivered his welcome remarks. He went on to further share the main purpose of the conference, which was to examine the best ways to use “knowledge and innovation to boost youth employment and foster the adoption of new technologies”. 

His remarks set the stage for the next key note speaker, RAN’s very own Deputy Chief of Party Dr. Roy William Mayega, whose work at the Makerere School of Public Health and at RAN has championed innovation among Africa’s youth. Dr. Mayega’s talk which was focused on the “Evolution of technology for solving the global health problem”, walked participants through different examples of technology being embraced to address global health challenges. Shared among the examples, were some of RAN’s incubatees- projects like the Bicycle Nebulizer, Mama Ope and RootIO that have context-considered solutions for pertinent global health challenges. 

The discussion that proceeded over the next two days covered a broad range of topics and included plenaries and presentations on: how to ensure technology is more inclusive, building internal innovation competency, artificial intelligence and the future of business, reskilling and relearning in the technology era. The conference was graced by a number of notable speakers including the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance- Hon. Vincent. W. Bagiire, Lanre Kolade – the Chief Executive Officer, C Squared, Edgar Kasenene the CEO of Retro Rabbit, Dr. Rosalind Parkes-Ratanshi the Director, Ugandan Academy for Health Innovations at IDI, among others. Some of the key takeaways from the deliberations held over the two days included:

  1. The tech environment is changing very rapidly, with new tools and functions coming up. Technology tools (including ICTs) are becoming increasingly inevitable in Public Health and Medical services. Caution has to be taken however to ensure that the adoption of tools is embraced at the last mile so no one is left behind. This can be done by ensuring mobile based solutions are available on feature phones as well as smartphones
  2. ‘Culture will eat strategy for breakfast’- Companies and institutions need to embrace a culture of innovation and work towards building internal innovation competency.  This culture needs to be adopted by the heads of businesses/organizations in order to be impactful.
  3. Innovative business/profit models are more difficult to replicate than innovative products. For businesses to thrive they need to think of new ways to reach their customers and sell their products.
  4. Data is the gold mine of the digital era. When it comes to machine learning and artificial intelligence- these advances will be informed by data and will be as biased as the data inputted. In order for AI to be inclusive and localized therefore, it needs data that is representative. 
  5. While Technology plays a key role in enhancing the business operations, it is not the sole ingredient for success. Technology is behavioral and business models need to evolve with the use of technology. Additionally businesses need to ensure the offline aspects of their business are evolving with the adoption of technology
  6. ‘The world is open’- your competition is no longer ‘the guy next door’. Businesses nowadays are exposed to a global marketplace and need to embrace this truth in their operations.
  7. In the digital era, it is important for businesses to remember that ‘the customer has the narrative’. Businesses therefore need to change the way they engage people in order to thrive and succeed in the digital era
  8. The role of the Government is in creating an enabling environment. In Uganda, the government has done this in a number of ways including: (i) laying fiber to lower the cost of connectivity and facilitate the establishment of an e-government and in an effort to make internet data and digital skilling more ubiquitous. (ii) Leading and coordinating the efforts to build a vibrant innovation ecosystem that includes private sector player, budding entrepreneurs, academia and incubation hubs.

RAN thanks the conference organizers for inviting us to take part in these though-provoking discussions. This conference is indeed a step in the right direction with the legal fraternity now leading these key discussions to promote and accelerate innovations in Uganda.