The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how we live, learn and work, with populations in most countries under a form of stay at home order, creating unemployment, especially to a majority in Kenya who depend on daily wages from trade and other entrepreneur activities. While the pandemic is already creating untold suffering, Kenya has the unique opportunity to turn the economic tide, if personal safety measures are enhanced and its young population incentivized towards harnessing technology and innovation. It is universally acknowledged that COVID19 has fundamentally changed the world where technologically enhanced modes of living, learning and working environment will be the new normal, where digitization will become a priority, especially in the provision of health services, retail and other sectors that can rapidly be automated.
It is with this backdrop that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Chair of the National COVID19 Response Committee, Hon. Mutahi Kagwe rightly noted that COVID-19 is a challenge that requires a whole-of-society response and therefore, the technology and innovation community is also required to harness it capabilities towards this common challenge.
The COVID-19 Innovation Challenge
The challenge is an opportunity for different technological companies and communities (hubs, co-working spaces, SMEs) to merge their efforts and create a combined-capabilities to birth the next frontier of techno-developmental-governance interface needed for accelerating our Big 4 Agenda, Vision2030 and SDGs. The main categories for the COVID19 Innovation Challenge are:
1.Health Systems innovation
2.Food Systems Innovation
3.Dignified Work Challenge
1.Health Systems Innovation:
- Creating adequate awareness in the population and Health workers on all aspects they need to know on the COVID19 disease, including mitigating against “fake-news”.
- Train Health workers on COVID19 in the shortest time to enable them protect themselves, and provide the best care for suspected and confirmed patients.
- Strengthen health systems capacities for prompt detection, testing, treatments and contact tracing,
- Adapting the developed solution and scaling up to predict and tackle future pandemics that may arise,
- Provision of timely information to the population & stakeholders involved in the fight against COVID -19 spread.
- Rapid prototyping and deployment of commodities and supplies through 4th Industrial Technologies such as 3D Printing.
- Creating agile governance framework to enable adoption of innovations (data standards, interoperability, protocols and guidelines).
- Create a communication solution for internal and/or community engagement on COVID19 and other relevant information, that also allows feedback
- Crowdsource movement data in Red Zones Using Social media meta data to aid in contact tracing.
2.Food Systems Innovation:
- Provide real time data and information on food availability and accessibility, including pricing
- Policy innovations, capacity and financial packages that ensure adoption and sustainability of adopted solutions
- Support small-scale farmers to access to inputs, capital, information and knowledge to grow food amidst COVID19 restrictions
- Incentivize young people to rapidly deploy across the entire agricultural value chain (from farm-to-fork)
- Scale practices and incentives for larger farmers as a measure to de-risk food insecurity
- Improve supply chain practices to reduce food loss, scale new business models for producer-market connections
- Create localized market-places that are technologically driven for food access, processing, distribution and delivery
- Create policy modelling applications that can stimulate policy options/incentive pans to promote agri-business.
3.Dignified work challenge
- Enabling individuals in the informal economy to acquire digital skills for the future of work;
- Improving access to technology that enables the management of businesses and access to clients and market
Since the declaration of Covid -19 as a global pandemic, the world has moved with speed to find ways of mitigating the effects of the pandemic as well as provide solutions to communities who have had to change the way they live, learn and work. This pandemic offers countries like Kenya, that have invested in technological, human and infrastructural capacity to reinvigorate its economy, create new businesses; skill, re-skill and up-skill its young populations to play an even bigger role in the Post Covid19 Technologically enhanced economy. “The pandemic has proved that local solutions to such a global challenge are critical to the country’s efforts to mitigate and flatten the curve.
“Through collaboration, partnership,co-creation of ideas and harnessing the skills of youth, Kenya stands, a chance of mitigating the effects of the pandemic. ”
The challenge therefore is looking to match issues articulated by Ministries, Departments and Agencies, with scalable solutions that can be co-created and adopted for use, matched by policy and financial incentives. The innovation challenge focuses on ensuring that the response to COVID19 is data and insight driven.
Globally, technology and innovation centers and hubs are at the forefront of developing solutions towards the COVID19 pandemic. Konza Technopolies, National Youth Council, the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, Thunderbird School of Global Management (Arizona State University), UNDP Accelerator Labs (Kenya) and InfoNET Africa is developing a series of challenges to harness the collective capability of the technology and innovation to advance solutions as a practical response to mitigating against the impact of this pandemic and to build resiliency post COVID