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Time to revive our ‘Silicon Savannah’

By FAUSTINE NGILA

Once again, Kenya has been recognised for its innovation following the creation of a mobile app that seeks to reignite hope in the global war against female genital mutilation (FGM).

Five students of Kisumu Girls High School came up with I-cut, a mobile application that helps girls and women at the risk of FGM, and also victims, to report the matter to the authorities for rescue and medical treatment at the touch of a panic button.

Whether it is clitoridectomy, excision or infibulation, FGM is a global hindrance in the development of social life, especially for girls and women, since it adversely affects their mental and bodily health.

As the winners of the Daily Trust’s 2018 African of the Year award, these girls will be feted in Abuja, Nigeria, in January and awarded Sh2.5 million in cash.

BRAINY STUDENTS

The Health, Education and ICT ministries should be on the frontline of nurturing such brainy students to continue making technological inventions to solve the society’s problems.

Kenyan youth are endowed with smart brains and appreciate the challenges they face, serving as a motivation to create efficient sustainable technologies such as M-Pesa, My Dawa, M-Farm, Africa Travel Guide and Pesa Link. But they lack support and have to struggle to make useful apps.

While technology hubs such as iHub, Akirachix, NaiLab, GrowthHub, Pawa254 Hub and FabLab have done a lot to brand the country as a top technological revolution centre in Africa, lack of government appreciation has been evident.

GLOBAL COMPANIES

Let the national and county governments set up at least one innovation and research centre for science and technology in every county with a national coordination hub to tap into the pool of talent and high Internet speed in our country.

We can take a leaf from the United States, which set aside a region — California — for technological advancements, discoveries and inventions.

Innovations in the Silicon Valley birthed global companies such as Alphabet, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Uber, Apple, Adobe Systems, Cisco, HP, Netflix, Oracle, Tesla and Intel.

Nairobi’s ‘Silicon Savannah’, however, seems stillborn and hubs such as SwahiliBox (Mombasa), Dlab Hub (Eldoret), Sote Hub (Voi), Ubunifu (Machakos), Lake Hub (Kisumu) and Mt Kenya Hub (Nyeri) have sprouted outside the capital.

UNEMPLOYMENT

Most of them operate independently, funding their projects without a cent from the State despite Kenya being ranked third in Africa, after South Africa and Egypt, in the number of tech hubs. The developers cite the high cost of living in the capital for decentralising their ideas.

Questions linger in local technologists’ minds on why the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation wasn’t established, as per the Science, Technology and Innovation Act 2013.

A well-coordinated tech zone is a sure way of tackling the high unemployment rate in the country and lack of it will keep our brainy youth in the shackles of sports betting, thanks to lower Internet costs and uncontrollably mushrooming mobile loan apps.