KAMPALA — The Innovation Village is set to host a flagship ecosystem weeklong event dubbed ‘Build Week’ intended to develop technology solutions targeting ordinary Ugandans across different sectors of the economy.
Arthur Mukembo, the Future Lab Studios Lead at Innovation Village, said the event will take place in February 2023 under the theme: Hack the Last Mile – Using Shared Infrastructure to Serve Last Mile Users Faster and Better.
“The Build Week is an inaugural innovation, ideation and capacity building five-day activity aimed at fast-tracking the identification of unorthodox solutions to last mile challenges across various sector value chains, and equipping entrepreneurs and corporate executives with insights, skills, tools and opportunities to develop, launch and scale such solutions to serve the last mile user,” Mukembo said.
A report by World Bank on Uganda Poverty Assessment 2020 shows the COVID-19 pandemic pushed over 30% of Uganda’s population both in urban and rural areas into poverty with an increment of 30% people living below the poverty line.
Mukembo said this shows that majority of Ugandans are characterised by limited disposable income and are often more sensitive to risk and more demanding of value for money.
“While most enterprises continue to produce products, services, or technology to serve these consumers regardless of how great their solutions are, serving a widely dispersed, low-income and uninformed customer database is difficult, especially when faced with limited digital infrastructure, skills, and distribution channels to reach the intended customers,” noted Mukembo.
“Through a cross sectoral synergy approach, we believe the evolution of Build Week can help local founders, corporate entities and government organizations get to learn from each other’s strengths, become acquainted with tools design thinking and sustainable solutions through a combination of technology, specialization, and economies of scale to better serve the end user customer,” Mukembo added.
Speaking on behalf of the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, Agnes Lumala, the Academic Registrar at Uganda Institute of Information Technology, said government has put in place various programs like the Parish Development Model, Rural Communications Development Fund, and the National ICT Initiatives Support Program, among others, to enable various pathways for the youth to engage in meaningful work and generate reasonable outcomes from their efforts.
She added that through the Program Working Group framework, including those on Innovation, Technology Development & Transfer and Digital Transformation, they have realized that leveraging the power of public and private sector ICT innovation to fast track the results of interventions like these and to guide in the creation of new ones.
“The focus on Hacking the Last Mile – the most difficult part is delivering the power of ICT innovation to where it is needed most. Government has done its part in creating critical infrastructure like the National Fiber Optic Backbone Infrastructure, establishing a National Data Centre, and in creating various enabling policies but a lot of work remains to be done in getting critical innovations to hard-to-reach communities” Lamala said.
Japheth Kawanguzi, Team Leader at the Innovation Village, further noted the need to identify and create linkages between entrepreneurs, corporate organization, and government entities to leverage on each other’s strength, digital infrastructure, and programs to create better solutions, gain market traction and competitive advantage.
“Build Week not only provides a platform for start-ups to pitch their innovative solutions to corporate organizations but an opportunity for these executives to acquire an imaginative creative mindset to successfully navigate and leverage innovation principles that foster business survival and sustainability based on their needs and objectives” Kawanguzi said.
He added, “By harnessing the power of synergies, we can help the ecosystem break the mold, embrace change, and move boldly forward into the future of innovation and entrepreneurship. Creativity and innovation are born from minds where ideas and knowledge collide. In a productive environment with mutual understanding and respect, empathy towards user’s needs and working together, will help drive the force of innovation in the country. The digital economy can be whatever you need it to be if you are willing to invest in it.”
The Build Week will leverage various catalytic programs and partnerships like the Digital Doors Program to stimulate and accelerate innovation and scale.