Thursday, 20 April 2017

World Intellectual Property Day 2017


Every April 26, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) celebrate World Intellectual Property Day to learn about the role that intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright) play in encouraging innovation and creativity.

This year, WIPO will explore how innovation is making our lives healthier, safer, and more comfortable, turning problems into progress. WIPO will look at how the intellectual property system supports innovation by attracting investment, rewarding creators, encouraging them to develop their ideas, and ensuring that their new knowledge is freely available so that tomorrow’s innovators can build on today’s new technology.

Every day, ordinary people are producing extraordinary new things to change the world for the better.

Their innovations take myriad forms, from the mundane to the seemingly miraculous: A billboard in Peru that harvests water from the air, supplying the local community with clean drinking water; a 3D-printer at an American university that regenerates damaged human tissue; a mobile money transfer and microfinancing service from Kenya, renewable energy solutions that power fridges in rural India; a graphene battery from China that charges a mobile phone in minutes; cutting-edge assistive technologies from the Russian Federation to help people with disabilities perform everyday tasks.

Problems to progress
From new medicines and materials to improved crop varieties and communications, innovation is making our lives healthier, safer, and more comfortable.

Innovation is a human force that knows no limits. It turns problems into progress. It pushes the boundaries of possibility, creating unprecedented new capabilities.

World Intellectual Property Day 2017 celebrates that creative force. WIPO will explore how some of the world’s most extraordinary innovations have improved our lives; and how new ideas are helping tackle shared global challenges, such as climate change, health, poverty and the need to feed an ever-expanding population.

WIPO will look at how the intellectual property system supports innovation by attracting investment, rewarding creators, encouraging them to develop their ideas, and ensuring that their new knowledge is freely available so that tomorrow’s innovators can build on today’s new technology.

Your turn
Which innovation has most improved your life? What more can be done to make sure new technologies reach the people who need them?  What do you think should be the priorities for future innovation?

Join the conversation: #worldipday

Thursday, 4 February 2016

UNICEF Is Backing Tech Startups In Emerging Markets To Help Children

A UNICEF awareness drive in Côte d'Ivoire. A more traditional NGO approach. (Reuters/Thierry Gouegnon)

UNICEF, the United Nations’ Children’s Fund, is diversifying its approach to supporting vulnerable youngsters around the world, by launching a fund to back local tech startups in emerging markets.

The US$9 million Innovation Fund will support innovators from developing countries with projects that are open source and have a working prototype. Applications for funding will be assessed on criteria that includes strength of the team, the project’s relevance to children and the ability to see potential future value in the open-source intellectual property being created.

“It doesn’t mean that the applications from those investments won’t have a global reach but it does mean that we’re trying to find entrepreneurs in markets that otherwise might not receive a lot of capital funding and help accelerate their work,” says UNICEF Innovation Fund co-lead Christopher Fabian.

The fund will focus its investments on products for youth; real-time information for decision-making; and infrastructure to increase access to services and information, such as connectivity, power, finance, sensors and transport.

The successful applicants will be clustered into teams around certain types of technologies that UNICEF has identified as ‘ripe for investment’, which include blockchain, 3D printing, wearables and sensors, artificial intelligence and renewable energy.

Initial funding and investors from the US$9 million raised so far comes from the Danish government, the Finnish government, the Walt Disney Company and the Page Family Foundation.

“We are trying to inspire people who might not have that initial capital to do their work better. In markets where there aren’t a lot of services for a startup, we know how difficult it is to get that first US$30,000 or US$40,000,” says Fabian.

International bodies like UNICEF as well as many NGOs have traditionally focused on facilitating donations and funding to aid development or support vulnerable populations. But as criticism has grown over the years of the role of powerful well-funded NGOs in distorting local economies and sometimes even hampering development, forward thinking individuals and the organizations themselves have been exploring new approaches.

The UNICEF Innovation Fund would aim to solve more problems quickly in emerging markets by getting into the thriving technology startup space as well making sure the youth get a proper education.

The bar has been raised with investments that poured into Africa in 2015. The top three countries to receive the most funding last year were South Africa at US$56 million; Nigeria at US$49.4 million and Kenya with US$47.3 million. A huge improvement since 2012 when investing in Africa was considered a risk
The Innovation Fund will not take an equity stake in any of the startups because it doesn’t need to, says Fabian. “We’ve created a hybrid between the world of venture capital and the world of international development, so what we do take is the intellectual property that’s developed by the companies that we’re funding and put in the public domain.”
Originally published in QUARTZ AFRICA 

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

NEWS POST: A Nigerian Comics Startup Is Creating African Superheroes

Africa's Avengers? (Comic Republic)

Comic Republic, a Nigerian comics startup based in Lagos, is creating a universe of superheroes for Africans and black readers around the world. The cast of characters—”Africa’s Avengers” according to some fans—ranges from Guardian Prime, a 25-year old Nigerian fashion designer by day who uses his extraordinary strength to fight for a better Nigeria, to Hilda Avonomemi Moses, a woman from a remote village in Edo state who can see spirits, and Marcus Chigozie, a privileged but angry teenager who can move at supersonic speeds.

“I thought about when I was young and what I used to make my decisions on: What would Superman do, what would Batman do? I thought, why not African superheroes?” Chief executive Jide Martin, who founded the company in 2013, told Quartz. Its tagline is, “We can all be heroes.”

(Comic Republic)

The startup may be a sign that comics are having a moment on the continent as well as in a market once said to lack interest in African-inspired characters. The nine-person team has seen downloads of its issues, published online and available for free, grow from a couple hundred in 2013 to 25,000 in its latest release last month as the series has become more popular. Comic Republic plans to make money from sponsorships and advertisers.

So far, companies have asked Comic Republic to create comics for their products and NGOs have asked for help illustrating public health risks like malaria. The head of one of the country’s largest e-commerce outfits, has asked for a portrait of himself rendered as a superhero. The story of one the characters, Aje—Yoruba for “witch”—may be made into a movie by a local filmmaker. Another edition of Guardian Prime’s story is scheduled for this month.

The startup is part of what some say is a renaissance of made-in-Africa music, literature, and art that resonate beyond the continent. Over half of Comic Republic’s downloads are from readers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and a scattering are from other countries like Brazil and the Philippines. About 30% come from Nigeria, according to Martin. Lagos now hosts an annual Comic Con for the comic and entertainment industry. Kenya hosted one for the first time in 2015.

The comic book industry has potential in Africa in part because of the popularity of superhero-themed films, Martin points out. His company launched with Guardian Prime, “a black Superman,” he says, on the same day as the 2013 premiere of Man of Steel.


Other African characters have already emerged. A popular South African comic, Kwezi, or “star” in Xhosa and Zulu, created by designer and artist Loyiso Mkize, follows a teenage superhero in Gold City, a metropolis imagined after Johannesburg. The comic, which features plenty of local slang and cultural references, is a “a coming of age story about finding one’s heritage,” according to Mkize. Nigerian animator Roye Okupe’s graphic novel, E.X.O: The Legend of Wale Williams released in August, is meant to “put Africa on the map when it comes to telling superhero stories,” according to Okupe.

Comic Republic’s universe of heroes differs from its Western peers in other ways. Of the nine characters created by Comic Republic, four are women, which Martin believes is a reflection of the fact that women are active in politics and business circles. “Today’s Nigeria, we’re very indifferent to whether someone is a man or woman. I wouldn’t say there was any strategic decision. It’s just a way of life for us,” he said.

Beyond battling evil and saving the day, the comics are meant to show how individuals can come together to provide for a “better safer Africa,” chief operations officer, Tobe Ezeogu said in November.
That message appears to be getting across to some readers. One fan wrote on Comic Republic’s Facebook wall of its flagship character, Guardian Prime, “My favorite quote [by him]: ‘All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to stand by and do nothing. I won’t stand by. I am Nigerian.’ I’m not Nigerian, but heroes are going to help the youth and stimulate patriotism.”
Originally published in Africa Quartz