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Bitange Ndemo

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Konza Technology Park

I dared dream that one day we shall conquer the world with tech innovations that would transform society. To realise the dream, the Konza Technology Park was going to be the vehicle.

Many people locally and internationally are asking if we are on the right track. With the recent Cabinet reshuffle, I saw light at the end of the tunnel. That day is certainly coming.

The nomination of +Joseph Mucheru as our new Information, Communication and Technology Secretary is a giant step towards ICT-enabled transformation.

Incidentally, when Joe travelled to Silicon Valley to meet with Google chiefs, I was with him. He saw Palo Alto, liked it and joined Google as their Africa representative.

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Informal sector more financially innovative

Most bankers have failed to see value in micro, small and medium enterprises – the engine of economic growth in this country.

Their focus on the so-called corporate lending is their undoing. Formal micro-lenders aren’t going to their real customers. Instead, they train their eyes on upgrading into commercial banking.

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We can't shout at each other and call that negotiating

I have tended to attribute this negative conduct to their average low level of education and general lack of suavity.

I want to withdraw my criticism and opine that their uncouth behaviour may be more attributable to a cultural problem.

I arrived at this conclusion after watching the conduct of lawyers during their Law Society of Kenya (LSK) Annual General Meeting (AGM) last week. What transpired at the event was both unfortunate and deplorable.

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I spent most of last week in Taipei at the Innovation Center for Big Data and Digital Convergence, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan, barely three weeks after Typhoon Soudelor swept through the Island. Amazingly, Taipei has been cleaned up. You wouldn’t think such a powerful natural force had swept through the city.

It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with 650 inhabitants per square kilometre, but it is among the top 20 richest countries in the world today. 

Three interventions were key to the restarting of Taiwan’s economy. They included, first, a financial aid and credit package from the United States amounting to $4 billion as well as other indirect economic stimulus of US food and military aid during the formative stages between 1945 and 1965 period, second, a takeover of Japanese assets in agriculture and industrial infrastructure after Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, and third, extensive land reforms.

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Early on Wednesday morning last week, I visited Kikuyu town. 

I was visiting Funkidz​, a children’s furniture manufacturing enterprise. Unlike many of our furniture-making Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), it is a one-of-a-kind SME that has invested heavily in technology and breaking through the ceiling of scalability.

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Work with farmers to develop rural areas

University of Nairobi scientists have come up with a new fertiliser, Biofix, that it licensed to Mea. It is not randomly used like other fertilisers. Instead, it is applied according to the needs of the soil. Such soils are analysed before the right mix that is likely to give optimal production is recommended.

Politicians have ignored this basic scientific knowledge as we often import one-size-fits-all fertiliser for the entire country. There is wisdom in respecting science and the knowledge of local scientists. Until we effectively deal with the policy, research and farming industry axis, development will be hampered and poverty will persist.

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The day I left office, my phone literally ceased to ring.

My “friends” had moved on. I found myself checking my phone to establish if I had inadvertently put it off. The phone was fine.

Prior to my departure from office, receiving 30 calls an hour was not unusual.  Although most calls were work-related, there were many social calls from many old and new friends, people you would expect to keep in touch with even when you left high office.  Strangely, such calls cease until you establish a new kind of relevance.

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Technology changing way we do business

The disruption of the banking sector is ongoing. The Bank of England licensed a startup virtual bank, Atom Bank, as the first alternative to traditional banking services.

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Innovation week at University of Nairobi

This week, the University of Nairobi opens its doors to the world as it showcases local innovation at its main campus. 

The Innovation Week starts today with a two-day pre-expo presentation of academic papers from across the world, followed by workshops on innovation management and ecosystem development by teams from the United States and Israel. 

The main purpose of the event is to celebrate local innovation and demonstrate how research feeds into innovation through technology transfer, commercialisation, strengthening of IP frameworks, innovatively delivering education, and energising relationships between private sector, academia and government. #InnovationWeek

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Inculcate culture of innovation in KDF

Some armies are indeed the industrial bases of many countries.

Most are involved in applied research that becomes new products and new companies that create employment. So the news that the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are doing research and that they have a patent in their hands comes as great news.

Armies across the world are involved in research and many of their innovations have gone on to become commercial products. The United States of America’s military is a leader in this area.
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