HINGING THE VIBRANCY OF ATPS CHAPTER ON LINKAGES AND GROOMED YOUTH: LESSON FROM ATPS UGANDA CHAPTER
By Okuonzi John (PhD)
ATPS National Coordinator, Uganda Chapter
Good habits formed at youth stage make a significant impact to the society. ATPS Ugandan Chapter (AUC) has remained vibrant and relevant to the STI agenda despite gaps in funding its activities.
The youth are the pillar of AUC. A number of youth groomed by chapter since its inception have matured with different technology based business initiatives, some work closely with government agencies and have maintained their identities with the ATPS.
The AUC identified a number of talented youth with strategic innovations and nurtured them to develop their innovations to commercial levels. Most of them have come up with software products used in universities and some with tangible electronic products such as inverters for solar systems. Having developed commercial viable products, the youths formed business companies with an office and production space. One of the software companies offered AUC office space that it currently conducts business in appreciation of nurturing and support at incubation. This is under the auspices of the ATPS Phase VI Strategic Plan 2008-2012.
AUC has worked with youths who have benefited from small grants ranging between USD 1000 to 5000. In 2013 -2014, a group of AYFST members in Uganda wrote a proposal dubbed, Engineering Practice for Community Services (EPICS) which attracted a funding of USD 3000 from IEEE. The aim of this project was to encourage youth to join the engineering profession so as to serve communities. It involved pairing university students with secondary students and actively engaging them to produce innovate systems or products that address rural community challenges.
The same youth group wrote another proposal to install lighting arrestors in primary and secondary school prone to lightning strikes. The activities involved awareness creation, design and installation of lightening discharge system with the school children. The children were taught by ATPS youth about science lightening and how to protect themselves from attacks. The project attracted a grant of USD 5000.
In 2015-2016, AYFST group won a grant of USD 3500 to develop a mobile ICT lab to train students and those that are under-privileged in the community. The mobile ICT lab contains about 5 personal computers designed to be hauled around schools without ICT lab facilities. The mobile ICT lab is stationed in one school for about 5 days to enable pupils gain bits of digital literacy. In order to be sustainable the schools make contributions to support the initiative since many of them cannot afford to buy computers.
Since 2013, AUC has worked with Café-Sci, an NGO that promotes teaching of science informally in primary and secondary schools. The Café Sci and AUC members have visited over 60 schools in more than 5 Districts in Uganda. In this arrangement, the students and pupils are urged to form science clubs. The science clubs then identify science topics that are relevant in the community. ATPS members with related knowledge are identified as guest speakers in the schools. The project became so popular and in most cases attracted the entire school. These activities are in line with ATPS youth and gender programme.
AUC has been working closely with the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) since 1994 to accomplish relevant IP programs. The UNCST a national body charged with the responsibility of developing Science and Technology in Uganda.
UNCST in collaboration with AUC continue to develop the capacity of scientists in the area of Intellectual Property Rights in order for them to benefit from their efforts; for IP strategy to be successful, inputs from other national mandated bodies like Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) and leading academicians were required. This led to the formation of a 9 member National IP Advisory (NIPA) Group to advise UNCST on IPR issues.
Mr. John Okuonzi, AUC National Coordinator is an active member of the NIPA. The NIPA Group initiated a program called “IP Clinics” which is a platform used to train and create an IP culture amongst scientists and innovators in Uganda. The IP clinics are held monthly with an aim of providing an information platform on intellectual property related issues and improve access to IP information. The IP Clinic, UNCST, AUC and URSB promote commercialization of local inventions/innovations and facilitate access to patent information.
AUC and URSB created a Technology Innovations Support Center at Kyambogo University to easily access patent information. Over 200 staff, students and other scientists have been trained to search patent information since 2014. This program has made AUC relevant in strengthening institutional mechanism to acquire and support Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and expand the innovation base in Uganda. These activities are aligned with ATPS agenda on STI Research, Training and Sensitization, Knowledge Brokerage and Commercialization, and Policy Advocacy.
AUC also participates in national events such as the National Science Week in. In recognition of these key activities, AUC was selected by URSB to be a member of the National Expert Group (NEG) whose mandate is to identify appropriate technologies for adoption and national development. AUC has continued to develop IP as an important strategic and competitive resource that is currently recognized as a national resource that can attract foreign investments in Uganda.
AUC has collaborated with like-minded institutions in Uganda and continues to provide platforms for collaborative youth innovative engagement in ATPS programs. While supporting the AFYST and STI institutions/stakeholders to build necessary conditions and incentives to implement their programs, AUC has remained active to ensure that six core pillars of ATPS remain operational in the chapter. AUC works towards implementing the Phase VII Strategic Plan, which is designed to improve the understanding and functioning of STI policy research, policymaking processes and systems to strengthen capabilities, social responses, and governance of STI-led sustainable development in Africa.