The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) says it plans to introduce innovation hubs and hackathons as part of its information and communication technology (ICT) Innovation Drive.
The ICT Innovation Drive had up to this point operated only as a revolving fund that assists beneficiaries by extending loans for their different projects. As a result, only proposals which showed potential to repay the loan were considered for funding.
“Some of the applications received could not qualify for the sole reason that they did not fall within the current structure of the Innovation Drive…we have therefore come to the realisation that there is need to consider other forms of support under the Innovation Drive,” said Biggie Chiparanhura, the authority’s director of finance at the ICT innovator workshop in Harare yesterday.
“To that end, we are reviewing the structure of the ICT Innovation Drive to include hackathons where innovators are given an opportunity to showcase their ideas, develop them into prototypes, and those with bankable prototypes are provided with seed capital, in the form of grants, to develop their ideas further, into tangible solutions.”
Chiparanhura, who was reading a speech by Potraz director-general Gift Machengete, said the regulator believes that innovation hubs can provide innovators with the best possible platform to make their ideas a reality.
“We are therefore, considering identifying some existing, or established new innovation hubs, whose operations will be sponsored by the Innovation Drive, through paying for rentals and other utilities like electricity and water, thereby availing co-working space to more innovators,” he said.
The Potraz boss noted that the authority was disheartened by the low number of applications that are qualifying for funding under the ICT Innovation Drive.
“Only a handful of applicants have been able to access funding under the Drive. This has resulted in the ICT Innovation Drive failing to achieve its intended objective of motivating our youths to innovate to their fullest potential.
“It is against this background that Potraz organised these two workshops, whose aim is to equip prospective applicants of the Innovation Drive with the necessary knowledge and skills to prepare bankable business proposals,” he said.
The authority says it has also been receiving numerous complaints from innovators who claim that their ideas were stolen by established and powerful corporations.
“The workshops are therefore, also aimed at providing innovators with knowledge and skills to protect their Intellectual Property Rights.
“This, we believe will lead to an improvement in the quality of applications received for support under the ICT Innovation Drive, resulting in an increase in the number of people accessing funding under the programme,” Chiparanhura said.
— The Financial Gazette