In the world that seems to be perfect for the rich to thrive while the poor struggle to be noticed, I am not surprised when one blogger claimed on twitter that Nokia stole the idea of two Kenyan university students on their new so called innovative Bicycle mobile charger. Around June July 2009 two students Jeremiah Murimi, 24, and Pascal Katana, 22, came up with a device which allows bicycle riders to charge their mobile phones. According to BBC story the cash-strapped students used old bits of electronic equipment for the project. “We took most of [the] items from a junk yard – using bits from spoilt radios and spoilt televisions,” said Mr Katana
If you are alert about what is going on the tech space then you know that Nokia launched Nokia Bicycle Charger Kit. For €18 (around Ksh.1400), the kit will get you the Nokia Bicycle Charger DC-14, Nokia Phone Holder for Bicycle CR-124, and a Bottle Dynamo. That would mean you have charging station, a handlebar mount and electric generator. Nice.. So did Nokia just blatantly steal such a great idea, which now they say will save developing world from developing world university students without giving them any credit or some sort of payments? To be fair the BBC article indicated that there were already such devices in other unspecified countries although non existed in Kenya.
And why are the Kenyan tech community and bloggers so excited about Nokia launching the Bicycle phone charger while nobody gave a damn about the story of Jeremiah Murimi and Pascal Katana? I can only recall people tweeting and retweeting the BBC story, which has become the norms when a story about African or Kenyan appears on the foreign media. But there after, there was nobody talking about them or their wonderful device. Damn it, instead of seeing two Kenyans busting on the glory of saving the rural communities in Africa ..it is Nokia. So it seems that when others kept quiet and went to sleep, Nokia did not. Whether through stealing or call it copying, they now have Bicycle phone charger. During the launch Alex Lambeek, vice president at Nokia said “You must look at a number of things when it comes to power management – such as ensuring the phone’s operating system is as power-efficient as possible. Now, with our innovative bike charger, people get even more freedom to use their Nokia without worrying about battery life.” Hehehe innovative indeed. By the way where were local tech companies? Why didn’t any of them approach the two guys and offer to help them..financially or otherwise push out what they have to the public? Remember Kenya’s National Council for Science and Technology backed the project, may be that does not mean a lot
Around here there are numerous stories of stolen ideas by the corporate companies from developers, programmers and entrepreneurs. Meet these people in any forum and the number one complain is how their ideas which at one point they presented to such a such company, which in turn rejected as useless but some weeks or months later they have the same idea up and running. The reason why this happens a lot is because of the bogus outdated Kenyan intellectual’s property laws.
To start with many people don’t even know how to go about it and those who know understand that those laws can’t help them. As we had mentioned sometime back here, the maximum penalties for stealing ideas or brand is about Ksh.800,000 ($10,256), not even a pocket change to CEO of Safaricom or Nokia. Since I am not connected politically in Kenya the only government people I interact with are the people at the ICT Board and the last time I brought the issue up with Mr.Paul Kukubo during skunkworks, he brushed it aside telling people not to sit on ideas due to the fear of the big boys and girls stealing them…mmmh. Well agree with him to some extent but the point is a minister in charge or Permanent Secretary or MP somewhere should formulate new laws to protect original ideas, creations, inventions of Kenyans. How I miss MPs of Mr. Joe Donde’s caliber, people who think beyond politics and the next election.
Ranting a side, Bicycle mobile charger is a solution badly needed in the rural places in Kenya. Despite the best effort of the rural electrification, electricity is still foreign thing in many rural places and mostly found along major roads, some schools and government offices. But as we know it mobile phones penetration in Kenya is just phenomenon, the same is with the use of bicycles. For that, Bicycle mobile charger is perfect kind solution needed to save people from the long distance travel to charge their phones and even the cost of doing so.
How about the boda boda riders. Time for them to get their monjo back. While the boda-boda bicycle is still spreading to other areas, in its area of origin, especially in cities in Kenya and Uganda, the bicycles are more and more replaced by motorbikes. The motorbike-taxis have taken the name bodaboda as well. Motobikes are faster but now the slow Bicycle would get more economic benefits and incentives for the owners.
This song will also get more meaning in between