Denis Ogwang, an ITU Innovation challenge winner, had over time been watching his friends suffer from preventable water-borne diseases, while growing up in rural Uganda. Generally, millions of people lack access to safe water in the country. Even though clean water pumps are commonly distributed throughout to provide rural and remote communities with access to safe water, they often break down and are difficult to fix without the right equipment, leaving many in a state of disrepair for several weeks or months.
During the Young ICT Leaders’ Forum in 2019, Denis pointed out that he had developed an innovation that would make sure that the community always had access to clean and safe water and in the event that there is a breakdown in the water supply system, all the development partners and stakeholders would be given real time information for support. Today, Denis Ogwang, is the Founder and Technical Lead of WaterKit. The WaterKit mobile app gathers real-time, community-generated data, recording and monitoring the daily functioning, hygiene and reliability of local water resources such as water pumps and boreholes.
Similar to many innovators across the globe, Denis admitted that he is not a naturally business-minded person – but participating in ITU’s Innovation Challenges changed his mind set by enabling thoughts of how he could model WaterKit into a business that can be self-sustainable and that can live beyond his dream.
More stakeholders and experts have pointed out that by attending an innovation challenge and event, you enter a world of game changers that is full of energy and enthusiasm. Participants discuss their ideas to change the world and the big impact they could have. Because there is such a wide regional diversity, everyone shares and builds on each other’s knowledge and with this new knowledge, participants can go back home and apply it to their communities.
Innovation challenges and events such as the one hosted by the ITU and ATU are necessary because they present a platform for participants to learn, unlearn and relearn. Also, through interaction with other participants from preceding years, as well as networking opportunities, the contestants get a chance to increase their knowledge and meet interesting and motivated people. The additional benefit is that such interactions at times result in friendships that last a lifetime.
Participating in innovation challenges is a lifelong journey; applying for a challenge and attending an event is just the starting point. It is not about winning or creating a successful startup, it is about collaboration to create an inclusive digital world.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our way of life and connecting the world resources has never been more important in order to cater for change-makers with innovative ideas and transform their communities into digital societies. It also enables policymakers, ecosystem builders, innovators and resource partners to build a transformative experience for champions of competitive digital ecosystems.
So next time there is an innovation challenge, be much more curious to find out how you can be part of eliciting sustainable change for your community.