The knowledge economy ushers in infinite possibilities to generate new scientific research and breakthroughs, fuelling job opportunities, economic growth, and improve the quality of life. As such the knowledge economy has the great potential for developed and developing countries alike and Zimbabwe specifically to generate a new economy based on services, industries and companies that did not exist a few years ago. This will be a reality soon for Zimbabwe.
Intellectual property commonly abbreviated IP is defined as the “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce” by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) the United Nations specialized agency on Intellectual Property matters headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland with a membership of 191-member states including Zimbabwe or innovation is not foreign to us as Zimbabweans and the spectacular Great Zimbabwe design speaks volumes of our capacity and ingenuity. Even the bible for those who read it in the book of Proverbs 8:12 says “I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions” I especially like what Proverbs 12:27 says “the lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man’s precious possession.” In my lifetime I hope to see a diligent Africa that will roast and enjoy the benefits of its own value chains with regards its natural resources be they diamonds, platinum, gold, oil, cocoa etc.
Africa University which is a Methodist church related private university in Mutare which offers a master’s degree in Intellectual Property now has Intellectual Property as one of its mandatory courses has had an operational innovation hub known as i5 Hub since October 2017 (Africa University, 2018). In July 2018, we learnt that the government through the Higher and Tertiary Education sector, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Ministry has availed $15 million for the construction of innovation hubs in six universities. These universities are namely National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Midlands State University (MSU), University of Zimbabwe, (UZ) Harare Institute of Technology (HIT), Zimbabwe Defence University and Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT). Additionally, on the 28th of June 2018 the Zimbabwe National Intellectual Property Policy and Implementation Strategy (2018-2022) was launched by the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mr. Ziyambi Ziyambi at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare to spur innovation and creativity in various sectors of the economy.
Intellectual Property or Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are intangible assets however they are increasingly important as societies and economies become more knowledge-based and should ideally appear even in balance sheets. According to (Forbes, 2017) the brand alone i.e. the trademark or the name alone of the following companies Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon are valued at USD 182.8 billion, USD 132.1 billion, USD 104.9 billion, USD 94.8 billion and USD 70.9 billion respectively. This means they can access a loan or lines of credit using their trademark alone which has acquired distinctiveness due to a world class service or product associated with it. Knowledge and or data as well as its application are more valuable than oil. We must understand from the onset that knowledge and data can be duplicated, shared, and reused and also that “the supply of data is soaring in both volume and type so rapidly that it cannot be controlled or monopolized (Mandel, 2017).
In contrast capital equipment such as a crane can only be used by one party at any given time, additionally most tangible assets depreciate with time and or usage, however knowledge and data appreciate in value with time and usage; that is, the more the organization uses the data across more use cases, the more valuable, complete and accurate the data becomes. Traditional economics dictates that the value of durable goods can only be attained by possession of the physical item or article and not just knowing it. Data on the other hand data has its value in knowing the information itself and not merely just possessing it. IPR’s are negative rights in that they give their owner the right to exclude others from benefiting from their innovations. IPRs are also territorial in nature in that protection usually has to be actively pursued in each country it is required. I know that’s a mouth full but as Dr Carl Sagan once famously put it “You have to know the past to understand the present.” Allow me to attempt to simplify this over the next couple of weeks but have at the back of your head the fact that digital technologies bring Intellectual Property into the day-to-day life of everyone and they challenge conventional wisdom on IP.
The first and second industrial revolution which relied primarily on human labour where characterised by water and steam power to mechanize production in the first revolution followed by use of electric power to create mass production in the second revolution. The Third revolution focused more on usage of electronics, robotics and information and communications technologies to automate production and reduce reliance on a human labour force to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The fourth industrial revolution or what is usually referred to as industry 4.0 is currently upon us. Industry 4.0 will interrogate the automation process and its outputs and through the use of learning algorithms what we call machine learning or Artificial Intelligence. We see today human beings and machines interact at an unprecedented level and data is collected or analysed from things such as your mobile phone, your watch, your TV, your washing machine, your microwave. This reliance on things that are hungry for data or constantly collecting data that are interconnected reigns supreme hence the term Internet of Things commonly abbreviated IoT.
Value is generated by new types of analysis rather than ownership of the data”. While most commodities such as currencies are fungible and can be substituted it is well noted that one piece of data cannot be substituted for another as each data set carries different information. In the age of loT it has been alluded to how “Data management and distribution in Big Data environment is critical for achieving self-aware and self-learning machines” (Lee, Yang, & Hung-An, 2014). Being in a knowledge economy which depending on the level of automation is also called a digital economy the biggest asset becomes innovation and knowhow the ultimate goal being how to perform tasks and produce products and services that are either better, faster, cost effective, smarter than your competitors all in the effort to secure an everdiminishing market share which is vulnerable to innovative disruptors such as Uber and Airbnb.
The Airbnb business model is fascinating and the companies value proposition is to provide a service which is a meeting place which is essentially a community-based online platform for those who own properties and might not be using them for a particular period to those who would want to rent that property temporarily for whatever reason thereby cultivating a sharing-economy by allowing property owners (hosts) to rent out units and homes. It connects hosts and travellers and facilitates the process of renting without Airbnb assuming any of the risk let alone owning any rooms itself and its business process and website of app which includes an independent rating system of those who rent and those who provide the facilities being its primary investment. Airbnb have turned the traditional seller-customer relationship upside down by creating peer-to-peer model where you review each other. It’s fascinating that the idea of the website platform and the business process is more valuable that the real estate that is owned but its members.
Similarly, Uber which is also a disruptor in the traditionally taxi service and has a value proposition to sides, the passengers as well as the drivers. For riders like me, the value propositions are that it is the best and safest way to get around, to be able to request a ride on demand or schedule it for a particular date or time with a tap of a button 24/7 and track the driver arriving and know the cost in advance and you can make a cashless payment. For drivers, it’s the opportunity to earn, the freedom of choosing their work hours and the ease of getting started. These example shows how respect for IP and the availability of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) data and its subsequent analysis is the cornerstone for the economic and technological development of any company or country.
Ramsay Shonge is an intellectual property scholar and professional based in Harare, Zimbabwe. Feedback can be sent via Twitter: @ramsayshonge Alternative E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Skype: ramsay.shonge or on mobile: +263719142162
Africa University. (2018). AU i5 Hub continues to generate interest and set the pace for innovation in Higher Education in Zimbabwe. Retrieved from http://www. africau.edu/news/AU%20i5%20Hub%20continues%20 to%20generate%20interest%20and%20set%20the%20 pace%20for%20innovation%20in%20Higher%20 Education%20in%20Zimbabwe.html
Forbes. (2017). The World’s Most Valuable Brands. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/powerfulbrands/list/
Lee, J., Yang, S., & Hung-An, K. (2014). Service Innovation and Smart Analytics for Industry 4.0 and Big Data Environment. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from https://ac.els-cdn.com/S2212827114000857/1- s2.0-S2212827114000857-main.pdf?_tid=6fe02d08- 15b2-11e8-9db0-00000aab0f6b&acdnat=1519071856_ cf4f60976508503e1008ee6f37a5dfde
Mandel, M. (2017). Impact of Data: Why Data Is Not Like Oil. Retrieved October 29, 2017, from http://www. progressivepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/ PowerofData-Report_2017.pdf MIT Technology Review. (2016). The Rise of Data Capital. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from TechnologyReview: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601081/the-riseof-data-capital/
WIPO. (2018). What is Intellectual Property? Retrieved from http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/