Egerton Graduate Accuses Gov’t of Stealing his Innovation

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innovation

The multi-million-shilling portal the Ministry of Education is using to curb examination cheating was “stolen” from a team of youths who had engaged with senior ministry officials and IT experts for more than three years.

But when it was launched in January 2018 by Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang, ministry officials were credited as the brains behind the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS).

It is now part of the World Bank-funded Kenya Primary Education Development Project (Priede).

DEMANDING RECOGNITION

Now the innovators are demanding recognition as the copyright owners, and want action taken against the government officials who credited themselves as the innovators. They also want compensation.

Mr Daniel Kimencu, 30, has hundreds of e-mails, minutes of meetings, presentations and copyright registration certificates as evidence of his dalliance with ministry officials and Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB), which was to publish the Achievers Year Book as part of the student and teacher tracking system.

“I never thought it would happen. They took advantage of our age and stole from us,” he said.

DENIAL

Ms Ann Gachoya of the Directorate of Policy, Partnerships and East Africa Community, team leader during the development of the digital concept, and who corresponded with Mr Kimencu’s Bay Concept Ltd, said: “We don’t know them.”

But there is a letter from the ombudsman dated September 10, 2018, which says the ministry had undertaken to “investigate the complaint and revert”.

This was after Mr Kimencu lodged a formal complaint about the violation of his intellectual rights.

KILEMI MWIRIA

Mr Kimencu first pitched the concept in 2014 to Senior Presidential Adviser on Education Kilemi Mwiria, who advised them to register a company. He then introduced them to KLB Chief Executive Eve Obara, now the MP for Kasipul Kabondo.

“Eve Obara loved our proposal,” recalls Mr Kimencu.

“It is true that we dealt with them and found their concept appealing. I referred them to the ministry but what happened after that I don’t know,” said Ms Obara, surprised at the turn of events.

She confirmed that the innovators were referred to her by Dr Mwiria.

In a letter dated March 16, 2015, to Dr Mwiria, Ms Obara said she appreciated the proposal and promised KLB’s support in actualising the concept.

She then organised a meeting of all heads of departments on May 5.

KLB even published sample Achievers Year Books for primary and secondary schools as it prepared to roll out the publications commercially to all schools.

FINE-TUNE CONCEPT

The books were later delivered to PS Kipsang who, during a meeting attended by KLB officials and Mr Kimencu, now appearing as Bay Concepts Ltd, appointed then Director-General for Education Leah Rotich to fine-tune the concept for adoption by the ministry.

Letters and minutes in the Nation’s possession indicate that a technical team led by Ms Gachoya, Mr Sebastian Owanga and Mr Abednego Kamandi, was formed, and the director-general informed of the progress.

But Ms Gachoya now says she “can’t remember anything” about Bay Concepts.

“I am not aware of any NEMIS concept from Bay. I don’t think the information (you have) is credible.”

Dr Mwiria, in an e-mail, had encouraged the innovators: “Once the ministry owns the idea, you are in business.”

Mr Kimencu claims he was told that he would either earn royalties from the books, or that the ministry would buy the copyright.

Bay Concepts suggested that the entries be made in an online system, which could track a student’s general performance and the teacher’s coverage of the syllabus. He brought in young developers, who created a user-friendly digital platform and a mobile application.

UNIQUE IDENTIFIER

“I came up with the concept of a unique identifier, which is now used to register students,” he claims.

This was presented during a meeting at the Ministry boardroom chaired by Mr Milton Moka, education director for field services, on April 14, 2016, and it was agreed that the physical book would be used as a tool to “identify, develop and track” learners’ talents and soft skills.

Mr Kimencu even wrote to the Kenya National Examinations Council “to assist us with experts to review the teachers’ guidebook.”

He explained that they had developed Achievers Year Book, a digital platform “which comprises a personal coded database which captures records and stores a learner’s holistic data throughout their academic tenancy”.

BAY CONCEPTS

Ms Gachoya wrote to Bay Concepts on November 12, 2016, saying they “now have a commitment to finalise the engagements … and ensure we start the implementation by February (2017).”

Mr Kimencu then sent a series of documents, including the components of the digital platform, the proposed terms of engagement, and a list of schools for pilot project.

At the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, he was referred to Prof Bosire Mwebi, a consultant who lectures at Xavier University, Canada.

“The director-general asked us to share our concept with him. He was to give the feedback to the ministry,” says Mr Kimencu.

The final presentation was done on November 24, 2016, during a meeting attended by various heads of department or their representatives.

Later, Ms Rotich took the Bay Concepts team to meet PS Kipsang, who promised that the ministry would partner with the company once NEMIS was launched.

FORMAL CONTRACT

The parties would sign a formal contract.

It was after the launch on October 18, 2017, that Mr Kimencu realised that the business process ownership had been credited to the ministry’s employees, Mr Sebastian Owanga, Mr Elias Abdi, Mr Michael Kahiti and Ms Martha Ekirapa.

Mr Owanga was later made the head of the new NEMIS Department in the ministry.

“It took me four years to collect the information and create this platform,” says the Egerton University commerce graduate.

Our attempts to get Dr Kipsang to respond to the allegations have been futile. We had written to him asking about the ministry’s promise to Bay Concepts.

Dr Mwiria, happy with the progress, asked KLB to explore partnerships with government ministries and departments.

The World Bank has refused to be drawn into the conflict: “We are unable to comment on allegations. NEMIS is a project of the Government of Kenya. Please direct your query to the Ministry of Education,” said Ms Vera Rosauer, a communication officer.

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