Nairobi 16th May 2022: Innovate Now, Africa first Assistive Technology (AT) Accelerator has announced its fifth cohort of innovators, ventures providing digital AT or using digital to increase access to AT products or services.
Led by Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), The digital AT and entrepreneurship project under Innovate Now is a partnership between GDI Hub, ICT Norway, Norad, and Kilimanjaro Blind Trust Africa to support digital assistive technology (AT) ventures in Africa. Innovate Now is a part of GDI Hub Accelerates – which brings together global stakeholders to accelerate disability innovation through partnership and collaboration.
The innovations forming Innovate Now’s fifth Cohort address the needs of users with hearing and visual impairments, speech, and mobility issues cutting across sectors such as education, transport, IT, tourism, health, and wellness. The eight ventures include Learning Differently Limited, Accessible Travel Kenya, Uptyke Consulting Limited, EZSpeech, Disability innovations Suite Pepesi Wheelchair, Dasuns, Knock Knock, and Kenya Christian School of the Deaf APP sign to communicate. The startups will benefit from a 12-weeks immersive hands-on inclusive innovation curriculum, expert mentorship, user research through a Live Labs network, and investor linkages to accelerate scalable assistive technologies to market. The ventures will work towards pitching at a demo day scheduled for 1st August 2022.
Innovations include the Ugandan-based venture Dasuns founded by Ronald Kasule. DASUNs has built a web and app-based solution that leverages assistive technologies to provide digital access to professional assistive support services where persons with disabilities and allied professional service providers are both linked to a digital interactive database system. Service users only need to sign up, log in to the system, and request preferred support services from available service providers within reach. The system also provides background information about the two parties involved; including brief biodata and addresses to help the two parties to connect. The company also participates in training professional support service providers.
The US-based Startup EZSpeech which is keen on penetrating into the African and specifically Kenyan market was founded by Firouza Eshonova and Adelina Samuels. EZSpeech has developed an app used as an in-house simulator within Speech Centers and Rehab, as well as a tool to serve remote patients. Stats and progress reports generated by the App will help SLPs to prepare their routine paperwork describing the status and progress of their patients.
Dr. Mbugua wa Mungai & Kenneth Gichohi founders of Disability Innovations Suite locally manufacture Pepesi wheelchair portable and designed to operate in different terrains. The company was motivated to develop a web-based platform dubbed the Kochi system to enable wheelchair users to digitally order wheelchairs that fit. Users input needs and specifications ensuring customization and fabrication with the needs of the end-user in mind. The company also provides product information and updates on our Kochi platform and receives feedback and reviews from their clients.
Innovate Now was launched in 2019 as part of the £40 million, UK Aid-funded, AT2030 program, led by GDI Hub. Implemented through a consortium of partners including Amref Health Africa (lead implementing partner 2019-2021) and Kilimanjaro Blind Trust (Live Labs implementing partner and new lead implementing partner). Today’s Innovate Now is a partnership between GDI Hub, ICT Norway and Norad, bringing a new wave of momentum in the African innovation space.
Director-Innovate Now-Bernard Chiira says: “I am extremely proud to announce that we have selected Innovate Now’s biggest cohort yet. We received interest from 28 innovators across Kenya, Tanzania, the United States of America, and Uganda. Out of these, we selected eight ventures that demonstrated the most innovative use of digital technologies to increase access to assistive technology and other products and services for persons with disabilities. These founders are taking on some of the biggest challenges such as lack of access to wheelchairs and speech therapy. I am excited that we’ll be helping these ventures maximize the best digital transformation and business models, our global expertise, and networks to break down barriers to disability inclusion in Africa. We welcome partnerships to help grow the impact of digital assistive technology in Africa.”
Cohort 5 was launched on 16th May, the same day as the publication of the first Global Report on Assistive Technology by WHO and UNICEF, co-sponsored by GDI Hub. The Global Report recognizes assistive technology and enabling environments as a precondition for people in need to realize their human rights, and shares evidence-based best practice examples and ten key actionable recommendations on improving access to assistive technology, for everyone, everywhere. Cohort 5 is part the first of three cohorts under the theme of digital AT and entrepreneurship. Applications for cohorts 6 and 7 are being received on a rolling basis. Innovate Now is calling upon AT innovators, and especially persons with disabilities and women to apply.