by Mark Nyambang
February 3, 2010, Wednesday
I WAS fortunate to be able to accompany a good friend of mine to an innovation competition held in one of the local universities in Selangor recently.In that competition, she won the Gold Medal in the Innovation Category. There were some 400 participants competing for diamond, gold, silver and bronze medals. My friend received some extraordinary reviews on her innovative product from the judges, who were from the industry itself. One of the judges said that she was puzzled how Sarawakians could be so innovative and able to send a big team every year to this competition compared to other university branches.
This year is the Year of Innovation and Creativity or Malaysia Innovative 2010 (MI2010), as mentioned by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation earlier this year.
In his speech during the launching, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak emphasised that the right ecosystem – where the family and education system, private and public sectors and the grassroots work as one – must be created to allow ideas and creativity to grow.
It is not fair to compare our country, what more to say to compare our state’s innovation development and progress to that of Silicon Valley. But at the same time, we just cannot be bystanders, watching other countries enjoy the wealth from the innovations sector.
ICT developments such as our daily Facebook, updating software like Twitter, the ever popular search engine Google and the much awaited iPad by Apple are some of the successful examples of innovative products.
Where are we on the innovation map? How much have we done to promote local innovations? Do we have enough platforms to showcase our products?
I feel that we are still way behind in terms of promoting innovations in our own country. Besides universities and schools, it is difficult to find innovation competitions carried out to challenge the youth to think creatively. There are not many public platforms for our youth to really share their ideas.
Yes, we do have a lot of those ICT exhibitions and PC fairs. However, those are either exhibitions by the industry players, or profit based ICT fairs.
Innovation programmes should not be restricted only to those in universities and schools. Most of my friends said that there should be open yet secure platforms for the public to showcase their talents. Proper platforms should even have ‘industry matching’ sessions between industry players and innovators. Just imagine these scenarios: an ordinary mecha-nic may create an innova-tive ‘smokeless exhaust system’ and a farmer discovers methods or techniques to produce odourless durian. Where do they go to? Where can they sell these innovations? It would be such a waste not to see these innovations in the market.
With emerging low cost technologies, free software and higher speed of broadband provided by service providers in the country, I say it’s about time for all, including the local community, service providers, government agencies and the corporate sector to really get involved in research and development (R&D) efforts, not only in universities, but encourage home-based R&D, in your own home garage or even your own room.
Family members, especially parents, should give their full support not only by giving financial support but also by motivating their children to think outside the box over certain problems.
In my three years as a multimedia lecturer in a local college, sometime back, I could detect some hidden talents and some great ideas in our younger generation and they showed signs of creativity in problem-solving. Some of their final projects were really marketable at that time. Why can’t we have our own version of Bill Gates from Saratok? Or our own social network software such as Sarawak Facebook created by a 16-year-old programmer from Miri? I have a strong feeling that the next big thing in innovation will come from our state. It might sound as a big personal dream, but why not just give ourselves a try at inventing things?
It is never a sin to dream big, but it sure is a blessing to share wealth through your innovation.