African 'Social Capital' Key to Policy Change, Open A.I.R. Argues in Rio

Professors Chidi Oguamanam and Jeremy de Beer of Open A.I.R. were among the keynote speakers on the first day (15 December 2012) of the second Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest in Rio. They presented on the crucial role of “social capital” in changing intellectual property (IP) policy, and explained how networks can be used strategically to identify and amplify African voices on knowledge governance.

Oguamanam outlined how the Open A.I.R. Project is seeking to address Africa’s marginalisation in respect of the formulation of IP policies and how Africa’s contribution to innovation is undervalued. Africa will only be able to reclaim a space for itself -- in an IP system that historically denies and underestimates Africa’s contribution to innovation -- by building the social capital necessary to impact policy, Oguamanam argued.

Oguamanam and de Beer showed Congress the Project's Building the Open A.I.R. Network  video, which outlines the origins, objectives and potential of the Open A.I.R. community.

De Beer ended the presentation with an overview of the ways in which social network analysis (SNA) can help researchers quantify, statistically analyse, visualise, and then mobilise social capital. Data about networks such as Open A.I.R. can not only help paint a picture of how knowledge moves; such data can also be used strategically to identify individuals best situated to put that knowledge to practical use for policy change.

Among the Open A.I.R. network members in attendance at the Rio Global Congress were (pictured below, left to right) Open A.I.R. West Africa Hub Coordinator (and Research Fellow) Helen Chuma-Okoro of NIALS in Lagos, North Africa Hub Coordinator Nagham El Houssamy of A2K4D in Cairo, Research Fellow Eliamani Laltaika of Tanzania, Global Knowledge Cooperation Advisor Balthas Seibold of Germany's GIZ, Research Fellow Seble Baraki of Tanzania and Research Fellow Esther Ngom of Cameroon.

Also below is a graphical representation, as presented to the Congress by de Beer, of Open A.I.R. network interactions in a typical month -- as drawn from the SNA conducted on the Open A.I.R. Project by de Beer and his colleagues at the University of Ottawa. In the graphic, different regions are represented by different colours, as follows: yellow is Southern Africa, red is East Africa, purple is West Africa,  blue is North Africa, and green is global.

The third Global Congress is to be held in Cape Town in December 2013.