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  • Writer's pictureCarter Darper

“Connecting with Digital Innovation in Africa through Social Media”

 hosted by GIZ  in Nairobi, Kenya

GIZ idea behind this workshop with African hubs was to network with pioneers and practitioners, to share experiences, create new ideas and discover opportunities in Africa which will eventually help promote international cooperations for sustainable development.

The event brought together a dozen of African hubs including,  iLab Liberia of Liberia, iHub of Kenya, ActivSpaces of Cameroon, Klab of Rwanda, RLABS of South Africa, iLabAfrica of  Kenya, icecairo of Egypt, Wennovation Hub of Nigeria, BongoHive of Zambia, iceaddis of Ethiopia and of course our AfriLabs.

In attendance were representatives from the KAIPTC of Ghana and a hosts of GIZ representatives from  head offices in Germany and other African Countries.

During the workshop, we had the opportunity to visit Hubs, (iHub, M:Lab, iLabAfrica, Ushahidi) Incubators like(Nailab & iBizAfrica), and Strathmore University which houses the Safaricom Academy, iBizAfrica and iLabAfrica.

The Impact of hubs:

•Develop skills

•Create jobs

•Serve as implementing partner for both governments and development cooperations

•Serve as a focal point for the  community

•Identify skills and bring them together under one roof where their potentials can be utilized effectively not only on the national scene, but globally as well.

•Help with local development since it creates local linkages

The potential of digital innovation is every country's business, because it has become the driving force for national economies, infrastructure development, renewable energy, green revolution and a new way for education. Since mobile devices/technology in general, had become one of the world's potent development tool, it's eminent that development cooperations look in the direction where mobile devices can be harness to produce a new way for development projects implementation  in a mush faster, better and cheaper way. It is in this direction that hubs and incubators come into play. GIZ, from their perspective sees the impact of hubs in one word “CUBE”

•Create Innovation

•Use Knowledge

•Building Network

•Enhance Impact

These are relevant points in development and should therefore be incorporated by institutions in their strive to meet their projects deliverables.

Lessons learned:

From visit to these spaces, their stories, programs and  physical layout which creates an environment for ideation,  creative thinking, giving a hub that tech feel is important for breeding the dynamics of innovation. More besides the Kenyan education system and the vast investments from telcos operating in Kenya in  the field of IT/ICT related programs had given the edge in this endeavor and is the strength behind Kenya technology growth.

It is about time we seriously engage our telcos to make some serious investments in technology at the university level and encourage startups, IT businesses and a space like iLab to improve its programs by creating business opportunities, capacity building and collaborating with them to undertake nationwide  projects. I strongly understand that innovation business models should always reflect more on what works, what doesn't, what is the define role of the hub in society and what forms of collaborations should be engaged.

To reflect these points, I realized that hubs should:

•Hubs should focus on both high tech as well as low tech to reach everyone in the social circle.

•Use social media efficiently and effective in all forms to communicate and extend their projects to nationwide audience.

•Do more to reach out to rural communities to understand what their needs are and as hub to identify solutions and form collaborations with other institutions to tackle those problems.

•Develop programs to work outside of the hub, consulting the community while trying to find solution to their problems and other events that will keep the community alive.

•Do not focus on charity, tackle real problems and ensure solutions are sustainable.

•Ensure telcos are seriously involve with the hub activities and be a part of the solution

•Run projects that will not only benefit a community but will be felt nationwide

•Prioritize capacity building as a means to meet up with the community and it's ever growing problems.

At iLab we've initiated couple of collaborations with GIZ sustainable infrastructure development offices here in Monrovia,  which have resulted into building the capacity of road construction engineer companies operating in the country to effectively exhibit and communicate their projects, as well as developing a mobile based platform to enable citizen-to-government and government-to-citizen participation regarding roads rehabilitation and reconstruction, where citizens can  report issues and ask questions about specific projects.

Finally, iLab Liberia extends her gratitude to GIZ for affording us the opportunity to be a part of this important workshop and the level of collaborations that exist between the two entities so far.

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