The mobile apps labs will be focal points run and used by Africans working to increase the competitiveness of innovative enterprises working in mobile content and applications. There will be one lab each in East and Southern Africa where local and regional companies, technologists and experts can collaborate to develop locally relevant applications that meet user demands.
The hosts of the African Regional Mobile Application Laboratories will be:
· The *iHub_ consortium, comprising Nairobi’s iHub, eMobilis, the World Wide Web Foundation and the University of Nairobi’s School of Computing and Informatics, was chosen to host the East Africa lab.
· In South Africa, the Meraka consortium, comprising the CSIR Meraka Institute, Innovation Hub, Innovation Lab and Ungana-Afrika, will collaborate to host the Southern Africa lab.
Finnish Ambassador for Trade & Development, Markku Kauppinen, welcomed the selection, saying "The mobile platform is a powerful vehicle for development. The African regional mobile applications labs will encourage innovation and competitiveness among SMEs, helping them to thrive as they build sustainable businesses."
Announcing the winners at the AITEC East African ICT Summit, infoDev’s lead ICT policy specialist, Dr. Tim Kelly, said "These two successful consortiums were selected out of thirty nine original applicants; nine of which were shortlisted. The enthusiastic response to infoDev’s call for proposals is especially exciting as it has already created partnerships between bidders and also points out several avenues and organizations for future collaboration."
Each lab will be a platform for developing the technical skills, business nous and personal relationships needed to build scalable mobile solutions into thriving businesses that address social needs. As well as providing state of the art equipment, the labs will offer technical training and workshops and connect developers and entrepreneurs with potential investors, academic experts, and public sector leaders.
The *iHub_, Nairobi’s Innovation Hub, is an enabler and catalyst within the East African technology community. The *iHub_ consortium with eMobilis, the University of Nairobi and the World Wide Web Foundation will work to encourage open innovation. Jessica Colaço, manager of the *iHub_ facility, said; "*iHub_ is the nucleus of what is already a vibrant technical community that lives and breathes open innovation. We work with everyone, sharing information, sparking ideas off one another to make enterprises more innovative and help technological innovators build businesses with entrepreneurs."
In South Africa, the consortium of the Meraka Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, The Innovation Hub, InnovationLab and Ungana-Afrika already boast wide and deep relationships in business, the public sector, civil society and academia. With many successful projects already delivered in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Meraka consortium brings together technology innovators from key sectors across the region.
Laurens Cloete, acting Executive Director of the CSIR Meraka Institute said "The Meraka consortium is a great platform for the m-apps lab. We bring together key players in the southern African ecosystem, with complementary expertise combining Meraka’s R&D muscle, the world class facilities and incubation experience of The Innovation Hub and the contributions of Ungana-Afrika and InnovationLab. With our strong links with government, universities and business in South Africa, and many successful ICT collaborations within the countries of southern Africa, we are excited about the potential of the m-apps lab."
Nokia will be partnering with infoDev and winning consortiums to make sure content and application developers have access to the latest mobile technologies and training programs. The labs will also be fully committed to open innovation across all platforms.
Jussi Hinkkanen, Vice President for Government Affairs and Business Environment said; "Mobile applications and content will reach even the most disadvantaged populations and provide new sources of wealth and innovation for African entrepreneurs. Nokia is a very proud partner of this program and ready to provide its insight and support for the future entrepreneurs."
Congratulations to the *iHub_ and the Meraka Consortiums! The African labs are expected to be fully operational by the end of 2010 and should generate at least eight applications each in their first two years. Future mobile applications labs are planned for Eastern Europe and Asia.
For more information see: the Mobile Applications Project Implementation Plan and the Finland and Nokia Creating Sustainable Businesses Page.