Mobile Innovation ...

Mobile Innovation Roadshow empowers Southern African entrepreneurs and app developers

To support mobile application development and help mobile startups leap from prototypes to profitable enterprises in Southern Africa, infoDev and the Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) Program organized the Mobile Innovation Roadshow-a month long pioneering initiative in mobile innovation in the countries of Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, and Botswana.

The Mobile Innovation Roadshow took place on February 17 - March 22 in the countries of Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia, and Botswana. infoDev and the SAIS Program convened multiple stakeholders to magnify opportunities in mobile innovation and encourage goal-oriented collaborations for mobile development and entrepreneurship in the region.

The Mobile Innovation Stakeholders Workshop emphasized the value of building innovation systems in creating entrepreneurship opportunities that contribute to country development and inclusive growth. Presentations by infoDev and SAIS were complemented by interactive discussions moderated by industry experts. Key challenges within the mobile development community were also identified.Each participating country had a series of activities that complemented and mutually reinforced the program objectives: (1) Mobile Innovation Stakeholders Workshop; (2) Intermediaries Training; (3) Mobile Innovation BootCamp; and (4) Hackathon. The Roadshow attracted over 400 participants from government, academia, business and innovation enablers, telecoms, donors, mobile startups and developers. It was the first attempt to convene key actors in mobile innovation in these countries. Representatives from the Embassies of Finland, local government agencies, and World Bank country units, were present during the activities to welcome and support participants.

Business Incubation Management Training was implemented to empower innovation and business support practitioners in assisting mobile developers. The aim was to improve participants' understanding of different business incubation approaches, models and best practices. The workshops yielded high interest among local intermediaries with multiple requests for additional mentorship and trainings. Aparticipant from Botswana said, "It was an eye-opening session with very relevant content. We want to learn more."

The Mobile Innovation BootCamp acquainted participants with trends in mobile technology, possible opportunities for mobile applications, and tips on starting a business. Lessons from the BootCamp and workshops culminated in the Mobile Innovation Hackathon.

The Hackathon offered an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs and mobile developers to learn from industry experts and from each other. It brought together over 100 young, talented participants to develop app prototypes that take on development issues in health, agriculture, tourism, education and commerce. A participant from Namibia said, “It was very well organized and can only get better! We need more events of this kind." A key aspect of the Hackathon was the thrill of collaborating with team members to code around computer screens in 2 days. In addition, the creativity of teams to come up with dynamic presentations to pitch their start-up ideas to a panel of industry experts was unleashed. The quality of prototypes developed was even more noteworthy since the Hackathon was a new experience for most of the participants.

The Mobile Innovation Roadshow drew attention to overarching issues in mobile development across the four countries. Identified barriers include lack of: platforms for networking and knowledge exchange, favorable policy environment, access to information, business and technical skills, mentors, and access to finance. In addition to understanding these challenges and identifying potential solutions, the initiative catalyzed collaboration in national and regional levels to create a sustainable impact in the mobile innovation system.

infoDev, with its partners and donors, enables the development of innovative and sustainable mobile applications and continues to support enterprises that shape their communities. The Creating Sustainable Business in the Knowledge Economy (CSBKE) program, a partnership between infoDev, Finland and Nokia, has laid the foundation for infoDev’s mobile innovation work.

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