Nairobi rises as the innovation lab for East Africa, by Ben White
The past two weeks were remarkable for me and the experience was highlighted by the opening of the iHub, otherwise a needed nexus point for the tech community (and public/private stakeholders) to come together and just collaborate. That Ushahidi takes the lead in this process seems fitting. After all, the project was born out of the Kenya Election crisis at the start of 2008 and is now an application being used successfully around the world. It is actually the Kenya context at that time that forced the creative thinking that makes the project so relevant now. It also shows us that innovation today is probably more likely to come from the streets of Nairobi than Paris or London. By helping establish the iHub, Ushahidi sets a clear example for what kind of thinking might emerge from this space.
Larry Madowo from KTN was at the iHub launch on Wednesday.
Here’s his video piece with a lot of good soundbites from the attendees:
Needless to say, the iHub gives the community a viable platform in which to come together and profile its potential to innovate locally. The need for such a space was further made apparent when three days later we had Tandaa, a symposium looking at the need for local digital content and the different models entrepreneurs might consider. More specifically, how can content be translated into viable revenue streams needed to stimulate further developments in these areas and make them sustainable. To do this we have to look deeper into user habits and further our understanding of local information needs. This extends well beyond the busy streets of Nairobi and into rural Kenya where a genuine interest for information is growing. The event was hosted by the Kenya ICT Board and sponsored by Google Kenya. This was only one of hopefully many partnerships that will come together in a common interest to promote a genuine African information society.
Kibera on the map
These developments also reach deep into the streets of Kibera. Map Kibera project is working with volunteer mappers from the thirteen different Kibera towns. They are busy putting Kibera’s key infrastructure and points of interest online and via their handheld gps units. Considerable data has already been collected and a basic data collecting/processing infrastructure is being put into place. A two pronged strategy is now in the works in which both government and citizen would come closer together. On one side, a network of monitors would be engaged in an effort to track development efforts in the different parts of Kibera.