I’ve said it before—Africa needs innovation hubs.
Microenterprise theory tells us that efficiency arises from linkages among enterprises, as opposed to the Western mode of vertical and horizontal integration. These linkages—relations with suppliers, traders, and competitors—can be promoted through geospatial clustering. But advanced capital goods and machinery are still out of reach for microenterprises and cooperation is often difficult.
That’s why innovation hubs are so important. An innovation hub should have relevant machinery open to the public for rent, as well as training programs so members can learn to use the machinery properly. The machines can be paid for by the minute (small units work better for small enterprise) or through a membership fee. Innovation hubs can be a strong asset for a local association to leverage or could operate as a for-profit enterprise. The Fab Lab has been successfully made computerized equipment accessible throughout the world. But the same model must be applied to lower end machinery in informal industrial areas.
Erik Hersman, founder of Afrigadget and Ushahidi, has just opened a new innovation hub in Nairobi, not for this segment, but for Nairobi’s ICT community. Aptly titled iHub, the space is secured for coworking, collaboration, and incubation for those in the information technology space. This is a huge achievement and will help the ICT community grow and flourish in Nairobi. Erik kindly gave me the grand tour:
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Making Do is an investigation into systems of innovation in Kenya's informal economy. Learn more and read the book online or in print here.
I'm Steve Daniels. I study the transformative impact of technology on individuals and societies. I am the founder of the Better World by Design conference at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design and Analogue Digital, a publisher of content related to global cultures of technology. Currently, I work at IBM Research, where I study mobile social computing in emerging markets.
I am particularly interested in how people create, adapt, and use technology in resource-constrained environments, which I have written about in Making Do: Innovation in Kenya's Informal Economy.
- Emerging Futures Lab
- Future Perfect
- Information Aesthetics
- Maker Faire Africa
- Smarter Planet
- Timbuktu Chronicles
- White African