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Africa

Can urban innovation ecosystems be developed with little broadband infrastructure?

Victor Mulas's picture
We are witnesses the surge of tech startup ecosystems in cities globally.  This is happening in both developed and developing countries.  In my previous blog post I showed this trend and the studies that confirm it. Among the questions we are looking for in our research to map urban innovation ecosystems is whether there is a minimum set of requirements for these ecosystems to emerge.  A minimum set of infrastructure or skills of the population, for instance.  What we are encountering is that, although you need a minimum level of infrastructure, e.g., there must be at least some broadband connectivity and mobile phone networks, this level is much lower than many people expect.  A city does not need to have 4G mobile broadband or fiber optic fixed broadband widespread.  It is enough to have broadband connection in some key points (particularly hubs and collaboration spaces) and basic mobile phone coverage and use, e.g., 2G mobile phone service.  A similar conclusion is applicable to the skill level of the population.   The results of the study of New York tech ecosystem shows that almost half of the employment created by the ecosystem do not require bachelor’s degree.  In this blog post I present the case of Nairobi and the tech start up ecosystems emerging in Africa and how these ecosystems can not only surge, but compete internationally despite having limited broadband connectivity (both mobile and fixed).  This is also part of the paper I am working out and the research we are doing on urban innovation ecosystems.
 
Map of Accelerators and Collaboration Spaces in Nairobi. Source: Manske, Julia. 2014. Innovations Out of Africa. The Emergence, Challenges and Potential of the Kenyan Tech Ecosystem.

​Smart Africa returns – with a focus on Rwanda

Samia Melhem's picture
Rwandan President Paul Kagame (center) and Minister Jean Philbert
Nsengimana (left) work with children during the recent
"Smart Rwanda Days" conference in Kigali.
“Smart” is in. So is digital. According to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, “digital innovation has leveled the playing field, making it easy for anyone from anywhere can compete in the global economy. Today, ideas do not have borders and therefore countries cannot be landlocked.”

Earlier this month, the Government of Rwanda convened a “Smart Rwanda Days” conference, bringing together participants from seven countries. During the two-day event, attendees were asked to “take the pulse” of digital development across Africa – as well as within their own countries – and then set concrete roles and responsibilities for current members of the Smart Africa alliance (Burkina Faso, Mali, South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Gabon). The event was co-sponsored by the International Telecommunications Union, the African Union and several private-sector companies.
  The Smart Rwanda Master Plan (SRMP), developed by the government in consultation with representatives of civil society and private sector, in February 2014, calls for better services to citizens through e-government and ICT education at all levels. The Plan includes a specific focuses on broadband networks and tertiary education, as well as fostering investments, innovation and creative local content to strengthen ICT. “Africa is on unstoppable move forward that tremendous progress is being made, but also the room for increasing speed and impact is limitless,” said Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister for Youth and ICT.

Pursuing job creation, citizen engagement and government efficiency through ICTs in Nigeria

Lyudmila Bujoreanu's picture
Nigeria's Ministry of Communication Technology is
advancing a wide range of ICT initiatives,
​including a National Broadband
Development Plan. 
Nations cannot be competitive, innovate and generate tomorrow’s jobs without technology and digitally literate citizens. Similarly, organizations like the World Bank cannot achieve their objectives without fully utilizing the power and potential of technology. Here at the World Bank, we’re striving to reduce the extreme poverty rate to no more than three percent and boost income growth of the world's poorest 40 percent by 2030. These goals cannot be achieved without fully embracing the transformative powers of technology and innovation.  

Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest population (approximately 174.5 million) and the continent’s biggest economy (more than $500 billion in annual GDP). It is also the center for a wide range of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) activities, from policy to practice – many of which are supported by the World Bank.

Since the establishment of the Ministry of Communication Technology in 2011, the Nigerian government has made notable progress in advancing its ICT agenda. The government has catalyzed significant efforts in the area of policy and regulation, with an ICT Policy developed in 2012, a National Broadband Development Plan developed in 2013 and an e-Government Strategy now in the works.

We've updated the Africa tech hub map using your suggestions

Tim Kelly's picture


My recent blog "Tech hubs across Africa: Which will be the legacy-makers?" generated a long list and a wide range of comments, many suggesting tech hubs we hadn't noted on the map. As a result of your feedback, we've updated the list and created a new map.

Here are also two helpful new links that were sent my way as a result of this ongoing dialogue: Of course, since the technology landscape is always changing, the list will never be complete. We request your ongoing help to add value by making new comments. Thank you for being part of our global community.

Tech hubs across Africa: Which will be the legacy-makers?

Tim Kelly's picture


One of the key features of the African digital renaissance is that it is increasingly home grown. In other sectors of the African economy, such as mining or agribusiness, much of the know-how is imported and the wealth extracted. But Africa’s 700 million or so mobile subscribers use services that are provided locally, and they are also downloading more applications that are developed locally.

Connected and Healthy: Using ICTs to Improve People’s Health

Samia Melhem's picture

Information and communication technologies (ICTs), including mobile phones, are increasingly seen as critical tools to improve public health and health outcomes in Africa. Several experiments, including some launched almost ten years ago, are starting to show progress:
 
In Rwanda, an mHealth system dubbed TRACnet monitors epidemic diseases. TRACnet has been financed since 2004 by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and Rwanda's Ministry of Health, and has helped track HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Health workers are equipped with a mobile phone and access TRACnet through SMS menu prompts, requiring them to document and monitor the status of patients in the health clinics under their jurisdiction. The system has helped create a registry of all health workers, their patients, rural clinic locations, staffing, assets, and medical supply inventories.  Key factors in TRACnet’s success include sustained financing, scaling-up to all agents in all villages, and use by health workers in their daily work.

Mauritania Ramps up Broadband Internet by Stimulating Private Investment

Michel Rogy's picture

Also available in Français

The Mauritanian Minister of Economic Affairs and Development, Mr. Sidi Ould Tah, has just signed the WARCIP agreement (Mauritania Program for Regional Communications Infrastructure in West Africa), a program financed by the World Bank that aims to connect all  regions of the country to high-speed Internet by 2015 (for more details: www.warcip.mr). This signature represents for me a new step toward achievement of this project on which I have been working for two years now.

The Power of Mobile: Saving Uganda's Banana Crop

Lyudmila Bujoreanu's picture

Through my work on the Uganda Agricultural Technology and Agribusiness Advisory (ATAAS), managed by Rasit Pertev, I have learned that Banana is a major staple in Uganda consumed by over 14 million people – the highest annual consumption of bananas in the world at about 0.7kg per person per day.

Understanding “Foregoing” Behavior at the Base of the Pyramid in Kenya

Tim Kelly's picture

At the end of 2012, infoDev released a study, conducted by iHub Research and Research Solutions Africa, looking at how mobile phones are being used by those at the economic base of the pyramid in Kenya (living on less than US$2.5 per day). The study, funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and UKaid, covered urban and rural areas of 6 districts in Kenya.

Africa: Using ICTs for transformational development

Tim Kelly's picture

Africa is advancing by leaps and bounds in adoption and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the private and public sectors. A new report, “eTransform Africa”, shows how innovations that began in Africa – like the use of dual SIM card cellular phones or using mobile technologies for remittance payments – are now spreading across the continent and beyond.

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