Conclusion: Modeling innovation for GESCI in the Kenyan context
By: Hanna Kannelmae
The goal that our group set out with was to suggest a model for a multi-stakeholder HUB in supporting and promoting digital creative industries in East Africa. Spoiler alert, after conducting our research process, which included an inquiry of “The Sound of the City” project, identifying SWOT analysis points and issues identification on the current situation of Kenya’s innovation ecosystem, and conducting case studies on three African hubs and an impact sourcing center, we certainly achieved an applicable result of numerous suggestions for the GESCI-AKE team, but did not reach our ambitious goal of producing a consistent and wholesome model.
In this final blog post I will summarise the suggestions that our research group made that in our mind could help when aiming to develop an education and business model with an aim to empower creative media entrepreneurs and liven and diversify the cultural industries in Nairobi, Kenya.
Keeping in mind the strengths of the Kenya’s innovation ecosystem – a quickly growing economy, regional leadership in incubating innovation, catching the interest of international funders and partners and being a potential market for technology – we are convinced that a digital hub and ventures that grow out of it would have great potential for success in Kenya and/or internationally.
Taking into account the opportunities, weakness and challenges of the Kenya’s innovation ecosystem, we came up with following suggestions which are, in larg part, based on the best practices of already functioning Hubs in the African region, that our team researched.
- Keeping a very open mind when targeting a broad scope of potential stakeholders to participate in the Hub processes, in order to avoid exclusively targeting and attracting highly educated participants, and only focusing on ICT and mobile innovations while neglecting culture. It would also facilitate creating opportunities for applicants without specific work qualifications.
- Including end-users in the developing process, in order to gain insight into consumer behaviour and necessary means for changing it or adapting to it.
- Providing an “obstruction-conscious learning opportunity”, meaning that although the education in the Hub may be provided for free (if that is the case), for financially challenged participants living in remote or rural areas, there are other factors that might hold them back from engaging in the activities. Among those factors may be transport, housing, food, hygienical and social obstructions.
- Concentrating on the networking of different stakeholders by creating specific spaces for it, introducing collaborative processes and getting people to organise around purposeful actions. This would facilitate knowledge and experience sharing and the visibility of different stakeholders, which would benefit the overall development of the local ecosystem.
- A strong cooperation between the Hub and mobile payment platforms and other mobile industry in order to gain knowledge of the local digital market and consumer behavior, increasing investments and offering services which may lead to increased financial sustainability of the Hub.
- Increasing sustainability with incubation programs, which, by increasing visibility for the projects that are in development, might facilitate finding opportunities for funding and angel investors.
- Empowering the underpowered, whether it’s the youth, the elderly, the unemployed or handicapped, whether it’s women, gays, lesbians, transgender people, racial, ethnic or religious minorities, a digital hub with focus on culture is a perfect space for silenced voices to regain their dignity and identity. A diverse cultural content will increase the value of the Hub’s products and services, thereby improving its sustainability.
Finally, as we learned when searching for subjects for case studies, iHub has already seized an opportunity to thrive in the Kenyan fertile digital soil. Although some of the recommendations that we assembled, might not apply for iHub, they appear to be a vital platform with potential for growth and success in supporting the development of many local areas of interest, culture among them. Hence a member of our group, Irene, devised a different kind of a concept for GESCI, described as follows:
Even though the Kenyan government is eager to be a part of the new innovation process, it lacks the existing in-house capacity and expertise to enable the development of new technologies. Having provided technical assistance to the Kenyan government on several projects, such as Kenya MoHEST, Kenya NEMA, Kenya MOYAS, GESCI certainly has the expertise and experience in helping the Kenyan government to fulfill its role and potential in the innovation ecosystem. GESCI can become an ultimate umbrella organization brokering among different actors and stakeholders to maximize the public-private-civil society engagement of the innovation ecosystem. This corresponds very well to GESCI’s belief in adopting the whole-system approach in order to achieve maximum impact and maximize the benefits.