[4th Gen #8] Conclusion: Modeling Innovation for GESCI in the Kenyan context

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.

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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.

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[4th gen #7] Case study: mLab Southern Africa

Case study: mLab Southern Africa

By: Päivi Lakka

In this post, I will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a living lab called mLab Southern Africa. MLab is based in The Innovation Hub in Tshwane, South Africa. The living laboratory defines itself as a mobile solution laboratory and startup accelerator emphasizing the creation and development of innovative mobile applications and services. As also Kenya has a fast developing telecommunication sector, I will analyze how using mLab South Africa as an example, could help develop a Kenyan hybrid model combining innovation and education to help forward creativity, skills, leadership qualities and entrepreneurial knowledge.

mLab_1

Image by MLab

MLab South Africa living lab is taking advantage of the trend of growing use of mobile phones and different applications, happening all around Africa. They offers entrepreneurs and mobile developers help with developing new and creative innovations in the form of mobile applications and services. In practice, they offer help with learning to code, hiring developers and finding funding. mLab offers a shared space for entrepreneurs to network, have the possibility to use different tools needed for their work, receive consultation from experts and finally, start up their own business. The living laboratory participates in all the steps of creating innovation and working in support of various stakeholders. Local programmers, designers and mobile application developers can join the living laboratory and offer their expertise. At mLab, there are several ways of developing an application, from joining an education program to hiring someone to do the work for you.

mLab is working in co-operation with two organizations: CSIR Meraka Institute and The Innovation Hub. The CSIR is a predominant scientific and technology research, development and implementation organization working in Africa to improve the national competitiveness as well as the quality of life of the country’s people. The Innovation Hub is a Science and Technology Park based in Pretoria, Gauteng in South Africa, considered as the most important location where innovation and knowledge is created in the region. There is a space concentrating specifically on the networking of different stakeholders, such as high-tech entrepreneurs, global businesses, academics, researchers and venture capitalists. mLab is also working in collaboration with Microsoft, Qualcomm and Nokia. mLab declares to offer top end events, connections, equipments, applications and technological devices and claims to be in close contact with local businesses, the public sector, civil society and universities around the whole of South Africa.

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Image by Mlab

Through this co-operation, mLab can offer talented young people the resources, such as network connections and expertise they need in order to carry out their ideas into new innovations. GESCI-AKE could learn from the example of mLab in how they are closely connected with the above mentioned stakeholders. Widening the partnership to local academic institutions, other living labs, technology experts and funders is relevant in order to widen the innovation ecosystem.

mLab Southern Africa also created the CodeTribe Academy in collaboration with The Innovation Hub. The idea of this academy is to develop the talents of young people skilled with ICT and distribute scholarships for these young people in order for them to participate. In the class, students themselves teach and learn from each other coding and hacking. mLab states ambitiously that the academy is training ”the next generation of software developers.”

In conclusion, I decided to investigate the case mLab because of its strong connection with the telecommunication sector and mobile applications. Kenya has such a strong growth of mobile industry and the use of phones. In my opinion, the sector should be made a part of these living labs in a stronger way. The mobile money service M-Pesa already helps tech startups and this should be considered, also because three out of four adults use mobile payments. Working in co-operation with these mobile payments platforms helps digital entrepreneurs, but it has not yet been completely discovered in the case of Kenya.

When observing the SWOT-analysis of the Kenyan current situation, there would still be problems integrating the model of mLab Southern Africa into Kenya. The living lab model of mLab Southern Africa could offer help with the challenges of the Kenyan current situation concerning the problems of concentrating only on talents with high educational background and neglecting the disadvantaged part of the population. As the goal of GESCI-AKE is to offer people coming from disadvantaged background the possibilities to work with the digital creative industries, it could follow the example of mLab Southern Africa in offering talented young people more teaching for free, as a big part of Kenyans are still struggling with poverty. By doing this, the country could discover new talents in the field. The GESCI-AKE policy brief also mentioned that Kenyan industry needs more talented workers in order to respond to all the rising opportunities on the field and that digital evolution is already changing the job market in the country. In South Africa, just as in Kenya, university and college education is still focusing on preparing students for already existing jobs, instead of encouraging the students for an entrepreneurial career.

GESCI-AKE could also offer solutions in offering funding for new start-ups. As we mentioned in the background information about Kenya, the economy of the country is growing, but Kenya needs to develop its business environment to maintain this competitiveness. Kenya’s weakness is still the lack of funding and business angels at the prototype stage of new startups. The country does not have a lot of investors working in the early stages of startups and a big number of startups are self-funded. These entrepreneurs should be encouraged and supported in building networks to finance their ideas. mLab could show GESCI-AKE the example in how actively they work on finding funding by connecting the founders of new innovations with seed, venture and angel investors.

[4th Gen #6]: Case Study: CcHub

Case study: CcHub

By: Hanna Kannelmae

In this post I will introduce Co-Creation Hub Nigeria or CcHub – a Hub based in Lagos – the most populous city in Nigeria with 13 400 000 inhabitants. Based on the materials collected from the Hub’s website, I will introduce different functions of the hub and suggest which practices, models and focal points could be adapted to the GESCI-AKE education and business model in order to achieve successful results.


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CcHub shortly describe themselves as Nigeria’s first open living lab and pre-incubation space designed to be a multi-functional, multi-purpose space where work to catalyze creative social tech ventures take place. The Hub facilitates projects which yield technological products or services that are aimed at finding solutions to the many social problems in Nigeria. As stakeholders it welcomes technologists, social entrepreneurs, government, tech companies, impact investors and hackers while making a point that stakeholders from diverse walks of life are included in solution-finding processes. In other words, they harness resources and imagination across society not just within public service professions and institutions. CcHub emphasizes the importance of collaborative problem solving. They introduce collaborative processes and help people organise around purposeful actions. Stakeholders’ are brought together for knowledge partnership events, meet-ups, focus groups, hackathons, competitions, workshops, and talks from guest speakers.

The Hub also serves as a living lab where the design and prototype testing of social innovations in ICT4D (information andCcHub_1 communication technologies for development) takes place through partnership between citizens, social entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, businesses and public authorities. CcHub considers this collaboration and integration of ideas to increase the projects’ chances of success. Of course, relevant research is of importance at the living lab, which they state to increase the return on investments. They also value the integration of technological innovation in society, but most of all they emphasize the importance of involving the end-users of new services, products and societal infrastructures, already in the early stages of the development process. The living lab brings stakeholders together for idea mapping sessions, code parties, challenges/competitions and co-creation camps.

CcHub_3Thereafter, social technology products or ventures that show potential in solving real local market problems and issues, are supported by the hub’s Pre-incubation program that provides idea teams with mentoring, pre-seed funding, project planning, usability testing and customer validation for their solutions.

Once the solutions start gaining traction and start monetizing, teams ‘graduate’ to the Incubation program where they receive mentoring, business development, administrative and funding support to test their models and focus on execution.

CcHub is in partnership with Nokia, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Oracle, Tecno and other organisations.
The CcHub example provides several good examples for GESCI-AKE education and business model. CcHub targets a large scope of stakeholders. Although the focus of their end products or services is directed to decreasing social problems, they aim to include a variety of participants with different background, among them the end-users of the final product. This dedication of keeping an open mind regarding potential stakeholders, is one of the factors that would help also the GESCI team to tackle the challenge that we mention in our SWOT analysis: targeting and attracting only highly educated participants, in stead of offering opportunities for the less privileged members of the society or for applicants without required work qualifications but with potential for retraining. Finally, it would help avoid only focusing on ICT and mobile innovations while neglecting culture, because participants from at least those two spheres would be deliberately included and their input equally valued through collaborative processes.

CcHub also presents an excellent example for increasing sustainability by empowering the product creators with mentoring and counselling as well as financial support in Pre-incubation program and Incubation program. Arranging mentoring as well as inviting experts for talks is a good way of increasing visibility for the projects that are in development, which might also facilitate finding opportunities for funding and angel investors.

[4th Gen #5] Case study: iHub

Case study: iHub

By: Irene Hau

This blog post features a review on a Kenyan innovation hub named iHub, based on the materials collected from iHub’s website and Marchant’s (2015) case study on Kenya’s ICT innovation. The review is concluded with how GESCI can learn from the strengths of iHub and improve on its weaknesses.

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Photo by iHub


The genesis of iHub in Kenya was born from the eagerness for a physical innovation space for the growing community of programmers and developers, who felt disjointed in the existing innovation ecosystem. iHub’s mission is to catalyze and grow the Kenyan tech community by connecting different stakeholders, supporting startups, and surfacing valuable information to the community. iHub is now a co-working space for technologists, investors, young entrepreneurs, designers, researchers, and programmers, where companies spring up, products are funded, people get connected, and where innovation thrives.

iHub has an affiliated research center working on knowledge production, which is called iHub Research. In addition to iHub Research, iHub has a number of sustainable initiatives designed to build a Kenyan innovation ecosystem: iHub Consulting, iHub Supercomputing Cluster, and the iHub User Experience (UX) Lab. iHub itself is an incubator operating as a nonprofit organization, but these initiatives are profit-oriented, and their profits are invested back into the development of the co-working space. The partners of iHub include multinational corporations, such as, intel, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, and also local companies, for example, Safaricom, Ushahidi, and Zuku. iHub receives financial support from investors and multinational stakeholderes, such as Google, Omidyar Network, Hivos, and the World Bank’s InfoDev program.

Even though iHub does not provide any formal accelerator programs or direct funding for start-ups that use its space, iHub has helped the birth and growth of 50+ companies over the past 3 years. At the beginning, it attracted young computer science students, aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as prospective funders and representatives from some of the multinationals, these actors would cross paths in the halls, or at the many organized networking or training events. iHub attempts to achieve open innovation through the process of combining internal and external ideas as well as internal and external paths to market, in order to advance the development of innovation. The strength of iHub lies in facilitating these kinds of casual encounters, specifically in increasing the geographic proximity between different actors and stakeholders. Therefore, iHub has at times been described as “the unofficial headquarters of Kenya’s tech movement”.

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Photo by iHub

The establishment of iHub is seen as a small turning point for the Kenyan tech innovation by multiple stakeholders in the Kenyan innovation ecosystem. The private sector and the civil society did not really work together before the birth of iHub. The ability of iHub to bring people together, to increase the geographic proximity of individual actors, can be a key component that can help increase social proximity among many different actors from very different cognitive positions.

iHub is a role model to those who want to develop sustainable innovation ecosystems. The success of iHub has inspired many African countries to open up offices using the iHub incubation model of co-working spaces. More formal incubators also opened in Kenya afterwards, including the iHub offshoot, m:lab East Africa, and Nailab. GESCI should and could learn from the strengths of iHub in accelerating actors collaborations and proximity, designing and practicing sustainable initiatives, funding methods, to build a multi-stakeholder innovation ecosystem.

In spite of iHub being a successful innovation ecosystem model, it appears to disregard the cultural aspect of investing in education, youth, and gender quality. While iHub mostly focuses on facilitating the development of innovation in a practical way, it neglects to pay attention to a key stakeholder in the ecosystem, which is the development of institutional policy-making. Therefore, GESCI can work on this to create the most suitable innovation ecosystem model for Kenya.

[4th Gen #4] Case study: Digital Jobs Africa

Case study: Digital Jobs Africa

By: Noona Bäckgren

Digital Jobs Africa, which is founded by the Rockefeller Foundation, aims at “connecting Africa’s rapidly growing youth population with sustainable employment opportunities”1. The Rockefeller Foundation is a philanthropic organization and private foundation based in New York, US. The foundation focuses on “creating meaningful and measurable impact for poor and vulnerable communities through smart globalization”2, and at the moment the organization has multiple projects going on in Africa: for example, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa3 and Disease Surveillance Networks4.

What is Digital Jobs Africa?


Digital Jobs Africa (DJA) was launched in 2013 to advance sustainable employment opportunities and skills training for African youth. The project has a clear focus on the ICT sector. The primary goal of the project is to positively impact 1 million lives in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa. Indirectly, the project will improve the social and economic well-being of entire families, communities, and nations. DJA works through three different pathways:

  1. Building favourable business environments that will lead to the creation of new digital jobs in diverse sectors, including retail and hospitality, and the emerging e-government sector.
  2. Engaging the private sector to prioritize the hiring of young people for these jobs, in part through the growth of “impact sourcing” (explained below).
  3. Working with job training providers to ensure youth has the needed skills to take on these opportunities.

DJA works in close partnership with actors from the private sector, government, civil society and the development community to ensure that these efforts are sustained5.

 

What is impact sourcing?
Impact sourcing, which is also known as socially responsible outsourcing,

Image by Digital Jobs Africa

Image by Digital Jobs Africa

aims to provide higher-income employment and access to new income opportunities to people who might not otherwise be employed in this sector6. It is about bringing outsourced jobs – call centers, business process outsourcing and the like – to rural parts of the world, as a means of job creation and community building7. According to the Rockefeller Foundation, incomes for young people in Africa who get employed through impact sourcing, can increase by 40 to 200 percent. Simultaneously, because of lower training costs and lower attrition, companies that apply impact sourcing can spend 40 percent less than others8.

SWOT analysis: Digital Jobs Africa project


The DJA project is interesting in relation to GESCI-AKE for many reasons, one of them being that their work will be led out of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Africa Regional Office in Kenya9. This means that the opportunities and possible positive impact might well “trickle down” to other similar projects going on in the area, such as the one we are working with here. The aims of the DJA are also somewhat similar to The Sound of the City and the multi-stakeholder hub that GESCI wants to become. 
   However, importantly, the DJA is an on-going project and thus its impact, strengths and weaknesses are difficult to assess. This is due to lack of adequate tools, such as a report, outlining the main results and findings of the project or the possibility to track the advancing of the project through a dedicated website, blog etc.

Nonetheless, I have organized a basic SWOT analysis on DJA because of its relevancy and significant impact in Kenya:

Strengths– Good funding. The Rockefeller Foundation invests $100 million in the project10

– The project is led from Kenya, where also GESCI is situated

Weaknesses– As a philanthropy organisation the Rockefeller foundation might not be best equipped to speak the right language to the business sector11

– Vague strategy

Opportunities– DJA could provide the concrete next step for The Sound of the City as it wants to create favourable business environments that will lead to the creation of digital jobs

– The Rockefeller Foundation could also be interested in GESCI-AKE

Threats– DJA focuses on impact sourcing, and though it aims to create digital jobs, its focus is not in creative industries

Summary

Digital Jobs Africa is a project that could well prove to be very useful for GESCI-AKE. However, it will take time before its true impact and significance are known. The project is still fairly young which might work for the benefit of GESCI-AKE – there is time to make contacts and possibly to be part of the formation of DJA.

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1. https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/initiatives/digital-jobs-africa/

2. http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/grants/what-we-fund/

3. http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/initiatives/alliance-for-a-green-revolution-in-africa/

4. http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/initiatives/alliance-for-a-green-revolution-in-africa/

5. https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/initiatives/digital-jobs-africa/

6. http://www.accenture.com/us-en/Pages/insight-exploring-value-proposition-impact-sourcing.asp

7. http://www.forbes.com/sites/nishacharya/2014/04/22/impact-sourcing-an-opportunity-that-actually-needs-to-have-impact/

8. https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/initiatives/digital-jobs-africa/

9. http://www.slideshare.net/RockefellerFound/digital-jobs-africa?related=1

10. https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/initiatives/digital-jobs-africa/

11. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/jun/03/digital-jobs-africa-youth-unemployment-rockefeller

[4th Gen #3] SWOT Analysis Approach to Kenyan Innovation Ecosystem

SWOT analysis and issues identification on the current situation of Kenya’s innovation ecosystem

By Irene Hau

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Strengths

  1. Fast growing economy

Kenya is the ninth largest country in Africa by the Gross Domestic Product. The estimate of year 2014 of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Kenya was $54.2 billion and $1,137 per capita (World Bank). It is one of the fastest growing economies in the Sub-Saharan Africa and the country’s economic growth is estimated to rise from 5,4 per cent to 6-7 per cent in the next couple of years (World Bank).

  1. Regional leader in incubating innovation

Many African economies have become more knowledge-based, and the Kenyan capital Nairobi is seen as the startup capital of Africa, where several innovation hubs and incubators have been developed in the past couple of years. Nairobi has a huge potential to evolve into the predominant hub for digital entrepreneurship in Africa, since Kenya has the second highest Internet Gross Domestic Product (IGDPs) in Africa (Freedom House).

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In the Digital Evolution Index, which ranks countries on total scores across four drivers of demand, supply, institutional environment, and innovation in 2013, Kenya is one of the slowly advancing countries. It has a score of 32.97 in innovation, which is ahead of its neighbouring countries.

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  1. Interested international funders and partners

Kenya is the technology hub of Africa. There is an increasing interest of investing in incubating innovation from development organizations, multinational technology companies, and private equity firms, particularly, IBM, Google, P&G, Nokia, Huawei, Intel, and Microsoft (Marchant, 2015, p. 4, 8).

  1. Potential market for technology

Kenya has a growing middle class and growing urban population, with mobile phone penetration around seventy per cent of the population. Kenyan administration is economically competent, because it is not dependent on natural resources like other Afrian countries, such as Nigeria, and Ghana. Kenya presents itself as an attractive market for technology, with latest development of its broadband market being independent from expensive satellite services, and offering faster connections at cheaper prices.

Weaknesses

  1. Lacking institutional support for ICT infrastructure and services development

The results from the Sound of the City living lab project indicate that Kenya lacks institutional support for ICT infrastructure and services development, especially in getting industry-standard hardware and software, which slows down the development of the digital creative industries in Kenya.

  1. Lack of funding and business angels at the prototype stage of new startups

There are only under 9% of Kenyan startups funded by risk capital angels, the lack of funding angels discourages and even kills the innovation startups. There are also varying levels of long-term investment in the local Kenyan innovation ecosystem. Since the investment is currently mostly short-term, Kenyan tech incubators are increasingly looking for sources of financial support.

  1. Government’s inexpertise as an innovation incubator

Despite wanting to play a role in the new innovation process, the Kenyan government does not have the existing in-house capacity to enable such development. Even though it recently established the ICT Authority, it lacks the required internal skills and knowledge to build new government R&D labs. Moreover, it lacks the familiarity and engagement with the needs of start-ups, incubators, and tech community, leading to an underestimation of funding for a nationwide expansion project of an incubator Nailab. Instead of reaching the initial goal of creating new physical and sustainable incubation offices, the funding was only utilized to support unsustainable trainings and hackathons (Marchant, 2015, p. 14).

Opportunities

  1. Changing consumer behaviour (multi-screen consumer behaviour)
    The GESCI Policy Brief 2013 noted that the TV and media services are increasingly accessed by consumers via apps on their devices in Kenya, the growth and development of digital creative media industries can be further accelerated by increasing engagement of consumers with digital creative content and rise in consumers’ readiness to pay for content, through value-added apps and services for smart devices.
  1. Increasing foreign private equity investment shifting from fixed assets to services
    The Sound of the City policy brief pointed out the interest of investors shifting from fixed assets to services creates opportunities for more tech innovations and related cultural products and services. Crowd funding campaigns for innovation projects can be made possible with generous donors.
  1. Brokering tech startups with mobile operators in order to ease monetary transactions
    There is the opportunity of facilitating acceptance of payments for businesses, as mobile payment platforms have helped digital entrepreneurs tremendously in the world. Yet, this opportunity in Kenya has yet to be seized.
  1. Offering education for potential business angel investors and universities
    One opportunity can be educating investors how to offer funding to startups as well as to network with each other, so it will create a friendly investing environment. Moreover, education can be offered to universities on supporting entrepreneruship and innovations among students, so as to integrate the knowledge production at the universities in Kenya.

Threats/ Challenges

  1. Only focusing on ICT and mobile innovations and neglecting culture

The Comprehensive Kenyan policy Vision 2030 called for attention in upscaling ICT-based services, with the consideration of needs for cultural investment in education, youth, and gender equality.

  1. Only targeting at attracting high-profile talents

The innovation industry in Kenya is only interested in recruiting talents with higher education qualifications. This turns down a great amount of potential talents who lack qualifications and experience, even though they have passion for innovation and they learn the skills needed on their own. There is also female labour force available in Kenya, which the industry can fully utilize to its best advantage, and increase the low degree of participation of women in the innovation industry.

  1. Too costly for small start-ups
    Expensive Internet access and the high costs of renting office space with reliable power remain the major impediments to technology innovation on the African continent.

Issues identification

  1. Imbalance of power in the Kenyan innovation ecosystem
    The Kenyan innovation ecosystem consists of more foreign actors with large amount of economic capitals than local actors. This is because of the long history of foreign participation in Kenya’s economic affairs. This leads to local companies not being entirely domestic in origin, and international actors tend to only set up regional offices rather than headquarters in Kenya. Since Kenya is not the home base, multinational companies need not pay taxes to the Kenyan government, focus on Kenyan consumers as their initial user market, nor cater to the developmental needs of the Kenyan innovation ecosystem.
  1. Social impact motivations vs. profit motivations
    There is a complicated interplay between the desire for economic growth and desire for growth with a social impact among different actors in the Kenyan innovation ecosystem. The Kenyan government desires for growth with social impact that helps the poorest communities, rather than an overall national economic growth that leads to increased economic inequality (ESW, 2013, in Marchant, 2015, p. 11). As for the multinational companies, despite admitting to being in Kenya for market gains and capturing the growing African mobile phone market, they also emphasize the corporate social responsibility in helping to solve social problems in Kenya. The Kenyan context represents a national innovation system, in which multiple actors engage in innovation in a national economy, with the central driving factor consisting of social impact overlapping with profit and economic growth.
  1. Lack of networks and collaborations among different stakeholders
    Different case studies have shown the importance of building networks for the success of innovation in Silicon Valley and Germany (Saxenian, 1996; Gemunden, Ritter, & Heydebrech, 1996, in Marchant, 2015, p. 7). The networks include trade networks, computer networks, knowledge networks, and social networks. Innovation is constantly changing in a globalized context, and networks and partnerships need to be leveraged for more effective innovation. There are the role of universities for research and development, the role of government in providing financial and regulatory support, and the role of unconventional actors, such as end-users, in exploring open innovation and networks.

Local participation bringing together different individuals and organizations is key in ensuring the innovation takes into account sustainability and the reflectivity of local needs (Nelson & Wright, 1995; Hickey & Mohan, 2004, in Marchant, 2015, p. 10). For such local participation to take place, there has to be an innovation incubator brokering between industry and universities, between knowledge production and building business around them and the government. It is because the interactivity between multiple actors in the innovation ecosystem is constantly in flux and being renegotiated and reorganized. In order to develop a successful innovation ecosystem, collaborations and engagements among different stakeholders are the prerequisite.

However, there is a lack of networks and collaborations among different stakeholders. The Kenyan government does not engage with the technology community when carrying out innovation policy changes, the private sector does not work with the civil society. These contribute to the slow advancement of the Kenyan innovation ecosystem, when what it actually needs is a breakthrough.

[4th Gen #1] Project for GESCI: Background for the 4th Gen Expert Blogs

Background for the 4th Gen Expert Blog series #1-#8

by Noona Bäckgren

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In this series of blog posts, our University of Helsinki 4th Generation Course research group aims at elevating the previous findings and policy suggestions from GESCI-AKE 2014/2015 “The Sound of the City” Living Lab into a concrete framework for action. Our research stems from previous work conducted by GESCI-AKE, Aalto University Media Lab, Dr. Minna Aslama Horowitz and MSocSc Vesa Saarinen, and we take this opportunity to thank them for their major contribution.

To very briefly recap what has been achieved so far, let us first discuss what was the The Sound of the City Living Lab.

What was The Sound of the City?

The idea behind The Sound of the City research project was to foster institutional support for digital innovations in Kenya which has lacked this support despite its advancing digital evolution. As research is one way to build up institutional support, The Sound of the City project was set up to provide policy recommendations and ideas for new innovation ecosystems, such as novel working models in learning, teaching and creating innovation.
A Living Lab (henceforth LL) model was chosen as it allows for learning-by-doing research environment where innovation happens simultaneously with research. In the case of The Sound of the City LL, this meant that selected Kenyan participants took part in a creative media skills course where they learned skills such as building animations and music videos, as well as programming video games. The research component, conducted between November 2014-March 2015, focused on highlighting the best practices, key features, successes and challenges as well as the ways to replicate the successes of The Sound of the City creative media skills course. These were assessed through background research, survey research and thematic interviews.

The findings from The Sound of the City LL have been compiled into a policy brief and a final report, and a research blog was also used during the research process. However, we focused solely on the policy brief and final report while creating our framework for action.

Our research group unanimously agreed on that the next step to take is to develop the theoretical findings and conclusions of the policy brief and final report into very concrete models and suggestions that will help to further advance institutional support for digital innovations in Kenya. Our suggestions are based on the main lessons and results from The Sound of the City LL research final report (pp. 18-27), presented in the form of five keywords: Leadership, innovation, content, sustainability and local/global.

Main lessons and results:

1. Leadership.
In building a successful innovation ecosystem, LL environment or other model of collaboration, leadership is seen as the key. This does not only mean selecting good individual leaders, but organizing the whole system of collaboration in a way that is clear to all participants and stakeholders.
A good programme leader is also able to identify important issues in the field which – in the case of the Sound of the City – were lack of women in the field, financial constraints and understanding diversity as a resource.

  1. Innovation

Innovation should be given time and space as it comes in different forms. It is crucial to understand the importance of ecosystems that actually make innovating possible. In addition, it should be understood that innovating means both creating new ideas and concepts as well as fine-tuning and improving existing ones. The opportunity to learn through trial and error is important, and feedback and peer critique are essential.

  1. Content

This was split in two categories:

  1. educational content of The Sound of the City and
  2. content (themes) for future LL:s.

a) One of the main outcomes of the Sound of the City LL was that there is a need for a hybrid LL model which combines the best practices of educational and more corporate LL:s. Today, innovation professionals need to understand business skills and they should be able to market their projects and talent.

Participants appreciated both individual projects and collaborative effort, so the combination of these two is important. It should also be kept in mind that content creation needs adequate tools; the challenge of getting industry-standard hardware and software to Kenya is at the moment slowing down the new media sector.

b) Storytelling and understanding consumers needs are important to grasp in today’s market environment. Local content was highly regarded by all stakeholders.

  1. Sustainability

Sustainability in this context means many things: it means bridge-building between ongoing and “past” LL:s, networking ,building alliances and partnerships, collaborating, follow-up and incentives. The idea is that there should be continuity, both on organizational and individual level.

  1. Local/Global

As market are by nature local and global, innovators need to align their products with global standards. Solid foundations for intellectual property rights for global markets and collaborations should be established, and the Kenyan government should better market opportunities in Kenya as well as Kenyan innovators.

Some of the key findings stated above can be summed up as follows: There is a need for a model of collaboration for digital creative industries that brings together Kenyan cultural production on an international level, but not in “international style”; thus, it should reflect their own cultural heritage. Also, creating creative possibilities for people coming from an disadvantaged background is important.

In response to this, our blog posts will tackle the question of future visions and opportunities for GESCI-AKE through:

  • Researching examples and suggesting a model for a multi-stakeholder HUB (that GESCI might become) in supporting and promoting digital creative industries in East Africa.

In our blog posts and in the following order, we will introduce:

  1. Background of Kenya (cultural policy, innovation policy, entrepreneurship, business, economics)
  2. SWOT analysis on Kenya
  3. Case studies analysing strengths and weaknesses on other innovation collaborations in relation to the situation in Kenya (based on SWOT analysis) in Africa

Conclusion: Envisioning examples and inspiration for GESCI in the Kenyan context.