[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.


[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.


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.


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”.


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.