m:lab East Africa is a first-of-it's-kind mobile incubation lab aiming to foster the innovation and scale-up of mobile application technologies in East Africa. Over 150 distinguished guests gathered for the formal opening of m:lab East Africa, which is hosted by the *iHub_ Consortium and includes Nairobi’s *iHub_, eMobilis, the World Wide Web Foundation, and the University of Nairobi School of Computing and Informatics. The formal opening was held the day after PIVOT25, the consortium's mobile developer competition and conference.
m:lab East Africa is the region’s new incubation facility for entrepreneurs and innovators with a focus on mobile technology. Mobile Application Labs (mLabs) are an innovative way to foster enterprise creation, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where entrepreneurs and programmers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to finance. The establishment of a network of mLabs in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia is a key part of Creating Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy program.
The formal m:lab launch started with a keynote address given by Erik Hersman (Co-founder, Ushahidi, iHub, m:lab), followed by speeches from Mr. Ken Oyolla (General Manager, Nokia), Ms. Heli Sirve (Ambassador, Embassy of Finland), Mr. Johannes Zutt (Country Director, World Bank), Mr. Paul Kukubo (CEO, Kenya ICT Board), and Dr. Bitange Ndemo (Guest of Honor - Permanent Secretary, Ministry of ICT). After the formal opening session, the program continued with a tour to the new m:lab East Africa (3rd floor Bishop Magua building. Informal networking over refreshments followed the tour.
Erik Hersman (Co-founder, Ushahidi, iHub, m:lab)
"Our voices revolutionize the world," said Ushahidi co-founder David Kobia when accepting a Webby award for social/tech innovation. In Kenya, our technology is revolutionizing the world. We have a competitive advantage in the mobile space. The first m:lab to launch is here in Kenya. We need to keep pushing, adjusting and changing things.
Ken Oyolla (General Manager, Nokia)
Nokia will support the testing labs with equipment, training, sponsor, and organize events among other things. This lab will support local innovators.
Heli Sirve (Ambassador, Embassy of Finland)
Finland considers innovation and ICT as an important part of its development strategy. Private-public partnerships can be particularly important (like that of Nokia, Government of Finland and infoDev). Technological innovation can turn into economic growth in almost any sector. I hope that m:lab will succeed in generating new mobile applications and improve people’s lives in Kenya and East Africa. An old town in Finland, 25 years ago started a similar “m:lab” and today, the people of the region have benefited greatly and are very successful.
Johannes Zutt (Country Director, World Bank)
To reduce poverty, you need to create jobs. In Kenya, it’s clear that ICT is one of the sectors where Kenya has been doing very well and thus there is a lot of potential for Kenya. The World Bank is working with Kenya to promote areas where we think Kenya will flourish – tourism and ICT. There is a lot of exciting work today being done in ICT. M:lab is a part of the effort to bring Kenya to the next level by creating a space where SMEs can work together to address the constraints that are holding back their potential. This sector has enormous dynamism and that is why World Bank is participating in this collaboration.
Paul Kukubo (CEO, Kenya ICT Board)
When you talk about an ecosystem, you talk about the talent, the academic community, the researchers, the partners, and the developers. But you also have to talk about the leadership! We are very lucky to have Dr. Ndemo to set the tone of this sector in Kenya. We need to appreciate that this sector has gone through a very nice ride up to this point, thanks in large part to Dr. Ndemo. The enormous energy of the entrepreneurs in the past year is really encouraging and exciting.
Dr. Bitange Ndemo (Guest of Honor - Permanent Secretary, Ministry of ICT)
We must move to change from a minimalist approach as a government to something better. We are going to do whatever it takes. We must begin to invest in research. We must free up the government data. I have persuaded the Ministry of Planning and Ministry of Health and they have given us government data to open up to the public. We are currently putting it into a format so all can access it online.
A problem to overcome is that people don’t collaborate enough. If we can begin to widen and collaborate through facilities like m:lab, the mobile applications emerging from the region will become more successful. Congratulations m:lab and good luck!