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iHub By John Kieti / May 5, 2011

iHub Robotics Initiative


Ihub Robotics Initiative

iHub Robot

The *iHub_ Robot Initiative.

Since its founding over a year ago, *iHub_ has changed the Nairobi IT scene completely. The place is full of developers, creatives and VC’s looking to form partnerships and transform the local IT scene. Partnerships have been formed, deals have been struck, and the place is abuzz with new ideas all the time.

Since its inception, *iHub_ has been focused on software development (Specifically on mobile and apps) and this has been a huge success. *iHub_ is now looking to replicate this success to the computer hardware sphere, and more specifically in robotics.

You may ask, why robots? Well, it depends how you look at robots. Most people think about robots as the ones seen in the Transformer movie. But no, robots are actually more simple that that. Any device that uses a computer chip to perform a task is considered a robot. Just to give some examples, traffic lights are a form of robots (Actually in South Africa, traffic lights are called ROBOTS). Another example is a digital power meter. It may not look like a computer, but the chip in the meter qualifies it as a robot. A personal computer is also a type of robot, albeit one that needs human interaction to function. More familiar examples may be the extra-terrestrial vehicles on Mars or satellites in space.

Where does *iHub_ come in, and why is *iHub_ getting into robots? This question is best answered by looking where the telecommunication industry is headed. M-PESA is widely recognized as having a trans-formative impact in Kenya. It solved a need many people had and it solved it in a very simple and efficient way.

One of the key things about M-PESA is that it is a software solution that runs on a mobile platform. By combining hardware and mobile, we take the mobile revolution to the next phase. Also, due to the fact that the backbone of the Kenyan economy is agriculture, farmers interact with farm machines and equipment on a daily basis. By combining these two together, we approach exciting possibilities.

A few examples could be ‘smart farms’ that alert rice farmers when their water reaches a certain level, to prevent over irrigation, or a device that milks cows daily and sends farmers text messages about how many litres their cows have collected. These solutions will result from an interaction of hardware with the mobile platform.

This is what the *iHub_ robot initiative hopes to achieve. By fostering programmers with a hardware and mobile background, we can come up with solutions that could have a transformative impact in Kenya and beyond. Over the next few months, *iHub_ hopes to increase and develop hardware programming talent to come up with solutions that will hopefully have as big an impact as M-PESA.

Caine K. Wanjau for *iHub_ Nairobi.


Author : John Kieti

John Kieti is the Lead at m:lab East Africa. He is an exponent for mobile entrepreneurship and an experienced m4d professional. John is passionate about the growth of East Africa's knowledge economy. He holds an MBA and BSc in Computer Science. He also occasionally shares his thoughts about East Africa's knowledge economy on his blog -

  • Soud Hyder at 17:20:38PM Thursday, May 5, 2011

    More about principles and what you can learn from robotics, soft applications of robotic paradigms stem from search engines, data mining a la Google, algorithmic trading amongst others

  • Mbugua Njihia at 17:25:48PM Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Way to go. I have been advocating for a move beyond mobile apps to solve additional pressing needs in Africa. Lets see where this new thinking will take us –

  • Lee Ibrahim at 13:07:32PM Monday, May 9, 2011

    Great. I really like your article its one in a million. We are learning Robotics in school and it will be gorgeous to come up with another other simpler ways of solving our problems. I agree that Robotics is the other brilliant way over the Web technology.

  • Imran at 21:27:14PM Sunday, June 5, 2011

    I am a Mechatronics Engineer looking for cool projects anywhere in East Africa. Here looks as good a place as anywhere to start!

  • Billy at 16:59:03PM Friday, June 10, 2011

    Any update on this issue, I am really curious as I may have stuff lined up in this direction

  • Green member with a Robotics Ardor *iHub_ at 04:55:48AM Monday, August 29, 2011

    [...] months ago, we introduced an iHub Robotics Initiative. We happy to announce that our first in-house robot is up and running. It is a DFRobotShop Rover and [...]


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