Open space for technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in Nairobi.

Jessica Colaco

iHub By Jessica Colaço / April 17, 2013

The power of openness in revealing hidden talent in a tech community


I joined the iHub over 3 years ago as the founding manager and it was learning experience: How to work with the tech community? How to set up the space? How to engage the community? Being the Research Scientist, I came up with the following syllogism in 2010:

“Mental Frame 1″:iHub is an open space for the tech community in Kenya.

“Mental Frame 2″:The tech community in Kenya have great ideas.

“Mental Frame 3″:Great ideas lead to development of new technologies

Hence: iHub is an open space for the tech community in Kenya with great ideas that will lead to development of new technologies.

 My “open” journey at the iHub

On the first day of my journey at the iHub, I would speak to an endless line of young people coming into the iHub, my inbox would stack up with emails from the tech community. There was a drive and ambition from the community to learn more to be part of this niche.

What part did “open” play in this community? Well from the very start the iHub was all about the community working together.

The best designers in Nairobi from the Ark contributed to the design of the space itself. They spent time at the space and discussed the layout with the iHub team which at that point in time consisted of Erik Hersman and I.

Late into the evening, we would have a group of volunteers meeting with the iHub advisors to discuss the layout of the initial iHub website. There was zeal to collaborate and share skills and knowledge.

The story of how the community fostered the iHub is endless. However, it is evident with this kind of community and talent within the iHub that we are in an age of networked intelligence, collaboration, transparency and sharing.

“The iHub’s mission is to catalyze and grow the Kenyan tech community. We do this by connecting people, supporting startups and surfacing valuable information to the community, whether they’re engineers, web designers, investors, government or academia. At our core, we believe that just by putting smart people in a room, good things happen. This has been proved true over and over again for 3 years now, it is a place where companies spring up, products are funded, people get connected and where innovation thrives. The iHub was born as an idea by the community, and it should be no surprise that it grows due to that same community’s drive and ambition.”

- Erik Hersman – Founder of iHub -

Modelled around Don TapScott’s four principles for the open world, the iHub has embraced the following ethos:

1. Openness as collaboration: as technology moves forward, the boundaries of organizations are becoming more porous, fluid and open.

The iHub is a community of people whereby there is teamwork. The young people within the community are eager to learn from each other. This is evident with the rise of start-ups and groups like M-farm and AkiraChix who met at the iHub.

2. Openness as transparency: the power of new media and online platforms is allowing us to exchange information like never before. Through this explosion in communication and information, organizations are becoming increasingly ‘naked’ and exposed to the public eye. As technology advances, our expectation and demand for transparency will only become stronger as well.

This was evident in 2011, when the tech community in Kenya gathered at the iHub at an open forum with Dr. Bitange Ndemo and gave rise to the Kenya Open Data Initiative.

The iHub provided a platform for the tech community in Nairobi to view their opinions and views. Dr. Ndemo being a champion in tech was very keen on listening to the views of the tech community.

3. Openness as sharing:With the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) such as Coursera, the models of information exchange are taking place in an unprecedented way.

With a networked community like the iHub, we need to reinvent old models, which is crucial for information exchange to take place with the different plays in the community from technologist, corporates, investors, academia, government and civil society organizations.

4. Openness as empowerment: knowledge and intelligence are power, and as these become more distributed through the Internet and networked through a community like the iHub.

We are in an age of networked intelligence where each of us can be both a producer of information and access intelligence contained in others around and in the world.

The open and networked community within the iHub, has the power to create collective intelligence that will go beyond the individual to create some kind of global awareness for what could be a much better world. We are a generation of digital natives!

Are you a digital native and will you embrace “openness” around you?




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Author : Jessica Colaço

Jessica Colaço is currently the Director of Partnerships at iHub. She was the Founding Manager between 2010 and 2011 at iHub and Research Director between 2011 and 2013 at iHub Research. She is passionate about Innovation, Research, Mobile and Robotics Technology, Mentorship and Entrepreneurship in Kenya as she uses her position at iHub to court local, regional and international stakeholders to adopt Kenyan-made and African-made solutions. As an upcoming angel investor, she courts local and international investors to invest in great tech ideas and companies at idea and concept stage. She is also a Mobile and Robotics Tech Evangelist, Co-Founder of WMIAfrica and AkiraChix, ISOC-Kenya Chapter, Treasurer, ACM-W Nairobi Chapter Chair, TED Global Fellow 2009 and upcoming Guitarist. She was named one of the top 40 women under 40 years in Kenya's business scene by Business Daily on 2009, 2011 and 2012. Her endeavour is to put Kenya and Africa on the map for technology achievements and spur innovation within the country and continent! She blogs at:

  • Leonard at 18:13:00PM Wednesday, April 17, 2013

    Well put Jessica,
    embracing openness

  • Kagai at 12:40:28PM Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    For a minute reading this I thought I was Linus Torvalds; just the idea of making his UNIX hack available to the community has inspired a generation. Look at where we are now since 1991: We have Ubuntu, WordPress (the CMS behind this site), Joomla, Java (don’t even think about it Larry Ellison with your Oracle behemoth) and now pushing the boundaries of openness even further is Android. Should I embrace openness?

    PS: Where is Jahazi?


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