iHub Research is currently initiating a research series that will disaggregate the unique factors that make up ICT hubs in Africa (Afrilabs) among others that are not part of Afrilabs. The snapshot series will have a special focus on the role of ICT hubs/labs in fostering innovative entrepreneurship that continues to create positive impact. The main objectives of the study are to:
Understand the Hub model - the structure and principles that guide the Hub space;
Analyze the short term and long term sustainability model of the Hub/Lab;
Evaluate how the Hub/Lab model has impacted on the individual members; and
- How the innovations of the entrepreneurs have created development and positive impact.
Research Framework: The overall ICT Hubs study seeks to answer the following research questions across selected African ICT Hubs/Labs:
What impact does the Hub model have on the individual’s development of their members (skills and personal growth)?
What impact does the Hub model and their sustainability have on the individual’s start-up ?
What is the significance of the Hub to the success of their members innovations and how the innovations have created a positive impact so far?
What are the most important factors, which makes the members continue to use the space?
iHub Research will use mixed methods to assess the impact of Activspaces on their members. Qualitative and quantitative methods will be used including: virtual meetings, direct observation, focus-group discussions, and semi-structured interviews. Based on the data collected through virtual networks, focus group discussions, workshop findings, and e-survey results, a visual story-telling report will be produced.The first ICT Hub of the 15 hubs to be profiled within this study series was iHub, Nairobi’s innovation Hub for the Technology Community. View and download the first iHub Model and Entrepreneurs report at research.ihub.co.ke. Hive Colab is the second Hub in line which the Model report has been published. iHub Research will be conducting the second phase of Hive study in 3 months time as the innovation space is currently undergoing a lot of changes that will impact greatly on the results. The 3rd Hub to be profiled will be Activspaces, located in Cameroon.
Case study: ActivspacesiHub Research has collaborated with Activspaces, the third Hub of the 15 hubs to be profiled within the study series. ActivSpaces is a physical environment that combines the attributes of a shared office, business incubator, classroom, dynamic public space and a members club. It is, simultaneously, a place to work, a place to meet, a place to call one’s own and interact with interesting and inspiring people in spurring innovation and entrepreneurship. Activspaces membership structure is designed around the context of ‘open-membership’. This implies that membership is available at no cost to college students, graduates, women, techies, technology professionals and other aspiring individuals. The only requirement to access the space is that applicants have an active project in the works. New members are selected by pitching their ideas to the Hub community. Activspaces community manager and board of directors then decides to grant access based on the strength and potential of an individual’s idea. Thereafter, members must be able to demonstrate progress on their work.
Hubs such as Activspaces have been used to spur innovation among the youth in Cameroon through the creation and exchange of ideas with entrepreneurs in the space. These entrepreneurs are people with high technology skills such as software engineering, design, programming, as well as young individuals with ideas for social change with an aim to change livelihoods.
Potential of Cameroon as an ICT Hub in Africa?
In early 2012, Cameroon was profiled as being one of the countries in Africa left with only two competing mobile networks, MTN and Orange. Collectively, the two service providers boast of having more than 9 million subscribers. The Mobile cellular subscriptions in the country was last reported at 8,155,652.00 in 2010. Internet users (per 100 people) in the country was last reported at 4.00 in 2010. This shows that there are only 783,955.56 permanent online users as at 2010. Moreover, the Telephone lines in Cameroon was last reported at 496482.00 in the same period, representing an increase of 25.24% (world Bank report, 2011).
These statistics show there might be potential for Cameroon to becoming an ICT Hub in Africa through innovation spaces such as Activspaces being active agents in the ICT ecosystem. It is estimated that the total population of Cameroon stands at 20,129,878 (Jul 2012). The youth, constitute about 10 million of this total population. The population annual growth rate is 2.8% , in which 63% of the citizenry is under 25 years of age, of whom 47% are between 5 and 22 years.(Statistics bureau of Cameroon,2012). The steady population growth, with the youth contributing half on the total population, implies that there is great potential of ICT as a strategic tool in nurturing young talent through entrepreneurship and innovation.
Understanding the ICT Hubs/Labs:
Unfortunately, little inquiry has been done to understand the various factors which make up these ICT Hubs/Labs models and their sustainability. More so, how such factors are useful to the entrepreneurs and their innovations in creating positive impact . There has been little assessment of how African Hubs/Labs have been of significance to the different categories of members in the space. iHub Research is the journey to understand and fill this breadth of information. If anything, the young African generation is part of a new process that breaks down historical barriers and harnesses new potential to drive sustainable solutions through the concept of open innovation.
In the coming week, iHub Research will be in Cameroon to understand Activspaces model and achieve the other objectives of this study. We are looking forward to this collaboration, friendship and interactive data collection with Activspaces. Keep an eye on our blog to be updated as we publish the results, pictures and infographics by November.
We welcome your comments and support! If you are a Hub/Lab in Africa and you would be interested in collaborating with iHub Research on the study feel free to contact us at [email protected]