In the many years that I have been a tech journalist, I have had a chance to interview and listen to many people, some who have genuine concerns, others whine, while others have raw talent and they do not know the opportunities.
Others are government officials who say they have opportunities but lack talented techies while others are corporate heads who justify bis spending on international software on the fact that Kenya lacks talent and even where it exists, its isolated and the technical support is wanting.
In my position, I have always wondered how to link the techies with some of the government or corporate heads and share the benefits. I have also wondered how to share the info and be part of the solution.
So, when Erik (Hash) told me the idea of the innovation hub I was already bubbling with ideas, I remember telling him how Ndemo one day told me that he has lots of bandwidth and was willing to support techies with it. This is because in the course of one of the many interviews I had mentioned the challenges that techies face.
Immediately I heard about the idea, I was sold on, I knew I had a chance to contribute in some way. I am sure people will wonder whether am still a journalist or not. The best thing is that IDG, the guys I work for, have no problem at all, provided when there is a big story, I disclose my links, in which case the story will be an opinion piece, where I can inject my inside knowledge and analysis. Like this piece on how Ushahidi has elevated Africa’s global tech status.
The key idea behind iHub is to bring together a larger group of techies under one roof. I believe that if you get enough brilliant people together, they’re going to generate a lot of ideas really quickly, and just as quickly weed through them to keep from working on dead ends.
The idea is to eliminate the problem, sometimes seen today in research for example, where isolated researchers work diligently to solve problems that other researchers have already solved, or perhaps more importantly, that other researchers have shown face insurmountable obstacles and so should be abandoned in favor of other approaches.
The iHub will therefore be a place for people to share ideas; not steal them, where you can call copyright lawyers to talk to techies about their rights, where we can all learn ways to incorporate companies in cost effective ways, where techies can talk to their mentors and where techies can have video conference links from Silicon Valley or India.
Techies face a variety of problems; for some, local regulatory environment, for example, is a critical determinant while for others, the availability of venture capital or the presence of a demanding local customer base are key.
In some cases, the challenges are imagined or are based on rumors from people with no first hand information. In other cases, some of the problems can be sorted through dialogue; for instance, if mobile content providers have a problem with the Ksh 200,000 license fees, maybe a talk with the CCK Director General will help both parties understand each other and maybe reduce the fees.
While a hub’s initial success can often be fueled by relying primarily on local talent, the importance of attracting, developing, and retaining a vibrant base of world-class talent increases as clusters mature and grow in complexity, which can be absorbed in other government initiatives like Malili Technopolis or Sameer ICT park.
In short, iHub will nurture the talents and link them with people who have succeeded in techprenuership. After the business grows, the techie will need space and will probably move on, giving space to other upcoming techies.
To succeed, the industry is key, and that is why we are grateful to those who have volunteered their time to offer technical services at the iHub set up phase and for the equipment donated.
We shall be open to equipment donations till February 5th (next Friday) and after that we will start the set up.
If you have good equipment to give, no junk, let us know. If you want to help with the set up, let us know.