Announcing the winners at the AITEC East African ICT Summit, infoDev's lead ICT policy specialist, Dr Tim Kelly, said: "These two successful consortia were selected out of 39 original applicants - nine of which were short-listed. The enthusiastic response to infoDev¿s call for proposals is especially exciting as it has already created partnerships between applicants and also points out several avenues and organisations for future collaboration."
He added, "Mobile applications hold great promise for Africa's development, both on the user side and on the supply side. On the user side, applications such as M-Pesa in Kenya or the Shuttleworth Foundation M-Novels initiative for promoting literacy in South Africa, are good examples of the potentially-transformational effect they can have. On the supply side, Africa's developers are well-positioned to break into this emerging market, which is characterised by high growth and low barriers to entry."
The establishment of these labs is evidence of the increasing power of mobile to support socio-economic development. The two mobile apps labs will be focal points run and used by Africans working to increase the competitiveness of innovative enterprises working in mobile content and applications. Each lab will be a platform for building the technical skills, business knowledge and personal relationships needed to transform scalable mobile solutions into thriving businesses that address social needs. Besides providing state-of-the-art equipment, the labs will also offer technical training and workshops and connect developers and entrepreneurs with potential investors, academic experts, and public sector leaders.
The consortium of the CSIR, The Innovation Hub, Innovation Lab and Ungana-Afrika has existing strong relationships in business, the public sector, civil society and academia. With many successful projects already delivered in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Meraka consortium brings together technology innovators from every key sector across the region. The m-apps lab will be based at The Innovation Hub.
Laurens Cloete, acting Executive Director of the CSIR Meraka Institute, said, "The Meraka consortium is a great platform for the m-apps lab, with key players in the Southern African ecosystem providing complementary expertise.
"As an established ICT research, development and innovation institute, Meraka will combine its expertise and experience with the world-class facilities and incubation experience of The Innovation Hub. This is further enhanced by the contributions from Ungana-Afrika and Innovation Lab.
"Our collective strong links with government, universities and business in South Africa and the many successful ICT collaborations within southern Africa bode well for the potential of the m-apps lab.
"We see this as an ideal opportunity to continue to strengthen our collaboration with industry, in line with the recent call from the Department of Science and Technology."
Immediate tasks at hand are at a detailed planning phase for the lab implementation, a priority of which is to appoint a lab manager.
The African Regional Mobile Application Laboratory is part of the Government of Finland and Nokia programme, Creating Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy programme. Nokia will be partnering with infoDev and Meraka, CSIR, Innovation Hub and Ungana Africa consortium to make sure that content and application developers have access to the latest mobile technologies and training programs.
Jussi Hinkkanen, Nokia Vice President for Government Affairs and Business Environment in the Middle East and Africa said: "Mobile applications and content will reach even the most disadvantaged populations and provide new sources of wealth and innovation for entrepreneurs of the southern African region. Nokia is a very proud partner of this programme and ready to provide its insight and support for the future entrepreneurs."
infoDev is a global development financing programme among international development agencies, coordinated and served by an expert Secretariat housed in the Global ICT Department (GICT) of the World Bank, one of its key donors and founders. It acts as a neutral convener of dialogue, and as a coordinator of joint action among bilateral and multilateral donors - supporting global sharing of information on ICT for development (ICT4D), and helping to reduce duplication of efforts and investments. infoDev also forms partnerships with public and private-sector organisations who are innovators in the field of ICT4D. Priorities and strategies for infoDev are guided by its governance framework.