By Ben Simmons
Crowdsourced research by BongoHive Zambia has revealed that there are at least three times as many technology entrepreneurship hubs in Africa than even the best-informed 'industry insiders' had previously thought.
"The initiative has produced the first ever on-line map of Africa's technology hubs, business incubators, hackerspaces and university technology hubs It's amazing and we suspect that this is only the tip of the iceberg", says Lukonga Lindunda, co-Founder of BongoHive,
“New reports are arriving at the website every day revealing the true proportions of Africa's passion for new information and communication technologies (ICTs)”.
“Before this process began the largest network of technology hubs in Africa had five members and nobody had ever claimed that more than 15 existed on the continent. This crowdsourcing initiative has provided evidence that at least three times that number exist. We have already mapped 35 technology hubs”
A technology hub is a building where tech entrepreneurs, experts and enthusiasts come together to share experience, collaborate and innovate new ideas. Some tech hubs provide office space to incubate new technology start-ups. Many tech hubs provide training and events to build skills and strengthen networks to form synergies and provide a supportive environment in which innovation and entrepreneurship can blossom.
Why the Mapping Initiative?
“One or two tech hubs like the iHub in Nairobi have earned well-deserved acclaim for their work”, say Lukonga. “but we suspected that there were many less well known hubs out there like BongoHub Zambia. We knew from our experience here in Lusaka that bringing tech enthusiasts together creates real benefits; enormous synergy comes from people sharing their experience and providing practical help and motivation for each other. Now we want to reproduce those network benefits on a pan-African scale by enabling reciprocal learning between technology hubs in many different countries.
The initial idea came from a brain-storming session with Tony Roberts (@phat_controller on Twitter). BongoHive already had experience of crowdsourcing and mapping information using Ushahidi from our work during the Zambian elections in December. http://bantuwatch.org
“We think that crowd-mapping is the perfect way to make visible the wealth of entrepreneurial talent springing up all across Africa.
“No one has done it before and we wanted to see if it could be done."
“We thought that we would use crowdsourcing to uncover the full extent of technological entrepreneurship that exists across the continent. What better method to discover and share this information openly than by using the internet; using social-networking to build an on-line network of technology hubs. It has been an exciting process"
So we decided to create the first on-line map of technology hubs in Africa. And we decided to use crowdsourcing on CrowpMap to achieve it. We wanted to help other tech hubs in Africa learn about each other and assist them to raise their profile. BongoHive wants to know more about their successes and challenges. We want to collaborate with them as peers.
How Does it Work?
Anyone can access all of the information submitted about tech hubs already mapped by just clicking on one of the red dots on the map to learn more about that centre.
Anyone can add a new technology hub to the map. By just clicking on “submit a report” anyone can put a tech hub that they know about on the map by simply filling in some basic information and sending it to the website.
As Lukonga says “Put your technology hub on the map by clicking on 'Submit a Report' and let us have the website and contact details of any centres not yet on the map”.
We want to put out the appeal to people everywhere to let us know what tech hubs exist so that we can put them on the map, literally.