SA to host African mobile apps lab

20 September 2010

A South African consortium has been chosen to host one of two African regional mobile applications laboratories, focal points for Africans seeking to increase the competitiveness of innovative enterprises working in mobile content and applications.

The consortium, comprising the Meraka Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Innovation Hub, Innovation Lab and Ungana-Afrika, will host the Southern African laboratory of the African Regional Mobile Application Laboratory.

Another consortium, comprising Nairobi’s iHub, eMobilis, the World Wide Web Foundation and the University of Nairobi School of Computing and Informatics, has been chosen to host the East African laboratory.

Announcing the two winners at the AITEC East African ICT Summit in Nairobi earlier this month, infoDev’s lead ICT policy specialist, Tim Kelly, said they had been chosen from 39 applicants.

“Mobile applications hold great promise for Africa’s development,” Kelly said. “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.”

According to infoDev, a global development financing programme founded and supported by the World Bank, the establishment of the two labs is evidence of the increasing power of mobile technology to support socio-economic development.

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 African Regional Mobile Application Laboratory is part of a joint programme of the government of Finland and mobile giant Nokia. Nokia will be partnering with infoDev and the local consortia to make sure that developers have access to the latest mobile technologies and training programmes.

The Southern African m-apps lab will be based at the Innovation Hub outside Pretoria.

“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,” Laurens Cloete, acting executive director of the CSIR Meraka Institute, said in a statement. “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,” Cloete said.

“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.”

SAinfo reporter

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