Mobile incubation hub opens in Nairobi

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Africa's first mobile application incubation centre has opened in Kenya, to foster the development of mobile software applications.

It is hoped the move will further cement the East African country as a regional force in mobile innovation.

M:Lab has been opened in Nairobi as part of a global initiative that aims to promote the development of mobile applications through research and community collaboration. The mobile lab is one of only five mobile labs of its type in the world, and will host four organisations with the aim of identifying and nurturing viable mobile app enterprises.

M:Lab East Africa's incubation will provide the necessary space and environment for developers and entrepreneurs, and assist developers with business development, research, testing and commercialisation of applications.

The four organisations that have taken up space at the lab will be involved in different aspects of the programme. eMobilis and World Wide Web Foundation will take charge of the curriculum development, training and certification at the hub, while research will be done by the University of Nairobi School of Computing and Informatics. iHub will organise community interaction, development space, events and provide access to capital and markets.

Speaking at the just concluded Pivot 25 regional mobile application competition, Nokia East and Southern Africa GM Kenneth Oyolla said the demand for mobile applications presents a huge potential for developers, brands and end-users.

“But players will need to invest time and resources if they are to fully gain from the fast-growing mobile marketing global industry, expected to be worth Sh1 trillion by 2012,” said Oyolla.

Kenya has in the recent past been a regional hub of mobile applications innovation, with applications such as the M-Pesa mobile money service, and Ushahidi - a crowd-sourcing mobile app - gaining global recognition.

Several companies and universities, including Huawei, Safaricom and Strathmore University, run mobile apps training and research centres.

The rising profile of the country has brought together infoDev, a World Bank managed organisation that promotes ICT, the government of Finland and Nokia to support the incubation centre that will serve the East African region. The World Bank aims to set up similar mobile labs in SA, Armenia, Pakistan and Vietnam.

The Kenyan government is pushing the ICT sector to take a bigger stake in the economy. “We aim to raise the contribution of ICT to the economy from the current Sh5 billion to over Sh25 billion in the next five years, and to do this, we must put in place sustainable solutions to enable the growth of SMEs in the sector,” said Bitange Ndemo, information permanent secretary.

Ken Macharia
ITWeb’s Kenyan correspondent.

Ken Macharia is a Nairobi-based journalist with a degree in Communication from University of Nairobi. He is also an entrepreneur and new media enthusiast.

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