With a population of just 3.5 million and an area larger than that of England and Wales combined, the de facto independent state of Somaliland is not a place that many people are familiar with. We were a little surprised, therefore, when RLabs approached us with a proposal to set up an innovation hub there. On closer inspection, however, Somaliland seems like the kind of place that could really benefit from such an institution. Not only does it have a large pool of young, unemployed people (more than 50% of the population are under the age of 25), it also has 12 universities and – like most other parts of Africa – increasing mobile phone use and ownership. Given these facts and RLabs excellent track record, we are delighted to announce a grant of £11,100 to help them set up an innovation hub there. Working in conjunction with the Dutch NGO ADO and IT company Extendedbits, the project will consist of three main elements:
- Community Academy: The academy is the breeding ground for new champions and innovations. This is where new ideas and young entrepreneurs will be provided with training in areas such as software development, entrepreneurship, social and new media, mobile application and web development.
- Innovation Incubator and Accelerator (InnovIA): The InnovIA provides the opportunity for Social Entrepreneurs to grow their ideas into a reality. The RLabs InnovIA provides community members with a shared space to develop their ideas and ventures with support from the experienced RLabs developer and entrepreneurship network. It also offers a program of related activities to deepen the understanding of entrepreneurship and innovation. The main criteria for ventures to be hosted in the incubator are that it should have a social impact, be sustainable and show potential for growth.
- Products and Services: The development of products and services will allow RLabs to generate an income and provide the enterprise component to all the social activities. Products are in most cases sourced from the global RLabs Innovation Incubator and Accelerator as well as other strategic partnerships. Services include social media work (managed by the RLabs Social Media Factory), testing and quality assurance, consulting and training.
Indigo’s grant will be used to cover the outfitting of the new space with laptops, projectors and other pieces of equipment, as well as training and capacity building. As this is a new country for us, we’re very excited to see what talen the RLabs team and their partner organisations can help unearth and foster.