During a visit to Ghana in March, I could see that the tech community is beginning to flourish in Accra, though currently, it is fragmented and largely commercially focused. Several events have been hosted and gradually hubs and incubators are starting to take shape. Citizens still reported huge challenges in service delivery and many cited a need for space and support in order to unite the tech community and to showcase the potential of using technology to achieve social impact.
Kwesi Eyison and Eric Osiakwan have begun devising plans to set up an innovation and incubation space (G-Space) in Accra. Events such as Mobile Consortium Ghana and TEDx Ghana, which Indigo Trust supported last year, have helped to bring the community together and the team hope the space will provide events, trainings, mentorship, fast bandwidth and other facilities to techies and other practitioners interested in using tech to overcome local challenges.
The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) is supporting some of Ghana’s best tech graduates through a prestigious 2 year incubation training, resulting in them setting up businesses. They also run an incubator space which is currently hosting businesses like Saya and Nandi, who won prizes at Mobile Consortium Ghana. I was able to meet with both teams.
Serendipitously, I stumbled across a Google Hackathon taking place on their premises and I was fortunate to be able to meet Luisella Mazza and Johanna Kollar from Google. Google Africa are running a whole range of initiatives to support the tech community including hosting events and Hackathons, running the Umbono incubator programme, mapping projects and developer groups and supporting Universities. Their 3 key areas of focus are Access, Local relevance and Sustainability. They are creating mini data centres (points of presence) in Africa where they store locally relevant info, run getafricaonline.com which enables companies to set up basic websites and they’re empowering people to do their own thing when Google is no longer around to provide support. Indigo is currently working closely with Google to support tech hubs across Africa.
Outside of Accra, Pierre Brunache Jr and is colleagues have launched mFriday at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana’s top Tech University. They hope to expand to Accra and Cape Coast shortly. They are running an incubator using a social enterprise model. They are exploring problems in society and looking at ways to solve these issues using technology. They are incubating Farmerline and several other projects. Ideas coming out of their space include an application which enables citizens to report on careless driving and record the car number plate, a corruption reporting site, a site providing information on MPs and M-Notify, which sends notifications and deals from restaurants and businesses to people’s phones.
Mobile Web Ghana is an initiative which was established by the World Wide Web Foundation and is being managed by Florence Toffa. They opened the mobile lab just a couple of months ago and they’ve provided 21 days of training to 50 people working on 10 mobile projects. The training includes mobile web, SMS, mobile business, mobile voice, Apps and mobile entrepreneurship. They run 3 mobile training courses per year (2 in Accra and 1 in Komasi). The Apps can be social or commercial but must tackle a societal challenge. Examples include reporting domestic violence, Farmerline, a mobile ticketing platform, a platform providing real time lab results for clinics, mobile revenue collection, e-student (an online ICT syllabus for schools), Brain Drain (online information and advice from the Diaspora community) and iQuery (an online business card/directory). They also have office spaces for incubation and provide business support and international mentorship. They run regular events, including a monthly Tech4change event.
Together, these institutions are starting to create the necessary ecosystem for promising tech projects to flourish and we hope that Indigo Trust can support this process through enabling collaboration, supporting the incubation of socially focused projects and connecting the right people.