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World Bank, Nokia fund mobile app labs in Africa

o Edris Kisambira
17.03.2010 kl 17:15 |

The World Bank in partnership with mobile handset maker Nokia is set to fund the establishment of mobile applications laboratories in Africa in a move to boost innovation in the field.


The World Bank in partnership with mobile handset maker Nokia is set to fund the establishment of mobile applications laboratories in Africa in a move to boost innovation in the field.

"We hope to increase the competitiveness of innovative enterprises in the mobile content and applications area, and to ensure that locally relevant applications are created to meet growing developing country user demands," Tim Kelly, the lead ICT specialist at The Word Bank's infoDev global grant unit, said in an interview via e-mail.

The bank is committed to developing technology entrepreneurship in all fields, especially in mobile applications development, where the barriers to entry are relatively low, Kelly said.

"With support from the Finnish government and the Korean ICT for Development Trust Fund, we hope to support similar initiatives elsewhere in Africa, using the tool of social networking to encourage industry collaboration and entrepreneurship," Kelly said.

He was speaking at the official launch of the Mobile Monday Kampala chapter. The World Bank through infoDev has supported the establishment of the Mobile Monday Kampala chapter. Mobile Monday is the global community of mobile industry professionals, startups, developers and visionaries.

The mobile phone is already becoming the main means of communication for people in Africa -- particularly the youth -- to access the Internet.

"They will be hungry for local content, for things relevant to their personal success, an outlet for their creativity, really interesting news and more and the bank thinks there is need to innovate locally," Kelly said.

The mobile laboratories will help assist mobile applications entrepreneurs to start and scale their businesses.

Through the laboratories that will be set up, the bank and Nokia will work with existing organizations in host countries.

The laboratories will offer training and testing facilities, identification and piloting of potential applications, incubation of startups, business and financial services and linkages with operators.

Kelly said entrepreneurs will be recruited through incubation networks and mobile social networks like Mobile Monday Kampala, given the role this forum is expected to play in mobile telephony.

The project will grow in geographical scope over time, but the aim is to cover sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. The laboratories project is part of the US$18 million project, "Creating sustainable businesses for the knowledge economy."

Kelly said the funds will be awarded through a competitive tendering process aimed at potential host organizations.

"We will work with the successful candidate in defining a suite of services to be offered by the lab with the aim of becoming self-sustaining within three years," he said.

InfoDev has a network of around 300 different business incubators around the world, some of which are multipurpose and others of which are specialized in areas such as agriculture and Information Communication Technology (ICT).

This effort is the first that targets labs specific to mobile applications.

Kelly said there will be beneficiaries at different levels including the mobile industry in Africa, which will be a direct beneficiary, in terms of operators, equipment manufacturers and other stakeholders. More specifically, the applications development community will benefit from the services the lab will offer, such as training and accreditation, certification, and mentoring of startups.

Dr. Kelly said mobile users in Africa as a whole should benefit from a richer suite of applications available to them.

The project will ride on the back of Mobile Monday chapters and infoDev is looking to have launched the project in four Mobile Monday chapters by the end of this year.

There are two Mobile Monday chapters (Johannesburg and Kampala) in existence on the continent today with a third (Nairobi) due for launch this month.

Keywords: Telecommunication  
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