Are Innovation Hubs The Future Of Open Government In Africa?

Chris R. Albon | TechPresident | September 18, 2012

Chris R. Albon is director of the Governance Project at FrontlineSMS. He holds a Ph.D in political science from the University of California, Davis.

Set alongside one Nairobi’s main roadways, the Bishop Magua Centre looks on the exterior no different than any other mid-rise office building. However, inside its drab khaki walls are some of the most innovative technology projects in Africa. Why this building? Because the Bishop Magua Centre’s fourth floor is home to what has been named the “unofficial headquarters of Kenya’s tech movement,” less grandiosely called the iHub. Founded in 2010 by Erik Hersman*, the iHub was one of the first of a new breed of tech workspaces in Africa.

Often described as an “innovation hub,” the iHub is part co-working space, part hacker community. Software developers and startups apply for membership in return for access to comfortable office space and good WiFi access. More than that, hubs also host events, hackathons, training, and networking events. Some hubs are even full-fledged incubators, providing funding and mentorship to early stage start-ups. However, more than simply a space to build the next Instagram, these hubs could be home to the next wave of open government innovation in Africa...