An Open Innovation Space
As Rwanda strives towards establishing a knowledge based economy and achieving its Vision 2020 goals, fostering innovative ICT based SMEs becomes critically important. Rwanda has already made tremendous strides forward, however it still lacks one critical component in building a healthy ecosystem – an open innovation lab. kLab aims to nurture a vivid community of entrepreneurs and mentors by promoting, facilitating, and supporting the development of an ICT industry in Rwanda, thereby making Rwanda a focal point for IT in the region.
Following the model used in other acclaimed innovation centers such as Nairobi’s iHub, the kLab will provide a place where students, young entrepreneurs and innovators can meet and work. The kLab will provide a high speed Internet connection, a stable power supply, and an inviting, casual environment. As a result, it will bring like-minded innovators together and give them the resources they need to explore their ideas, learn from each other, and develop innovative solutions.
The kLab will act as a focal point for ICT solution development in Rwanda, bringing together experienced mentors and young innovators alike. It will also act as the host for coding competitions, seminars, classes and other community-led events. By creating an active, vibrant community, the kLab will become the focal point for ICT innovations in the country. Similar initiatives across the world have shown that the synergy created through such an environment is a critical aspect in the growth of a healthy ICT sector.
Like Nairobi’s iHub, the kLab is an open innovation space where young innovators interact with experienced mentors to create, test, validate and develop new ideas for ICT solutions that may lead to the creation of new businesses. But kLab is not an incubation center in itself where entrepreneurs get administrative, legal and marketing support to create those businesses. Rather, the kLab will act as a natural feeder for local incubation centers such as those proposed by The World Wide Web Foundation and Carnegie Mellon University (see above graphic).
The kLab Working Group has been formed to facilitate the establishment of this open innovation space. Initiated in Kigali by the local software community, its members include the Rwandan Private Sector Federation ICT Chamber, the Rwandan Software Association, Carnegie Mellon University Rwanda and the Youth ICT Association, among others. Additionally, the kLab initiative has received support from over 200 students as well as the community of Kigali software companies.
The kLab initiative is firmly placed under a strategic priority of the National ICT Strategy & Policy 2011-2015 (NICI-III) ‘s goal of creating competitive ICT/ICT-enabled sector to fuel social develpoment and economic growth in Rwanda. More specifically, the kLab supports NICI-III’s core focus areas:
I. Skills Development
Fostering research and development to spur innovation
II. Private Sector Development
Supporting the development of a competitive ICT Sector
Fostering private sector growth through ICT
An open innovation space like the kLab was identified as one of the most important goals for the ICT sector in November’s PSF ICT Chamber’s Transformation Strategy meeting.
The goal of the kLab is to provide an open innovation space where young engineers and designers can gather and begin work on implementing their ideas. By providing a free space that has a fast internet connection and reliable power, the kLab will act as a focal point for software innovation in the country. Through this community, like minded individuals will generate new business ideas, resulting in the launch of new ICT enterprises.
Each quarter, the kLab will accept new memberships to use the space. Though membership will be free, it will be limited and selective. Prospective members will be required to present an idea they are working on to the selection committee and demonstrate an ability to make progress on that idea. Once accepted, members will be granted badges and given 24/7 access to the kLab. In order to attract more experienced mentors, the kLab will also allow members to rent desk space on a monthly basis for a fee. This will create an environment that will facilitate mentorship.
One of the goals of the kLab is to become a community focal point for software entrepreneurship in Kigali. As such, the kLab will also act as a host for community events, such as the weekly KODEVE groups, Mobile Monday meetings, and local ICT gatherings and competitions. The kLab will also play host to traveling lecturers and public speakers in the ICT field.
The kLab will be operated and run by a community elected board, with the physical space at Kigali’s Telecom House under the stewardship of Carnegie Mellon University.
kLab Working Group Members
Rwandan Software Association
PSF ICT Chamber
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University
JICA / RDB-ICT Project
Elie Gatete Magambo
CODEPAC / KODEVE
Youch ICT Association
Youth ICT Association