DIGILOGIC organised a Networking Session, “The role of Digital Innovation Hubs to ensure digital inclusion to all, especially youth, in Africa”, at the Internet Governance Forum, on 29th November in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
At the core of the overall session was how Digital Innovation Hubs can ensure that the benefits of digital technologies can be leveraged holistically and brought to people from every background and context, especially youth in Africa. The session brought about the opportunity to shed light on this aspect from a policy and regulation perspective, a Digital Innovation Hub perspective and a Sustainable Development Perspective. After short keynotes from the speakers, the session was opened to questions from the audience. The session was moderated on-site by Adriano Mauro from Prototipi and online by Stephen Fox from VTT. The following topics were discussed:
Digital technologies are spreading rapidly in the African continent. Digital dividends—the broader development benefits from using these technologies—have not. Digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere require improving the “analogue” and strengthening policies and regulations supporting actors who promote digital inclusions, such as Digital Innovation Hub.
It is at the core concept of a Digital Innovation Hub to promote skills development and capacity building, offering safe co-working spaces, affordable connectivity and networking opportunities. Today, there are around 600 Digital Innovation Hubs across the African continent at work. However, they also demonstrate a high failure rate and varying degrees of success. DIGILOGIC, a three-year H2020-funded project, brings together Digital Innovation Hubs from Africa and Europe to foster peer-to-peer learning among DIHs, share best practices, and jointly develop inclusive and diverse capacity building and opportunities for African youth. The DIGILOGIC Project aims to create a network between Digital Innovation Hubs in Europe and Africa to enhance precisely these benefits. The collaboration between the five hubs BongoHive (Zambia), Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (Ghana), Friuli Innovazione (Italy), VTT (Finland) and Digital Hub Logistics (Germany) enables them to facilitate knowledge transfer about digital technologies, best practices, governance models, finances etc. In doing so, it collaborates with other DIHs across Africa to create synergies and maximise its impact.
DIGILOGIC sees their approach as an opportunity to test and learn from models of collaboration between Digital Innovation Hubs in Europe and Africa, aiming to improve the broader development benefits of digital technologies in their target regions.
Sandro Bazzanella, Team Leader, Technical Assistance to Policy and Regulation Initiative for Digital Africa (PRIDA), African Union Commission, DIE/ISD Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:
In implementing policies and innovation on the ground, especially when it comes to Digital Transformation in Education, it is essential to combine a top-down approach with a bottom-up approach to ensure the scaling-up of existing activities and not reinventing the wheel. The assessment of the current initiatives and the evaluation of the recent Digital Readiness Index was the main starting point for developing the Digital Education Strategy as part of the PRIDA (Policy and Regulation Initiative for Digital Africa) project. The PRIDA programme aims to promote universally accessible and affordable broadband across the continent, unlocking the benefits of internet-based services for all. As we advance, the identification of champions among the member states of the project will be essential to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, experience and learnings between the actors.
Stephen Fox, Principal Scientist at VTT:
It is essential that Digital Innovation Hubs offer a broad range of services and training to entrepreneurs to equip them with the various digital and non-digital skills and tools they need, thereby supporting their start-ups' survival and scaling up. When simply applying digitalization to medieval, profession-centric apprenticeship training (such as apprenticeships to become a plumber, carpenter, roofer etc.), only a suboptimal output can be reached. Instead, a wide variety of ICT and analogue skills need to be trained alike through and with the help of digital media.
Africa has the opportunity to leapfrog medieval thinking practices of highly specialized apprenticeship training and implement cross-cutting education as a logic of the 21st century and the basis for the successful scaling-up of start-ups.
Thuweba Diwani, Project Manager, Digital Transformation Centre, GIZ Digital Solutions for Sustainable Development, Nigeria:
The Digital Transformation Centre in Nigeria is one of many Digital Transformation Centres across Africa. Currently, it is implementing a call for proposals to establish five new DIHs in Nigeria. The main goal of these DIHs is the support of non-technical MSMEs who are often excluded and disadvantaged in existing supporting mechanisms. According to Diwani, DIHs governance must consist of more than one actor or competence centre to provide a holistic service offer to their target group representing a one-stop-shop for the demand of start-ups and SMEs. However, finding consortia of several actors is, from her experience, often a challenge, especially in rural areas, and demands high levels of commitment, effort and research.
Dr Vincenzo Lorusso, European Commission, DG Research & Innovation Policy Officer, Science, Technology and Innovation cooperation with Africa and bilateral cooperation with ASEAN countries:
The AU-EU Innovation Agenda was published in February 2022 and aspires to foster the translation of Research and Innovation into tangible products, services, businesses and jobs in Africa and Europe. In the agenda, actions have been proposed that address the needs for each of the four priorities of the EU-AU HLPD: Public Health, Green Transition, Innovation & Technology and Capacities for Science. It is at the agenda's core to support technology/innovation hubs and networks, including by assessing technology fields that could benefit from standardisation, developing the human capital and skills pool for effective technology transfer and stimulating entrepreneurship. Over the year, the identified action areas have been elaborated on. The Stakeholder Event on 23-24 November in Nairobi will be used to get the developed short-term, medium-term and long-term measures on the ground.