iHub's sustainable challenge
Nairobi’s iHub technology hub is this week hosting the first challenge day of the World Bank’s Negawatt Challenge. The initiative is an open-innovation contest tasking local technology movers and shakers to come up with innovative solutions able to transform cities into more sustainable places. Rio de Janeiro, Accra, and Dar es Salaam are also participating in Negawatt.
“The objective of the workshop is to identify Nairobi’s most pressing urban energy issues and translate them into concrete, actionable challenge statements,” says iHub. The Kenyan statements will define the scope of the entire competition.
iHub describes itself as ‘part open community workspace, part vector for investors and VCs, and part incubator’. The tech hub boasts a number of initiatives designed to support the Kenyan tech entrepreneur, among them iHub Research, iHub Consulting, iHub Supercomputing Cluster, and the iHub User Experience (UX) Lab. Partners include the likes of Intel, Microsoft, Google, Safaricom and GitHub.
Tech entrepreneurs still face a challenging Kenyan environment, not least on the finance front. “As wealth and knowledge accumulate in Kenya, the potential for a significant number of active business angels will increase, and many different types of business angels could support businesses in the country - from local to global, and from technical to professional,” says the GSMA in its Digital Entrepreneurship in Kenya report. “Efforts are underway to raise awareness about business angel investing in Kenya, but more activity is needed.”
And while contests like Negawatt are helpful in spotlighting entrepreneurs and an important source of capital for social impact projects, they can be problematical.
“Some competitions, mainly those with prize money sub-$2,000, are attracting ‘compepreneurs’ who enter with cool mobile applications as opposed to scalable business ideas,” says the report. “The frequency of, and hype around, competitions creates a distracting environment for entrepreneurs and a significant amount of noise.”