Keyboards tapping, coffee brewing, people meeting and bright minds spinning – you’d expect this scene to be playing out somewhere south of San Fransisco.

The reality though is that this particular meeting of great minds is located 9,500 miles away from Silicon Valley, along a leafy, bustling throughfare in the unlikely Adams Arcade suburb in East Africa’s Nairobi city.

On the back of Kenya’s famed Ushahidi network, Nairobi’s ihub was created as an open space for technologists, investors, tech companies and surprisingly, as stated on their site, hackers in East Africa.

With a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers, iHub is an incubation lab – part open community workspace, part focal point for investors and VCs .

iHub also facilitates a wide variety of  networking events and educational seminars/conferences for the entire spectrum of future digital kings and queens – creatives, techies, social gurus and project managers.

Quick facts:

  • iHub is an open innovation space with a 20MB internet connection from Zuku, hardwired and Wi-Fi, and it’s freely available to any tech person in Nairobi to use once they a member.
  • Membership is open to those who are in the technology field – programming, design or research with 3 levels of membership, the highest being paid with access to a  a semi-permanent desk, a locker and priority on the meeting room space, harking back to the exclusive ‘club’ set-up. Clever.
  • The concept of the *iHub is a first of kind in Kenya and there are great expectations that it will spur a revolution in the technology products and services space with its core focus to give the tech community a communal facility where they can bring their ideas to life.
  • The iHub website also acts as a directory for job seekers and employers as well as a business exchange network.

“We’re putting our networks into place to give special access to the entrepreneurs and startups who need space to meet with VCs, seed funders and local businesses. We’re trying to create the place where seeds are planted and are easily found by the people with money to help them grow.” say the founders of iHub.

Local Kenyans who’ve been involved in iHub’s set-up include:

  • Riyaz Bachani, CTO of Wananchi
  • Josiah Mugambi, Co-Founder of Skunkworks
  • Rebecca Wanjiku, Tech reporter and entrepreneur
  • Conrad Akunga, Blogger and Software Manager
  • Erik Hersman, Tech blogger, Founder of iHub, Founder of AfriGadget and co-Founder of Ushahidi

Located on the 4th floor of the Bishop Magua Centre on Ngong Road (directly opposite the Uchumi Hyper), Nairobi, it’s an amazing location, with quick access to public transportation, food and the City Centre. The space was made possible by funding to Ushahidi by the Omidyar Network and HivosUshahidi covers the lease, electricity and data connections.

As a Kenyan and a digital professional myself, I’m a BIG fan of the iHUB. What it represents is a training ground and incubation lab for what I hope will be new technologies and digital breakthroughs with an African focus.

Hopefully, it’s incubators such as these that will mean Africa can one day compete on a global scale with India and China in terms of information technology.

India is a great example of how focusing on growing your technology knwledge pays of handsomely in the long run: Over the past two decades, India has become the global leader in offshore IT (Information Technology) and BPO (Business Processing Outsourcing) services and India’s IT/BPO industry is poised to reach annual revenues of US$225 billion by 2020.

India’s successes in offshored IT/BPO services have catalysed growth of the country’s broader technology sector. Based on a recent global survey, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) identifies India as a research and development “hotspot” with R&D subsidiaries of over 600 multinational companies. GE’s facility in Bengaluru is the company’s first integrated, multidisciplinary R&D facility outside the United States. Other prominent global companies that have established R&D facilities in India include Caterpillar, Cisco Systems, DaimlerChrysler, DuPont, IBM, Intel, Lucent, Microsoft, Oracle, Philips and SAP.

Nairobi’s iHUB holds the potential of being a great catalyst for African tech breakthroughs and my eye is certainly on this great venture as it gives the incubation of innovation a good, hard go!

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