Gaborone, March 19, 2013 – Technology business leaders, mobile experts, future entrepreneurs and more recently gathered at the Botswana Innovation Hub for a week of workshops, trainings, moderated discussions and networking opportunities designed to encourage mobile technology innovation and spur economic growth in the country.
The events were part of the Mobile Innovation Roadshow (MIR), a joint project between infoDev and the Southern African Innovation Support Programme (SAIS), both funded by the Government of Finland. Botswana was just one of four Southern African countries on the tour; events were also held in Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia.
“Like most developed economies, it is our aspiration to reach a stage where Botswana shall be innovation driven,” said Dikagiso Mokotedi, the permanent secretary, Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, in his opening speech. “This Mobile innovation Roadshow initiative is one among many national efforts by which government and its associated partners are trying to create the right environment for skills and entrepreneurship to grow the economy of Botswana.”
Mokotedi assured the government’s commitment by announcing plans for an eight-figure Innovation Fund to support start-up businesses and the information and communications technology sector.
During the roadshow, participants had a chance to map out the benefits and opportunities of mobile technology, including the key challenges and issues of knowledge-based entrepreneurship and innovation promotion for Botswana.
“Seventy-five percent of the world's population has access to mobile phones and innovators need to come up with ideas that can strengthen agribusiness and tourism sectors through mobile gadgets,” said Sophia Muradyan, infoDev program officer. “The World Bank supports and recognizes the liberal mobile market and its development through innovation of new ideas that match our environments and can help our communities to develop and move forward.”
The Mobile Innovation Hackathon Day was aimed at engaging developers to build promising ideas into mobile application prototypes, and to raise awareness of the opportunities for mobile entrepreneurs. The theme was centered on agriculture. Ideal Technologies, a citizen-owned company which is a member of the Microsoft BizSpark start-up project emerged as the leaders. The company won P15, 000.00 worth of business intervention from an SAIS consultant, full sponsorship for the upcoming Global Business Forum in South Africa by InfoDev, a Knowledge Hamper including laptop and books from the Botswana Innovation Hub, radio coverage by Yarona FM and RBI, and possible incubation with First Steps Venture Centre.
"Innovation is about mind-set, thinking differently in new ways," said Juha Miettinenhe, the SAIS chief technical officer, said the SAIS programme promotes collaboration between the innovation systems of African countries, to provide greater impact on economic and social development.