Across the globe there are many examples of ICT significantly increasing business productivity. In Nairobi, Kenya iHub, a seeks to do just that. Conceived of by the developers of Ushahidi, iHub provides an open forum for members of the tech community including programmers, designers and researchers in Kenya to exchange information and facilitate entrepreneurship. Their goal is to build an ecosystem of both financial and intellectual support around technological innovators and help ideas grow to their desired scale. To date, the community workspace counts over 12,000 members and iHub has developed partnerships with Intel, Google, Samsung, Omidyar, Nation Media, and Hivos.
iHub’s success in networking within the ICT industry are quite clear, but are iHub’s activities truly catalyzing the Kenyan tech community’s growth? Further, is the growth of this industry having impacts on the lives of those not directly associated with the tech community? Membership in iHub is open only to those who are already in the tech field, which may serve as a barrier to potential ICT users. Additionally, it may be challenging for members to progress through the three levels iHub membership. The most basic level of membership, white gives users access to a weekly newsletter, job board postings, event invitations, and entry into the physical iHub workspace one day a week. Members may then apply for green, and finally red memberships which offer further opportunities to grow tech projects and network with investors. However, red membership requires a payment of Kshs 15,000.
Any successful ICT project within a country’s business sector must be accompanied by a desirable business environment and solid governance. Since Kenya is no stranger to charges of corruption, it is important for the government to ensure that it helps to facilitate a climate that is attractive to investors. iHub is a great example of a community driven initiative to spur development within Kenya’s business sector, but its participants would do well to recognize that it will require collaboration with the Kenyan government to be most effective.