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Generation Infonauts

The evolution of the informal infrastructure, so called infostructure, has turned us all into “generation infonauts”.  As internet coverage has exploded during the recent past, the usage of mobile devices as an inspirational information-base has become a habit. However, while toddlers in Europe try to use the television like an Ipad – making the evolution of technology an innate assuetude for the Westerner –  African families  to a general degree still do not possess these electronic devices creating a hole that must be filled.

According to  the internet world statistics around 13.5 % of the population has daily internet access. While the continent accounts for 15 % of the world’s population, only 6.2 % of the internet subscribers are based in Africa.  Now these statistics are quite biased. Internet access is irregularly distributed with two-thirds of online activity generated in South Africa. The remaining are primarily in Morocco and Egypt. On the other hand it should be borne in mind that these data only partially reflect the actual number of Africans who use internet on a daily basis. For example, internet kiosks and cybercafés are found commonly throughout urban areas. Before the “yet to be announced date” of when the assuetude goes fully global is announced  internet distribution must grow in quality and coverage. As the infostructure grows new networks evolve creating new communities of solution finders.

One of these nexuses that produces solution finders is the iHub, a makerspace founded by Erik Hersman in 2010.

The iHub prides itself with creating a place where “seeds are planted and [we] are easily found by the people with money to help grow”, describing themselves as a co-working technological community that sets the right environment for innovative people to create and form ideas. It consists of four departments:  iHub Research, iHub Consulting, iHub Supercomputing Cluster, and the iHub User Experience Lab (more info @ www.ihub.com). What is so inspiring about Africans starting to take an increasingly participatory role is that they are being directly affected and so therefore acknowledge what society really needs.  Foreigners might have a harder time to fall into a paradigm shift when needed, and probably one not as enigmatic. Bernard Kiwia, a Tanzanian entrepreneur and inventor, endorses this statement in an interview with Victor Grau Serrat from MiT: For me it’s easy because I live there, and I experience the same problems myself: I had to take a cold shower every morning until I decided that I would build a solar water heater to have access to warm water for showering. As soon as I build one, neighbours started asking for one. And so an anecdotal presumption is established: should African entrepreneurs in order to reach the low-hanging fruit exploit their talent and adapt to their clients needs, rather than becoming protégés of the West being guided by the inertia of adherence to an old model? What is the best solution to inspire growth?   These think-tanks are, as mentioned, of huge help in finding the path of development inspiring others into choosing the allegedly  correct direction and the iHub in Nairobi is just one of many. Finally this path could lead life-standards to first become adequate and mundane, thereafter reach new heights.

TG Teigland

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