How To: Promote Sustainability of Innovation Hubs across Africa
Microsoft 4Afrika has announced a new Collaboration Challenge with AfriLabs to increase knowledge sharing across the hub network in Africa and spur innovation.
The challenge, officially launched at this year’s DEMO Africa event, is tasking hub members with proposing and delivering an activity, process or tool that fosters collaboration within the AfriLabs network.
AfriLabs’ core function is to facilitate collaboration, which requires the right platforms, mechanisms and incentives for hubs and their teams to share information and dialogue.
The winning solution will receive $15,000 from Microsoft and technical support to develop it. The hubs within the AfriLabs network will be provided with a more efficient way to learn from each other’s best practices and build more sustainable models.
“Collaboration fuels innovation. It encourages people to learn from each other and build on better and bigger ideas,” said Annie Njenga, Innovation Hubs Manager for Microsoft. “Innovation hubs give developers a collaborative space where organisations can assist them with the technical and business skills needed to get their businesses off the ground.
“They bring different people together who otherwise would never have met, and create successful companies that strengthen local economies.”
According to the World Bank, there are currently 90 innovation hubs across Africa. AfriLabs, a pan-African network of technology and innovation hubs, makes up 35 of these.
Two of these hubs, the Co-creation hub in Nigeria and the iHub in Kenya, have been recognised as best performing models. The iHub has launched 152 successful local startups to date, encouraging the local Kenyan government to commit to establishing a tech hub in each of its 47 counties.
“The encouragement of a vibrant innovator ecosystem is essential to the growth of Africa’s knowledge economy,” said Fernando de Sousa, General Manager of Africa Initiatives at Microsoft. “To remain relevant and sustainable, the hubs will need to not only promote innovation, but also focus on their monetisation.”
However, many hubs have been unable to find models that ensure sustainability from the initial grants that got them started. “Challenges like finding the right partners, determining the correct strategy and sustainability model, having the right team and skills in the hub, and the involvement of government can be difficult to navigate,” added Tayo Akinyemi, Director at AfriLabs.
The Collaboration Challenge has been designed to help stimulate collaboration and knowledge sharing within the AfriLabs network and fully leverage the knowledge, skills and resources that are available through the network and its partners.
“If you look at the success of Silicon Valley, you’ll see it lies in collaboration.” Research done by the Accenture Institute for High Performance pins it down to close ties among outstanding educational institutions, research organisations and businesses. “That’s what we’re aiming for throughout the pan-African network,” said Njenga.
Hub members who enter the challenge will have until the October 24, 2014 to submit their concepts and vote for their favourite ideas.
All those proposing an application need to design it for the Windows platform and host it on Microsoft Azure, an open and flexible cloud platform with a single software-as-a-service offering that manages the entire lifecycle of an application. The winning individual or team will receive financial, technical and mentorship support from Microsoft to help them execute the concept.
The challenge will be run on Hylo, a social network that enables skilled collaborators to coalesce around shared intentions and challenges.
Individual participants and teams can submit an ‘intention’ in the form of a brief description of the proposed idea.
Others may respond by submitting their own ideas, requesting information from the idea’s originator, or submitting an ‘offer’ to help develop someone else’s idea. The winning concept will be the one that garners the most overall support.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”