Review IST Africa Research Conference
This past week I attended the IST Africa Research Conference hosted here in Kampala, Uganda. It was an interesting event that brought together policy makers and researchers from Europe and across the continent. The three day event was highlighted by workshops and panel discussions. Topics covered the role of mobile in the health and education sectors, the role of open source, business process outsourcing strategies and the role of technology in the development of small and medium size enterprises amongst many many others.
One of the main reasons for the event centers on the FP7 program. This is the EU program dedicated to supporting Research, Technological Development and Demonstration activities in Europe and abroad. The program has mobilized a considerable amount of money that local institutions and organizations can potentially tap into. Much of the event was dedicated to explaining the framework, application process and selection criteria. Let us hope many organizations in Africa can indeed make use of these resources and in a way that they can further the local research agenda.
On a lesser note, the event lacked business professionals and members of the media. In some of the workshops there was considerable discussion dedicated to the need to seek out and identify sustainable business models. Including more participation from the private sector would have added a useful perspective.
What was the best part of the event for me? Finding some programmers demonstrating their new projects:) One team had developed a computer game based on the local tradition of playing marbles. They were explaining to me how they are still working to program in the ability to ‘arc your shot’ and that they were seeking collaboration with foreign gaming companies. Anyone that might be willing to lend some of their experience. Think this might be the first computer game developed here in the country! Another team showed me Baraza, an innovative messaging platform that greatly reduces the cost of mobile to mobile chat by running messages via the web. Looking at the infrastructure they have in place and the ideas for the future this is exciting indeed!
I am left with the question as to how we get out govt. monies and research policies to connect with people on such a micro level? How can we ensure that the money we spend eventually trickles down to the people making the real difference?