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East Africa mobile application laboratory launched

Kenya is among the five countries to be selected for the set up of a mobile application development laboratory, commonly known as mlab. Today mlab was launched in Nairobi, as an effort that aims to encourage innovation and competitiveness in SMEs on an ICT platform. The other hosts included South Africa, Armenia, Pakistan and Vietnam.

These labs are aimed at providing an enabling environment for innovators and entrepreneurs to convert their ideas into viable business that will create new jobs. "After incubation, these ideas will be shifted from the labs to the business commercial sector", says the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information and Communication, Dr. Bitange Ndemo, who was present during the launch.

Dr. Ndemo added that the future of ICT sector in Kenya is bright, and he believes that ICT will be top of the other sectors (Agriculture) as a contributor of the GDP of this country. Currently Agriculture contributes 25% while ICT 5% of Kenya's GDP.

The lab is supported by the Government of Finland, Nokia and the World Bank. The goal of these mobile laboratories is to incubate at least 40 SMEs by the end of 2012. Nokia, General Manager said that the country's next phase of mobile revolution is based on content and services, the company therefore donated mobile phones to the newly launched East Africa mlab.

World bank's infoDev program has been working closely with Nokia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland in helping business improve value chains in sectors that have the highest potential to contribute in creating job opportunities. "Kenya's ICT ecosystem has a potential to create jobs which in turn help reduce poverty", says Johannes Zutt, Country Director, World Bank.

Other sponsors and guests who were present during the launch are Erik Hersman, co - founder of Ushahindi, iHub and Ms. Heli Sirve, ambassador, embassy of Finland.

Mlab East Africa, launched a day after developers pitched their ideas to judges in the Pivot25 competition held in Ole Sereni, Nairobi. Pivot25 competition which went on for the past two days, helped to identify skill shortage in terms of technical and business capacities, among developers, lack of formal mentorship for entrepreneurs and lack of open collaborative spaces where innovators can work and learn together. Local developers therefore will be have access to further training in this lab, test their applications and incubate them.

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