IST-Africa 2013 Conference Report

Hosted by the Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and Supported by the European Commission (EC) and African Union Commission (AUC), IST-Africa 2013 (29 - 31 May) was the eighth in an annual series of Ministerial Level Technology Research Conferences.

The IST-Africa Initiative supports development of the Information Society and Knowledge Economy in Africa through International Research Cooperation, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Knowledge Sharing and Skills Transfer between IST-Africa Partners and Supporting Implementation of 8th Africa-EU Strategic Partnership (Science, Information Society, Space).

The primary objectives of the IST-Africa 2013 Conference and Exhibition were to showcase National Innovation in the Host Country, propose and discuss potential solutions to Bridge the Digital Divide and share knowledge, experience, lessons learnt and good practices as well as discussing policy issues related to Information Society and ICT Research. IST-Africa 2013 featured over 200 presentations from government, industry and research organizations in 41 countries. Over 450 delegates from 44 countries (23 African Members States, 19 European Member States, Cambodia and United States) actively participated over the four days.

On Tuesday 28 May, the 3rd Annual IST-Africa Living Labs Working Group Meeting provided an opportunity for all key Innovation Stakeholders to (a) learn more about the potential of leveraging Living Labs methodologies for socio-economic development and (b) contribute to the establishment of a network of experts and key stakeholders committed to supporting national and cross-border Collaborative Open Innovation in Africa. This participatory meeting was well attended with knowledge sharing from Living Labs in a number of African States, stimulating dialogue and ideas emerging for future Living Labs in Kenya.

On Wednesday 29 May, the Opening Plenary consisted of presentations from Mr Morten Møller, Programme Coordinator, DG CONNECT, European Commission; Mr Moctar Yedaly, Head of Information Society Division, African Union and Prof. Crispus Kiamba, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Kenya. Prof Kiamba formally opened IST-Africa 2013 on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary.

The High Level Round Table Discussion during the Opening Plenary provided the opportunity to hear wide range of perspectives on issues related to Implementation of the Information Society in Africa and the Role of ICT Research and Innovation. This was a very rich and stimulating dialogue, which challenged all IST-Africa Community Members to actively engage with their peers from Africa and Europe to collaborate in leveraging Information Society and ICT to achieve sustainable socio-economic development across the Continent of Africa. The panellists included Dr Katherine Getao, ICT Secretary, eGovernment Directorate, Kenya; Mr Moctar Yedaly, Head of Information Society Division, African Union Commission; Dr Koi Tirima, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Inoorero University/LIWA, Kenya; Prof. Meoli Kashorda, Executive Director, KENET, Kenya; Mr Jerome Morrissey, CEO, GESCI, Kenya; Mr Daniel Obam, Ministry of ICT, Kenya and Mr. Christopher Kemei, Assistant Director, Licensing - Compliance and Standards, Communications Commission of Kenya.

From Wednesday afternoon to Friday lunchtime, this year's Scientific Programme featured six parallel tracks and over 200 papers and presentations, showcasing innovation, lessons learnt, applications and case studies from 41 countries around the world. Key thematic areas addressed included ICTs of high societal impact across Africa, including eInfrastructures, eGovernment, eHealth, eSkills and Technology Enhanced Learning, International Cooperation, ICT for Agriculture.

The 1st IST-Africa Roundtable on Supporting Entrepreneurship (Thursday 30 May) focused on East Africa. Moderated by Paul Cunningham (IST-Africa Coordinator), the panel consisted of representatives of Independent Innovation Spaces (Catherinerose Barretto, KINU, Tanzania; Rachel Gichinga, iHub, Kenya), HEI based Innovation Spaces (Emmanuel Kweyu, @iLabAfrica, Strathmore University, Kenya; Martin Tubula, Inoorero University, Kenya), and other organisations (Mary Kiguru, Kenya Methodist University, Kenya - focusing on BPO training; Simon Stumpf, Ashoka East Africa, Kenya - focusing on fostering Social Entrepreneurship) supporting Innovation and Entrepreneurship, especially at the pre-incubator and incubator stages of development. There was a rich and dynamic discussion with lots of practical insight. In conclusion, there was a general consensus that while great progress has been made there was a need for something different, agreement that social and commercial entrepreneurship are not mutually exclusive, and that it was possible to find ways of identify cooperation opportunities between all key stakeholders (including HEI hosted or independent Innovation Spaces) supporting entrepreneurs for mutual benefit. The panel agreed that this was the start of a process of culture change going forward.

The 1st IST-Africa Senior University Leadership Roundtable on ICT, Education, Research and Innovation took place on Thursday 30 May. Moderated by Paul Cunningham (IST-Africa Coordinator), the panel consisted of representatives from Moi University (Dr. Edwin Ataro, Head of Electrical and Communication Engineering Department), Technical University of Kenya (Prof. Ogembo Kachieng'a, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research), KCA University (Prof. Ddembe Williams, Dean, Faculty of ICT), University of Nairobi (Prof. William Okello-Odongo, Director, School of Computing and Informatics), Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Dr. Waweru Mwangi, Director, Institute for Computer Science and IT) and Strathmore University (Prof. Izael Da'Silva, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs). There was a rich and dynamic discussion with lots of practical insight. There was general agreement between the panellists that there is currently misalignment between research priorities and Vision 2030, insufficient use of ICT in manufacturing, agriculture and agri-business and a need for collaboration and coordination with the public and private sector to ensure that graduates have the necessary skills required by employers. The importance of Action Research (where students and lecturers engage with local communities, engage with end-users, engage with the public and private funding sectors and they are carrying out research that is based on real-life challenges) was reiterated on a number of occasions by a number of participants. A key challenge identified was access to low cost capital. Universities and the public sector potentially could play a role in this regard by facilitating guarantees for loans and access to equity for good projects. There is a need for greater practicality in education in Kenya and Africa in general. Getting a degree is no longer enough.

The Closing Plenary on Friday 31 May focused on providing an overview of current Initiatives supporting ICT and Science Technology and Innovation. The session was very well attended, chaired by Dr. Eric Mwangi, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Kenya and incorporated presentations from Mr Stéphane Hogan, Science Counsellor at the EU Delegation to the African Union (Horizon 2020), Mr Moses Bayingana, ICT Expert, Information Society Division, African Union Commission (African Internet Exchange System - AXIS), Vincent Kaabunga, IEEE Kenya Section, Kenya (IEEE's Information Society Activities in Africa), Grace Wandera, Strategy, Vision 2030 Secretariat, Kenya and Prof. Shaukat Abdulrazak, National Council for Science and Technology, Kenya (Future of Innovation and ICT Research in Kenya).

The Awards for Best Paper, Runner-up Paper, Best Demonstration Stand and Runner-up Demonstration Stand were announced by Mr Jacob Njagih, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and presented by Prof. Shaukat Abdulrazak, CEO, National Council for Science and Technology, Kenya.

The Best Paper was awarded to "Cloud Computing for Development - Improving the Health Information System in Ghana", authored by Denis L. Adaletey Ghana Health Service; Olav Poppe & Jørn Braa, Department of Informatics, University of Oslo, Norway.

The Runner-up Paper was awarded to "Embedding Business Model for Sustainable Collaborative Innovation in African Living Labs", authored by Vincent Grezes & Antoine Perruchoud, HES-SO Valais Switzerland and Harry Fulgencio, LIACS, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

The Best Demonstration Stand was awarded to NAILAB - My Order presented by Angela Ouma.

The Runner-Up Demonstration Stands were awarded to three stands: Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology - ChamaApp presented by Lilian Nyarera, Autonomous System Research - Haptic Audio Augmented Navigation Device presented by Moses Mwuara and Egerton University - ICT in JUAKALI - presented by Maureen Maina.

Prof. Shaukat Abdulrazak, CEO, National Council for Science and Technology formally closed IST-Africa 2013 thanking IIMC, the IST-Africa Coordinator, the IST-Africa partners, the International Programme Committee and the local team within the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Kenya for the significant work that went into making IST-Africa 2013 Week such a success. He thanked the European Commission for the support provided to the IST-Africa Initiative. He thanked the African Union Commission, Support Organisations (KENET and SPIDER), presenters and delegates from their active participation.

The full conference report is available for download