Techpreneurs to benefit as M:Lab gets Sh1.31 billion financial boost

Digital Content

The Finnish government and Nokia have partnered through infoDev, a programme within the World Bank Group which works to promote technological innovation and entrepreneurship to create opportunities for growth, job creation and poverty reduction.

The Nairobi based m:lab which provides technical training to high potential individuals on mobile application development and entrepreneurship will benefit from the Sh1.31 billion (€11.9 million) programme along other seven mobile social networking hubs in Dar es Salaam, Kampala, Hanoi, Kathmandu, Baku, Chisinau, and Tbilisi.

M-Farm, an agricultural marketing application has been earmarked for funding under the programme which focuses on innovation and competitiveness among small and medium enterprises in the information and communication technologies with focus on the agribusiness sectors.

The application is the brainchild of two Kenyan technology developers, Jamila Abbas and Susan Oguya, who won Sh1.1 million (€10,000) as capital investment in the 2010 IPO48 competition — a 48 hour boot-camp event aimed at giving web and mobile start-ups a platform to launch their start-ups.

M-Farm sends subscriber farmers real-time crop prices and market information via SMS, connecting them directly with food exporters and curbing extortion by corrupt intermediaries. The application currently reaches more than 2,000 farmers in Kenya. M-Farm has won several international awards, including the Global Forum on Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship held in Helsinki, Finland, in May last year.

On Monday, the World Bank provided Sh4.5 billion ($55.1 million) to scale up digital inclusion, content development, and e-government and shared services.

In particular, the funds will be used to increase the data sets made available to the public through the Open Data initiative launched in July last year.

In the past few years, Kenyan application developers have been grabbing headlines for all the right reasons—winning regional and international competitions with software utilities such as the geo-alert application Olalashe, developed by David Lemayian which won Sh2 million ($25,000) in last year’s Africa-wide Google Android Developer Challenge.

In March this year, James Mwai bagged Sh8 million (€75,000) after his AroundMe application emerged tops in the Nokia Create for Millions challenge held in Barcelona, Spain.

A week later, Afrosilicon, a group of Kenyan techies collected Sh1.65 million (€15,000) after they won in the 2012 Apps for Africa competition with their app called Funkiez which enables users to stay up to date with what is happening, where it is happening and why it is happening.

Funkiez is an app that notifies the user of upcoming events while allowing the user to reserve a ticket for the event via mobile money players and even share details of the event via social networks like Facebook and twitter.