A design lab is a creative space where technology is applied to solve a dynamic range of problems from any sector of the society; it could be education, governance, public health etc. It is a research and development lab innovating for social impact and requires a collaboration between various disciplines ranging from software engineers to product designers, scientists and stakeholders. Africa has had an improving tech sector especially in major countries in the continent – Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Kenya, and has opened up to Rwanda with the first design lab in the continent.
The first design lab in Africa was launched in February, 2019 through a collaboration between Co-creation Hub (CcHUB), Nigeria and stakeholders across the continent. CcHUB is an innovation center dedicated to accelerate the application of social capital and technology for economic prosperity using design and innovation to solve Africa’s biggest development and social challenges.
CcHUB is Nigeria’s first open living lab designed as a space where technologists, entrepreneurs, tech companies, investors and hackers in and around Lagos can work individually and collectively to improve creative tech ventures in the country. With almost a decade of existence, CcHUB has supported tech-enabled companies connected to various sectors of the economy including education, public health and governance with a portfolio of over 60 companies such as Lifebank (a digital blood bank), WeCyclers (recycling venture) and Budgit (a web platform that simplifies the Nigerian budget and public data).
At the Design Lab, design-thinking is applied to build innovative products, services and experiences for social good and economic prosperity. The choice of locating the design lab in Rwanda was based on the ease of transacting business in the country as well as the uniformity of vision between the country and the hub which is the use of “technology as an integral gateway and means of developing society”. This was the first step by the hub to expand its reach to other African countries apart from Nigeria.
With an initial investment of $11 million, the lab focuses on finding “solutions that will enable socio-economic development, productivity and development across Africa”. The Design Lab is run by a multidisciplinary design team of designers and engineers with three key sectors of focus:
- Public Health: Collaborating with a cross-sector of stakeholders including scientists, researchers, health professionals and developers to use technology in accelerating the adoption of locally-created solutions for better detection and surveillance of diseases, and improving adherence to treatment.
- Education: Improving students’ interests, participation and learning outcomes in STEM (Science, Tech and Mathematics) education, with attention paid to teaching methods and use of creative content.
- Governance: The role of technology in helping the government promote participatory governance, transparency and more effective public services for social and economic prosperity.
Partnering with local companies such as the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Go-Ga Lab, Nimcure and Safe Online, projects are chosen based on their potential to create transformational change, especially in the areas of Education, Public Health and Good Governance
Featured image source: innovationiseverywhere.com